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«Title: Rim to Rim, Grandview, and other Stuff You May or May Not Care About By: Mark E. Boyer Date: September 2005 E mail: msboyer OK so ...»

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Title: Rim to Rim, Grandview, and other Stuff You May or May Not Care About

By: Mark E. Boyer

Date: September 2005

E mail: msboyer@acd.net

OK so I’ve waited the requisite 23 months for my reservations at Phantom Ranch (at the bottom of Grand

Canyon) and I am now ready for my first rim to rim hike in mid September 2005. (For the record I

understand they have now changed the time to a maximum of 13 months advance notice)

I’ve read many trip reports and I always like to know a few details about the author so here’s my background. I am 52 years old and have hiked to Phantom many times but always before leaving from and returning to the South Rim. I would also add that I am closer to novice than a real hard-core desert hiker. If I could lose 10-20 lbs I’d be at my ideal size. Perhaps at 6 feet I am just too short for my weight. My pre-hike workout regimen consists of walking two miles 6 days a week and riding a stationary bike 3 miles a day 5 times per week.(walk year round, bike 3 months prior to hike) I know this is not all that much but it works for me. I also thoroughly enjoy being in Grand Canyon and it is my firm belief that stronger the desire to hike the canyon, the greater the energy level.

I have always hiked alone (except for once when a buddy went with me) because I haven’t been too successful at finding a good hiking partner. (I’ll also admit I don’t look real hard) My wife won’t / can’t go but fortunately says it’s OK for me to go. “Have fun” she says, “see you when you get back”. What a great woman! Also let’s face it, hiking Grand Canyon and all it involves is not most peoples’ idea of vacation.

OK enough of the boring disclaimers now on with the story. Oh yeah, one more, if by some chance this is still floating around the net several years from now and you find some of the things I’ve mentioned are not the same, keep in mind that as Walter Cronkite would say, “and that’s the way it is, September 2005”. OK, if you haven’t nodded off yet here goes.

My story starts with a ride on the Trans-Canyon shuttle leaving the south rim about 1:30 pm. This day there were three buses with about 11-12 people in each. If ever the saying “you can’t get there from here” applies, it applies when speaking of traveling from rim to rim. Even though as the Raven flies it’s only about 10 miles across, it is over 200 to drive by car. The (5 hour) ride itself was fun in that there were friendly people on board and everyone swapping previous hiking / camping experiences. I think everyone on the bus was going to hike back to the south rim. Perhaps the most interesting person was a man named Maverick ? (sorry didn’t get his last name) who was also hiking rim to rim. Mr. Maverick is not your usual hiker. He is 79 years old and was making his 40th something r-t-r hike this year! Not only that, but on this trip he left as soon as the bus arrived at the trailhead, (about 6pm). He prefers to hike at night but I’m not sure why. Also he does not stop at Phantom. Like that pink battery powered rabbit on TV he just keeps going all the way to the south rim! I have never been in good enough shape to make a non-stop r-t-r crossing so I tip my hat to this man. Mr. Maverick is proud of his physical condition and will not hesitate to tell you what great shape he’s in. He said he can leg press 600 lbs! Also apparently he and his doctor are writing a book about him.

The scenery en route is worth the trip alone. You leave the south rim and drop down into much hotter desert land then eventually work our way back up to the high ( approx 8500 feet) forested and cool north rim area.

On this day I do mean cool. Think 40ºf. It seems most days on this trip my day swung from a high in the 90’s to a low in the 40’s. This makes planning what to carry in your pack all the more fun.

A fun quick stop along the way was at these huge suspended boulders. These rocks fell down from above then wind etc. eroded away the pedestal. I went back here later and took this picture. I asked a very friendly Navajo lady that was there if she had ever seen a rock move. “No” she said, “Nor has any elder I know seen one move”. “If they ever do, it will be a bad omen for the Navajo Nation”.

Me near Lee’s Ferry. Sorry for the picture quality. I am using a now “antique” digital camera. Gotta look into getting a newer/smaller one.

On to the North Rim. As mentioned we dropped off Mr Maverick at the trailhead then on about two more miles to the lodge. How different the North Rim is! Everybody said it was little like the South Rim and they are right. Here there is only the lodge and no other places to stay or eat at all. Picture it as a place with a 50 mile long driveway. For dining you make reservations far in advance for the main restaurant, eat at a little place called the “deli in the pines”, bring your own, or drive about 100 miles round trip. The area is heavily forested here unlike the South Rim which has much more open space.

After a mostly sleepless night in the motel portion of the lodge I was up a 4:30 for what would be my longest hike ever. Could I go the 14 miles to Phantom? I knew I could but I had little idea how long it would take. I will be going twice as far as the South Kaibab trail I usually take.

Fortunately the saloon adjacent to the lodge opens at 5:30 am. It’s not that I needed a drink, but they have COFFEE and fruit, bagels, rolls etc. There was enough to make a good breakfast. OK so I am now ready to go. “How do you get to the trailhead?” I asked some obvious other hikers. They paused for a moment, looked at each other then back at me and one of them said “you walk”. “Oh, I thought maybe I could get a ride”. They just smiled and so did I. OK so I’ll walk. What’s another two miles on level ground going to hurt? Off I went down the trail called the Bridle Path towards the North Kaibab trailhead. It was COLD! As I walked along through the woods deer looked at me in the early dawn light as if I was slightly nuts. Maybe so but that’s none of their business. As I walked I began to huff and puff like I was just finishing a marathon. What’s wrong I wondered. I thought I was in better shape than this. Then I remembered that I was now about 10 times higher altitude than my southern Michigan home. I hope it’s the thin air I thought, I have a long day ahead to be winded now. Finally I start down the trail. How different than the south rim in that you start through forest for the first 1-2 miles. Also just like everyone told me you go DOWN a lot fast.

As I walk I marvel at the trail. What a monumental feat to blast and carve all this solid rock. Also how did anyone manage to lay it out in the first place? I work with tools and machines and I know that rock cannot be moved without heavy machinery. How did they get it here? I know the CCC did much of the original work but still it had to require amazing amounts of human strength to get the job done. All the required heavy machinery would have to be carried in. What hard work! A park ranger I was talking to later about this said she thought people in general were much tougher and stronger than they are today. I think she’s right. Also I wonder if the trails could even be made today if they weren’t already there, given the government bureaucracies that are in place now.

Soon I arrive at the Supai tunnel, 1.7 miles below the rim. Here there is a short cave blasted out of solid rock. There is water here but I don’t need any. About 3.7 miles total so far and I’m feeling fine. Still I haven’t sat down yet and am eager to see what’s around the next bend. A young guy about half my age waved as he literally ran by. What’s his hurry I wonder?

This is about 3 miles down looking back up at where I had just come through. How did anyone ever manage to carve a trail up that?? (this is from approximately 2500 feet down) This is near the same area looking down the trail. This is my favorite picture of this trip.

This reminds me of the old “road runner” cartoons.

Soon I hear the sound of what I assume is Roaring Springs and before long I’m there. Here is massive amounts of water pouring out of a hole in the wall! From here it flows on into the canyon to start Bright Angel Creek. It’s good to know plenty of water is nearby if you need it.

I’ll admit this is not an award winning picture but that’s Roaring Springs in the center. The three lines are for electric coming down to the pump station. How did they hang those? The upper connection is about halfway to the moon.

On I go. I remember thinking I’m making good time at this point and perhaps I should slow down but I am on a roll. Shortly after this I am at Aikens house. For those who don’t know, a family lived here for several years. Bruce Aiken took care of the pump station and I understand he and his wife raised their kids here. I have seen them on TV on the travel channel.

This is Aiken’s yard. I understand they don’t live here anymore.

My feet are starting to hurt a little now but overall I feel in great shape. The weather is perfect. In fact the sky is cloudless and Phantom only got up to the low 90’s while I was there. It is the coolest weather I’ve ever had here. It can still be over 100 at the bottom even in September.

Soon I arrived at Cottonwood campground. Many stay here on a North Kaibab hike as it is roughly halfway to Phantom. As for me I am much too lazy to carry all that camping stuff but I’ll have more to say about that later. At Phantom there is a hot shower, someone else cooks a great meal (and cleans up) and there is a cushy bed in air conditioned comfort to sleep in. Also you don’t need to be too concerned about scorpians in your bed as you do when camping. Most folks would rather not have one in their sleeping bag.

I sat at a picnic table for a while resting my tired feet, drinking water and eating crackers. I saw no one around although a tent was pitched nearby. After awhile I headed on down the trail. I knew it wasn’t far to Ribbon falls and I wanted to take the detour to see it. I had been here once before on a day hike up from Phantom but that was about 15 years ago. It hasn’t changed.

Ribbon Falls, The wind is blowing the falling water.

As mentioned you have to detour off the NK trail to get here but it’s worth it. I sat here for a long time. No one was around at all it seemed as I sat soaking my feet in the water under the falls. Did I mention they hurt? All at once I turned around and there stood a park ranger. “You OK” he asked? Sure I said and we talked for a while. I have never met a park ranger that wasn’t a pleasant person to be around.

OK put the socks and boots back on and head toward Phantom. I think there is a trail here that goes on South and links back up with the North Kaibab but I can’t find it. Oh well, back to the north cut off where I came in. It really isn’t that far and I’ll know if I go back to the start and resume I’ll have walked every bit of the NK trail. For some reason this seems important.

From here on the trail is mostly level but I still have about 5 miles to go. In another mile or so some people point out a Big Horn sheep high above us on a ledge. We can just barely see him since he is young and small. His big horns really aren’t that big so I still have never seen a big horn sheep that really has BIG HORNS. I’ll keep looking. Finally I come to the box (sorry I didn’t take a picture) and it as always very HOT here. I wonder is it still hot in the winter? Next I see Phantom Creek coming in from the right and I know I have about 1.5 miles to go. I hiked way up this creek many years ago and felt more ALONE than any other place I’ve ever been. I know many others have been here but it seemed at the time like no one ever had. By the way my feet still hurt but not unbearable, must be the Extra Strength Tylenol holding back the pain.

Next is Clear Creek trailhead and then finally I’m at Phantom. I looked at my watch; 2 pm it read. Not bad I thought. I figure from the lodge to here and the Ribbon Falls detour I walked about 17 miles in 8 hours.

Slow for many I’m sure but pretty good for me. OK watch out I’m headed for the canteen. I know that just inside the door will be ICE WATER and I want some. After a couple cups I get in line at the counter because next I want two things. First I want a cold Tecate and then I want to check in. Two people are in line ahead of me. The first is arguing with a polite young man behind the counter about the guy in the cabin next to hers. Seems he’s playing music too loud and she wants him to go put a stop to it. He says, “you tell him”. She says “no you tell him!”. After going around in circles I politely offered to shoot the offending party. The idea was quickly accepted by all but none of us had a gun. Oh well we’ll just have to figure something else out.

The next person in line wanted to know what kind of ice cream she could buy. “Sorry lady” came the reply.

“We have no ice cream. Never have had it here, never will. We have no way to get it here” Do you know where you are I thought to myself?

FINALLY it’s my turn. “Tecate please! AHH Thank you. Oh yeah, I need to check in too, here’s my receipt.” I don’t know how Tecate can fix your feet but it DOES! Think I’ll have another.

Next I’m off to my dorm and a shower. After that I am refreshed and ready to head off for the afternoon ranger talk. Today it’s called “ask the ranger”. People gathered and started to fire off questions. I thought to myself that I know the answer to about ¾ of these questions. Either that must mean I’ve been here too much, or not enough? I’ll have to think on that.

After the usual great meal I went to the evening ranger talk about the triple C trail builders. I learned a lot about a subject I had been wondering about all day. Soon after this I turned in at the dorm for some much needed rest. Don’t forget your earplugs if you sleep here, other guys snore!

Next morning I’m up early. ( because they wake the dorms up at 4:30 am) After “pigging out” at breakfast I’m off for Clear Creek Trail. This is a great day hike and I got to see many interesting things done by the triple C guys pointed out by the ranger the night before. I’m glad I went to that talk or I wouldn’t have known.


This is Phantom Ranch from Clear Creek Trail I continued on about 5 miles back this trail and got some beautiful views up the mighty Colorado.

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