50 Miles From Nowhere

Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
Trip End Jan 25, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Saturday, June 25, 2011

While Canyon Reef NP was in the middle of nowhere, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is 50 miles from no where.  It's 125 miles from Zion, and a world away.

FYI --Mark is cooking up a scheme to combine canyoneering the Virgin River at Narrows in Zion with a 125 mile bike ride to the North Rim, then hiking rim to rim.  Next spring or fall.  Let us know if you are interested.  We will have a sag to shuttle our gear and pick us up at the South Rim.

We drove back out of Zion and through a couple of really tiny towns, then went back up in elevation again.  The drive to the North Rim is not what you would expect.  Aspen forests, lots of green, cool temperatures (at least compared to Zion).  As we arrived at the entrance gate, there was a long line of cars waiting to get in.  At first, we thought something unusual was slowing things up.  Several folks walked up to the gate to see what was causing the hold up. We had time to both make and consume sandwiches for lunch.  Turns out, that's just the process at this entry point.  They had a fairly old ranger working the entrance, and he moved as fast as he could go.  Which would cause a sloth to snicker.

When we arrived at both the entry gate and the campground, there were signs "Sorry Campground Full."  We were just going to stop at the camp store and grab showers, but there seemed to be a lot empty camp sites.  I spoke to the ranger working check in (something you rarely see) and asked about the open sites.  "It says the campground is full, but there seem to be several available sites.  Are they all reserved?"  "Yes." "What about tomorrow night?"  "I have one opening.  I'll need your credit card to hold the spot."  As I walked to the van to get my purse, I heard the woman behind me yell to her husband, "Hooray!  They gave us a site for tonight."

Wait.  I wanted a site for tonight too.  I asked the ranger, who sighed heavily, then said he'd give me one too.  Huh?  I thought everything was reserved.  Not really, it seems.  There were multiple sites available that night.  And probably most nights.   With the disastrously long wait at the entry gate and the not really full campground, I wonder how this place truly operates.  At least we got a campsite for the evening. 

We arrived at the end of a week-long star-gazing convention at the Grand Lodge.  Several volunteers brought their personal telescopes, ranging in cost from $1,500 - $10,000 and allowed visitors to view the stars and planets.  We really enjoyed looking at the sun through a solar filter during the day and heading back at night to see the rising stars.  Very, very cool.

Although we looked over the rim at the lodge that afternoon, we didn't really get to experience the full sense of the Grand Canyon.  The next morning, we drove to Cape Royal and Imperial Point to really soak in the views.  Not surprisingly, it was majestic.  Then, I got the brilliant idea of running from Point Imperial to a cross road on the Ken Patrick Trail.  The sign said it was 2 miles to the road crossing.  Why not?  So, Mark drove around with the dogs while I ran the trail.  I figured it would take about 25 minutes to cover the two miles.  Except that the trail was really overgrown.  With thorn bushes.  There were several rocky sections, which made even going downhill a little awkward and slow.  But, the thorn bushes were overwhelming.  At first, they were just to my shins.  Then, they were up to my hips.  Midway through the trail, the bushes were at my shoulders and occasionally scraping my face.

I tried to enjoy the scenery, but when I could see the canyon rim, the wind was unbelievably strong.  Boy, that could blow a person right over the edge.  (Almost)  I'd been running for about 30 minutes at this point.  Granted, there was some walking on the rocky uphill sections, and I wasn't running very fast on the rocky downhill sections.  But, I did expect to see the road crossing any minute now.  Five minutes later, I was beginning to doubt my memory of the trail map.  Did this trail actually cross the road or just come near it?  Have I missed the intersection and am now heading along the 11 miles to the Lodge?  Why didn't I bring a map?  And some water?  Stupid.  Really stupid.

At 40 minutes, I lost the overgrown trail completely.  Frustrated and over this so-called "2 mile run," I'm now chocking back tears.  My legs are sliced to ribbons by the thorns.  Mark loves this stuff.  I just feel unprepared, lost and alone.   I scrambled up to the crest of a hill and could see the road below me.  But, I didn't know which way I'd need to turn to reconnect with Mark.  After I started down, I realized the road curved back and climbed up another ridge to my left.  I worked my way back up to the crest of the hill and tried to find the trail again, which I ultimately did.  As it turns out, I was only a few feet from where Mark was waiting with the dogs.  Thank god that was over.  Hopefully, I'll take that adventure with a bit more humor next time.

By the way, I don't recommend the Ken Patrick Trail at the Grand Canyon.  <wink>

At least we had the benefit of staying in one of the lodge rooms that evening.  A hot shower was all I needed to fully recover from the morning adventure.  The wonderful dinner at the lodge that night was an added bonus.  Monday morning, we woke early and headed to the Kaibab Trailhead.  This is the primary Rim to Rim trail.  It leads to the Phantom Ranch and the Colorado River at the base of the canyon and back up the other side to the South Rim Village.  Rim to Rim is 22 miles, but we had to get back to the dogs.  Rim to Rim to Rim is 44 miles, but that would leave the dogs to roast in the van.  (Not that I was the least bit interested in going 44 miles that day.)  We opted for a 10 mile hike to Roaring Springs and back up the North side.  It was fantastic.  Going down is certainly easy, especially in the early morning.  We were down at the springs in 90 minutes.  After a short break, it was time to head back up.  This would be the challenge.  You gain 3,700 ft of elevation over 5 miles, and the sun is beating down on the canyon wall.  But, it was so worth it.  After the first hour uphill, Mark felt extra motivated to get back to the dogs and decided to run the rest of the way.  The man is a machine.

I stopped at a water spout shortly after we parted ways, and several people asked about the crazy guy running up the trail.  Yup, that's my fella.  He's amazing.  I loved the hike and look forward to going Rim to Rim the next time. The first 14 miles are down hill.  And, you only gain 4,250 ft over 8 miles climbing up the south side of the canyon.  After our hike, I feel confident that I could do that without much trouble.  Now, if I can just handle the canyoneering and double metric century in the days preceding.  I feel less confident about doing all of that back to back.  Better start training now.  Good thing we are cycling around Europe for 2 months.  That should help.

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Steph Stewart on

Glad you went to the North Rim...South Rim is a nightmare with all the people!!

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