The Gateway Community of Tusayan, south of the Grand Canyon, welcomed me with a gigantic banner and a fun event at the Big E Steakhouse!
After a delicious pancake breakfast cooked by gracious host, trail steward and accomplished long-distance hiker Li Brannfors, I headed out. It was cloudy and as I got into the car, it started sleeting big, mushy drops. By the time I got to the South Kaibab Trailhead, it was clear overhead, but looked like the North Rim was getting pounded.
I was able to get a night at the dorms at Phantom Ranch and a permit for Cottonwood Campground for the following evening, giving me a light schedule of only 7 miles a day. I was looking forward to having time to lounge about in my favorite places on the way. I had been doing high mileage without much of a break and my feet were definitely feeling it.
I was so excited to hike into the Canyon, it is my favorite place in the world and I never get tired of exploring it. The Kaibab Trail is on a ridgeline most of the time and the views are spectacular. I was practically running down the trail, but took plenty of breaks at all my favorite viewpoints.
My mind wandered to thoughts of finishing the trail next week in Utah, and I thought to myself, “You should really be here now and appreciate your hike through the Grand Canyon”. Just then, a young man came up the trail wearing a shirt that said The Here And Now- how appropriate! He was from France and we had a nice chat before I continued on.
I am particularly enamored of the views of Zoroaster Temple, such an incredible landmark! The hike down was easy and went quickly. Despite clouds all around, I didn’t get rained on at all. I crossed the Black Bridge and made my way down to the Boat Beach on the Colorado River.
It was so fun to be at the Boat Beach with the rest of the day to myself. I dunked my feet in the icy river, then set up under a bush to take a nap. Just the way I wanted to spend the afternoon.
I checked into the dorm and went to dinner at Phantom Ranch. All you can eat vegetarian chili, salad and cornbread- topped off with chocolate cake for dessert! Went back to the Boat Beach and on the way visited and pet the mules in the corral. I had the most wonderful time stargazing and enjoying having the beach all to myself. I work on the river as a guide in the summertime, and we stop at Boat Beach just to fill our water jugs at the faucet, then go on with our trip.
I didn’t get to sleep until really late and the next morning was woken by the call for breakfast. I wasn’t eating at the ranch, so I packed my stuff up and headed to my next destination- Ribbon Falls. The North Kaibab Trail was full of rim-to-rim runners, many who were really rude. It was most unfortunate. I found a place to dip my feet in Bright Angel Creek and watched as people rushed by.
I hoped that Ribbon Falls wouldn’t be too crowded, and miraculously, on a Saturday during Memorial Day weekend, only two parties visited during the many hours I spent at the falls. I just love this waterfall, no matter how many times I’ve been here, it’s always a treat- kind of how I feel about the rest of the Canyon. It rained on me for a little bit, just enough to be refreshing.
Around dinnertime I left Ribbon Falls to hike the rest of the way to Cottonwood Campground. I found Michael E, a fellow thru-hiker, at the campground. It was so nice to have someone else to talk to who could understand the mixed emotions I was having now that the end of the hike was coming up soon.
The next morning I was out of camp by 7am and excited about my hike out of the canyon. Couldn’t resist dunking my feet at the waterfall by the trail, so I took a short break.
Michael caught up with me and we ended up leapfrogging the rest of the way up the trail. It was a perfect day, not too hot given that it was the end of May. The miles fell under my feet easier than ever before- it’s amazing what 700 miles of conditioning can do! I took a bunch of breaks for pictures and scenery and still managed to get to higher elevations before it got too hot.
Such a wonderful hike, each layer it’s own geological story. I’m always conflicted about which is my favorite- sometimes I’m convinced the Supai is the most attractive, then I think about how incredible the Redwall is, and then there’s the ancient schists that make up the Granite Gorge…
I crossed the last footbridge and started up toward the Supai Tunnel. Ordinarily, this part of the hike feels like it takes forever, but this time the tunnel appeared so quickly I was a little sad that my hike through the Canyon was mostly over.
Michael and I took a break at the tunnel, then continued the climb to the rim. Temperatures were great and fresh-faced, clean-smelling tourists in flip flops began to appear. I love the view from the Coconino Overlook and part of me wished that I could hang out and take a nap. Which would have been impossible, since it was a busy Sunday filled with tourists. Finally, one couple decided to take pictures jumping right near the edge and I took that as my cue to leave.
The last part of the trail is heavily wooded and shady and temps were perfect. I reached the rim and Michael was right behind me. I felt great that I’d had such an easy hike out, and had the rest of the day to relax.
As we were sitting at the trailhead, some guys hiked out, whooping and hollering about how awesome they were for having hiked out of the Canyon. Full of bravado, they turned to us and said, “It’s pretty great down there, you should hike it sometime!” To which I answered, “Yes, we came from the bottom too, but we started our hike at the Mexican border two months ago.” “No way!” they said, and then their faces dropped. “Well, I was feeling pretty great about my accomplishment till I heard that.” It was pretty funny.
I spent the rest of the day relaxing with my dad at my friend’s apartment on the rim and getting ready for the final week into Utah. It was bittersweet knowing that this incredible journey would soon come to an end. Thankfully I’ll be returning to the Canyon at the end of June to start my river season.
Here’s the link to donate to the Arizona Trail Association- every dollar goes right back into protecting and sustaining the Arizona National Scenic Trail!