Saturday, July 10, 2010

Planning a Rim-to-Rim Grand Canyon Hike? Here’s some great information!

After hiking the Grand Canyon from the north rim to the south rim, we’ve put together the following information for anyone interested in doing the same in this beautiful and breath-taking environment. Just click on each link below, and you’ll be taken to the information. Feel free to email if you have any questions ~ enjoy!

General South Rim Grand Canyon Information

How to Obtain a Permit, decide which routes to travel, and whether to go north to south or south to north
Shuttle Services - getting to the other rim for a one-way hike
Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

What to Bring for summer hiking

What to Eat/Drink for summer hiking

Hiking Tips

Helpful Links

Our Reflections

More Grand Canyon (and other) photos

Friday, July 9, 2010

Grand Canyon rim-to-rim backpacking trip ~ Reflections, Arizona

The picture above is us toasting our Grand Canyon rim-to-rim hike at the El Tovar Restaurant ~ notice the writing on the shirts! :-)

As we talked about the backpacking trip, we came to a lot of conclusions. First, we were a bit surprised that we really felt fine. Yes, we were hot and tired sometimes during the hike, but when we were done and a few hours had passed, we were far from as sore as we thoughts we’d be ~ we’ve both been stiffer and sorer from a day hike or two. We truly believe it was a combination of eating the right foods (salty), drinking enough water and adding electrolytes to some bottles, wetting our shirts and bandanas at every opportunity - thus staying cool, using the hiking poles, and incorporating the rest-step in our ascent.

People have asked us if we “trained” for the hike. Yes, to a degree – we’re both in pretty good shape and have hiked a lot (but not recently), but we did want to get used to hiking with so much weight on our backs, so we loaded up our backpacks with weight, put on our hiking boots, went to the gym, put the treadmill at 15% (the last 1 ½ miles up-and-out is a 14.5% incline) and walked. We didn’t do it as often as we planned, and got a few questioning looks at the gym, but we think it did help to some extent – heck, doubt it hurt!

We also talked about the instant camaraderie we felt with other rim-to-rim’ers ~ we kept running into people we met on the shuttle ride, or we all happened upon the same drinking water/restroom area at the same time, and there was an instant solidarity and companionship. As we were on the last leg of the hike, a man who had done rim-to-rim many times (including rim-to-rim-to-rim, river-to-river-to-rim, etc… all in less than a day) hiked alongside of us and kept us company, chatting, and congratulating us on the hike, even though he’d done far more and far more strenuous hikes than our 3-day’er. It made us feel like we were part of something special. In fact, once we were at the south rim, we realized how hungry we were and went directly to the Bright Angel Dining room for lunch – backpacks and all. The sign said, “shirts and shoes required.” Well, we were wearing shirts & shoes – okay, so we were dirty, stinky, sweaty, wet, and gross looking, but they sat us (in the front, nonetheless) and while we were there, people who saw us hiking the last bit came up and congratulated us – it was then that we realized that this was more than a simple hike – it really was an accomplishment. :-)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Grand Canyon rim-to-rim backpacking trip ~ Helpful Links, Grand Canyon, Arizona

Here’s a list of sites/links where we found some great information:

Grand Canyon National Park Website

Grand Canyon South Rim Information

Grand Canyon Weather

Grand Canyon Backcountry Information

TransCanyon Shuttle Service

Hit the Trail - Grand Canyon

Please feel free to post a comment with any other Grand Canyon links you like and we'll add it to our list.

Grand Canyon rim-to-rim backpacking trip ~ Signs Along the Trail, Grand Canyon, Arizona

Along with the quotes, we saw some fun signs along the trail ~ here are photos of our favorites ~ enjoy!

At Bright Angel Campground:

At Indian Garden (note the temperature at 7:30am):

At Three-Miles Resthouse:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Grand Canyon rim-to-rim backpacking trip ~ Quotes Heard Along the Trail, Grand Canyon, Arizona

We met a lot of people on our rim-to-rim hike, had some great conversations, and heard some interesting comments along the way. Here are some of our favorite comments/quotes:

A woman Suzanne met on the shuttle while waiting for the restroom – this woman was part of a group of 16 senior citizens from Chandler, Arizona who were in a hiking club: “I hiked rim-to-rim 20 years ago when I was 45. I want to do it again while I still can.”

A woman on our shuttle van to the North Rim – she lives in Phoenix year-round: “I don’t go food shopping in 108 degree heat, not sure why the hell I’m hiking in it!”

The group of friends who stayed with the woman needing a helicopter rescue – this was one man’s reply when asked how it was decided who should stay back with the woman (they were also from the group from Chandler): "Some people take care of their friends; some people only take care of themselves.”

As we were hiking out on Day 3, Brad looked back on the trail and with more expression and intensity than Suzanne’s ever heard: “We came all the F*** the way from there!”

We were in the last ¼ mile of the hike, could see the end, we were hot, tired, and hungry – moving a bit slow, but steady. It was a very populated area of the trail, and we must of looked pretty ragged, because two woman looked at us, stopped, one looked at the other and said: “Oh, Sister, I’m scared now. I don’t want to go any further – look at these two.” We burst out laughing and reassured them that we didn’t look like this from a ½ mile hike!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Grand Canyon rim-to-rim backpacking trip ~ Hiking Tips, Grand Canyon, Arizona

We did a lot of research before our Grand Canyon rim-to-rim hike, and have compiled this list of tips, so that you may have as good of an experience as us:

1. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and light colored clothes. Yes, this may seem obvious, but we saw a lot of people in black/dark blue shirts – huh?! Light clothes in the sun – duh! :-) The wide-brimmed hat also helped keep us cool, as it kept the sun not only off our faces, but neck and shoulders as well.

2. Wet your shirt at every opportunity. Whenever we were near a stream or drinking water source, we took off ours shirts, wet them completely, and put them back on. They were only cold for about 30 seconds, but as a breeze came by, or even if not, we were cooler hiking than without a wet shirt.

3. Bring a bandana, keep it wet, and keep your neck cool. It was interesting how much cooler we felt when our necks were cool.

4. Hike uphill using a “rest step”. This was the best tip. The rest step is similar to the wedding march – you walk slowly and purposefully – yet your legs do not tire as much. Normally when we walk – uphill or not – we keep our legs bent a bit at the knee. The rest step differs in this regard – as you walk uphill, taking shorter strides than normal (you’ll get used to this), straighten you leg at the knee joint, thus taking some pressure/work off the muscles for a split second. As the first leg straightens, the other leg goes forward, straightens, and repeat. The premise is that it gives your large leg muscles a moments rest, thus keeping them fresher longer, as well as reduce the amount of oxygen needed in the legs, thus keeping oxygen moving to other parts of your body – such as the lungs and brain. Try it – you’ll see what we mean.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Grand Canyon rim-to-rim backpacking trip ~ What to Eat & Drink, Grand Canyon, Arizona

As we mentioned before, we chose not to eat at Phantom Ranch – the meals offered simply didn’t appeal to us, plus, we had other days/nights under the rim where we needed to eat and drink.

It is extremely important to stay nourished and hydrated while hiking in such heat (think heat exhaustion), and it’s equally important to eat salty foods. Why? As a person hikes in the heat, they lose a lot of water through perspiration (up to 2 quarts per hour), so replacing fluids is important, and it is recommended to frequently sip water/electrolytes throughout your hike (thus the handy convenience of the water bladders). However, by drinking so much water, you put yourself at risk for hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is an electrolyte imbalance caused by drinking excessive amounts of water with little to no food intake. Therefore, it’s important to increase your salt intake, as well as replace electrolytes.

So for main meals, we purchased good quality dehydrated foods from REI – all created with the backpacker in mind with a lot of sodium (some upwards to 50% of one’s daily balance), yet they didn’t taste very salty. We tried a few before we left, so we’d know which meals we liked. They are rather handy - they come in a pouch in which you simply pour boiling water, wait 8-9 minutes, let cool (nearby streams were good for quick cooling – just immerse the bag), and eat. Then we used the empty food pouch as our trash bags. We brought instant oatmeal for breakfast, and salty snacks for during the hike – cashews, salted almonds, and peanut butter crackers. Besides the water we drank from our water bladders, we brought electrolyte mix packets and made the electrolyte drinks in the water bottle we each carried (although the directions read 1 packet for 16 ounces, we diluted it a bit more- 24 ounces – and it worked fine – a bit too sweet at full strength for us).

Some tips for hiking the Grand Canyon tomorrow~

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Grand Canyon rim-to-rim backpacking trip ~ What to Bring, Grand Canyon, Arizona

So this was a pretty big hike for us, and we definitely used some tried-and-true techniques to keep us safe an healthy. If you’re interested in doing a Grand Canyon rim-to-rim hike, here are some things to be sure to bring:

Hiking/Trekking poles – We’ve never used these before and it was highly suggested we get some for this hike, due to the elevation loss/gain. We rented some from REI ($20 for the week) and LOVED them! The made the hike much easier over rough terrain, took some of the weight off our knees as we descended, and helped with the big steps we encountered on our ascent. We are huge believers in hiking poles and will watch for some great ones to go on sale.

Boots – We both already had great, tough boots with ankle support – a definite in this environment.

Tent and sheet – It was way too hot to use a sleeping bag, so we brought a tent, our thermarests, and a sheet – it was more than enough to sleep and, in fact, we rarely used the sheet it was so hot at night (70’s-80’s).

Water bladders – We normally use just water bottles to carry our water, but decided to invest in water bladders that could go into our packs and the tube could be easily accessibly to drink, as it was recommended to drink every few minutes (more on food/drink tomorrow). This made staying hydrated much easier and more accessible by not having to stop along the way.

Headlamp flashlights – We purchases these for about $10 each – they clip onto anything – hat, shirt, backpack – and provided enough light to hike in the dark on our way out of the canyon, as well as a hands-free light source whenever the need arose. We still brought a handheld flashlight as back-up, but it wasn’t needed.
Moleskin – You need to treat those hot spots immediately – Brad needed to use some on his big toes after the first few miles down, and Suzanne used some on her one blister. Great stuff!

We’ll talk about food, water and electrolytes tomorrow.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Grand Canyon rim-to-rim backpacking trip ~ Day 3, Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon, Arizona

This picture is Brad at 2am on the day we hiked out of the Grand Canyon – the white on top is his headlamp, and the diffused light in the lower half is a flashlight. Why did we start our day at 2am? Well, if you’ve been reading all along – it was HOT! We really wanted to be out of the canyon by noon, before the heat of the day, and we figured at about 1 – 1 ½ miles per hour, we should start around 3am. However, we didn’t get started until 3:45am because it took so long for us to get everything packed up at the duffle station. Still, we were amazed that it was hot at that time of day/night.

It was interesting to hike in the dark, especially walking over the Colorado River on the Silver Bridge and not seeing anything but a 2 square foot space in front of you. This is what it would have looked like had the sun been up:
It was pretty cool to hike in the dark, then as dawn approached to see Grand Canyon bathed in early morning light – very difficult to catch on film, but we tried.

We even saw another deer looking for food - the environment just doesn't seem that hospitable:

At 7:30am we arrived at Indian Garden, the half-way point, where we cooked a breakfast/lunch and refueled for the rest of the hike. Indian Garden has a campground and some nice day hikes (one, especially, to Plateau Point which is said to have the best views of the inner canyon), so its another place to stay under the rim. We were a bit bummed that we didn’t plan an extra night and stay here, but there’s always another time. :-)

We left Indian Garden at 8:15 with 4.9 miles and most of the elevation to go. However, one thing stopped us in our tracks ~ rattlesnake! Yes, just along side the trail, coiled and hanging out watching hikers pass by was a beautiful rattler.

As we hiked along, we climbed through some switchbacks called Jacob’s Ladder

and just after, we saw some cool rock art.

There were a couple more stops, one at 3-mile rest house, where there’s water and restrooms, another at 1 ½ mile rest house, again where there is water and restrooms – both nice day hikes from the south rim, and as we hiked up more switchbacks, through the second tunnel, we could see the exit, but alas, we were at what’s called “heartbreak hill” and there’s still a bit to go. So past the first tunnel (where there is some more rock art), we kept walking until finally ~ the south rim (9.6 miles, 4400' elevation gain)!
Here we are at the end of the hike~
But we're not done with the story yet.........

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Grand Canyon rim-to-rim backpacking trip ~ Day 2, Mule Duffle Station, Grand Canyon, Arizona

An option backpackers have when hiking into (or out of) the Grand Canyon is to pay for mule service to bring (or take) their supplies. When we first heard about this, we thought, “Nah, it’s cheating.” However, after hiking 14 miles with so much weight on our backs (neither one of us is very big or weighs much ourselves), and as we were sitting in the canteen (Suzanne enjoying her frozen snickers), we had other thoughts. So for $64.04, we paid to have a mule bring some of our stuff out for us, thus lightening our load by about 24 pounds altogether. We were still feeling a bit like we were cheating, until we ran into a ranger (we had extra stove fuel – no need for it, so we wanted to leave it for someone else to use), she assured us that it was hiking smart, especially given the heat. So we felt better – at least it was rationalized by another person! :-)

The way the mule duffle service works is that you are given a grain sack and you can fill it as much as possible, up to 30 pounds. Then you just need to have it ready by 6:30am and placed in the duffle service area – it’ll be at the livery on the south rim by 2:30 that day. (Another pro to hiking north to south.) So when we woke the next morning at 2am (yeah, I know – more on that later too), we were able to have a mule pack out tent, thermarests, sheets, tarp, tent fly, tent stakes, trash (you have to hike out your trash), and all our clothes (except what was on our backs); leaving us with only food, water, first aid kit, toiletries, and some miscellaneous items to carry.
The really cool thing is as we were hiking out, as we waited for the mule train to pass that was bringing up things from Phantom Ranch, we saw our duffle go by!

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