|Hiking||26.00 Miles|| 10 Hrs 24 Mns ||2.50 mph|
|5,500 ft AEG|
|Been planning this R2R since last October, via a friend whose family has done it as an annual tradition for a couple of decades. My wife and two of my kids (15 and 12) joined as well, along with my brother, my sister, and a nephew. Reviewing the new guidelines, and with the clarification Joe B. sought from NPS, we concluded that our group (24-25 family and friends) did not meet the criteria for the permit requirement, as no one was compensated for organizing; the hike was not advertised to the general public; and was put together by invitation only. There was a ranger at Phantom Ranch, however, who apparently was tasked with questioning every group that had the appearance that they might fall into the permit requirement. We were a target b/c we wore matching shirts. The ranger agreed, upon explanation, the our group fell outside the permit requirement. Anyway, onto the trip details ...
We left Phoenix Friday morning and made our way up to the North Rim, with stops in Flagstaff for lunch and Jacob's Lake for cookies (yum!). Saw a car in the parking lot at Jacob's Lake that had the front smashed in and the windshield crushed. Upon closer inspection, there was hair/fur stuck in the windshield cracks and other places indicating that the driver had clearly hit an animal. We speculated elk, but then the lady who was the driver of the car came out and explained it was a cow she hit on the way back from dropping off her husband for a R2R. (Not sure how she managed to hit a cow unless she was really not paying attention; they are not known for bolting across the road and high speeds). Anyway, the car was probably totaled, but she reported that the cow popped right back up and took off, as if not much worse for the wear.
After cookies, we headed on to the N. Rim lodge, keeping a close eye for bolting cows. The weather was pleasant, and we enjoyed the lounging on the "patio" chairs and just taking in the gorgeous views off the rim. I love the south rim, but there's something about the north rim that draws me in even more.
After photos and chilling, we had reservations in the lodge dining room for dinner. I opted for the ribs. They were okay. My wife got the prime rib sandwich, which I think is probably the best thing on the menu. I'm not a fan of the garlic clove infused bread or the cauliflower mashed potatoes. They don't have much in the way of good pasta dinners, either.
After dinner, we crashed in our cabins for the evening and set the alarm for 4 a.m. Got up, prepared the packs, filled the camelbacks with ice and headed over to the TH. Of course, we had been monitoring the weather, which called for 100% chance of rain, so we were prepared with ponchos, etc., and told ourselves it would be an adventure.
Thankfully, it was not raining when we hit the trail at 5:35 a.m. In fact, the cloud cover was a blessing since it kept the temperature much warmer than in years past (normally it's around the mid 30's at the start, but on that day, it was very comfortable without jacket or gloves, etc.).
Hit the trail in the dark and hiked by headlamp for the first mile and half. The trail had received some sprinkles overnight, which helped control the normally very dusty top part of the N.Kaibab trail.
The sunrise was spectacular, getting a little red lighting underneath the clouds, on the way to Bright Angel creek/canyon. The cloud cover also made for great lighting for photos along the trail (though, with my photo skills, I'm not sure that it makes that big of a difference
Opted not to explore the trail down to Roaring Springs, based on Dave1's description in a recent R2R triplog. We did, however, make a side trip to Ribbon Falls, which is always well worth it.
Cruised to Phantom Ranch, and were still keeping a sub-20 min./mi. pace.
Usually, after Phantom, the sun is up and you are exposed for much of the rest of the hike to its beating rays. Again, however, the clouds kept things very comfortable.
On the way up Pipe Creek, I looked very closely for the start of the "old" Devil's Corkscrew. I found it, but it's pretty hard to make out. As I was hiking with my kids, I opted not to take the old route, but I plan do to that one day. As we ascended the "new" corkscrew, I paid careful attention to spot the old route and where it crossed over the trail (The old route was much more discernable from above, though I think most would miss it if not specifically looking for it).
The rain finally started to come down in earnest just before we hit Indian Garden, and it did not relent for the rest of the climb out. As mentioned in a comment to one of the photos in my set: I never go out for a hike thinking: "I sure hope it pours rain while I'm out"; however, this was actually a very cool experience, being surrounded (literally) by dozens of cascading waterfalls draining into the canyon--some of them 100s of feet tall. Mother Nature proved, once again, to be very awe-inspiring, above and beyond Her "usual" awe-inspiring self at the GC. Although my camera and video camera are not waterproof, I couldn't help risking them by constantly taking them out from under my poncho to try to capture the beauty and awesomeness of the surrounding waterfalls and mini-creeks and rivers that washed through the canyon. It was also very cool to see the lower reaches of the canyon fill with clouds.
Thankfully, the wind below the rim was minimal and the temps were not so low so as to be much of a hypothermia factor, and my wool socks performed admirably in insulating my feet, despite being soaked through.
Once we were finally back up top, the wind was a little stronger and it did't take long for the chill to set in. We high-tailed it over to the lodge and picked up some steaming hot chocolate. I was disappointed that the lodge fire place was not fired up, as there were plenty of cold hikers and tourists looking for a heat source.
I also found out that my brother, who had beat us out of the canyon by a couple of hours, had injured his foot/ankle about .25 mi. from the the start, but nevertheless plowed forward on his bum foot for the next 23.75 miles. but also
Shortly thereafter, we drove over to the Mather Campground showerhouse and put in our 8 quarters for a hot shower. Ahhhhh! Best $2 I ever spent.
Once we were cleaned up and warmed up, we headed over to Maswick Lodge for dinner. My favorite--open-faced turkey sandwich with two sides of mashed potatoes. Good stuff. Meanwhile, the bruising on my brother's leg had traveled up almost to his knee. I was pretty worried. (He went to the dr. today--ruptured the ligament that holds his tibia and fibula together, tearing out a piece of the bone in the process, and also shredding the ligaments connected to his ankle. Suffice it to say that he won't be doing a lot of hiking for awhile. Though, thankfully, the prognosis is for a full recovery, so long has he wears his "boot" faithfully for the next 4-6 weeks).
After dinner, we piled in our vans for the ride back to Phoenix.
Great trip, made unique and particularly memorable by the rainy weather.