Grand Canyon National Park while on contract in Fort Defiance Arizona (staying in Gallup, NM)
CAIRN TRAVELER VLOG | EP 23
This week brought the completion of one of my major goals for this year - hiking The Grand Canyon Rim to Rim southbound from North Kaibab to Bright Angel Trail (26.5 miles, almost 4,000 calories, 5,000 feet of elevation gain from 4am to 4pm with an hour break for lunch at Phantom Ranch - I hiked on Monday May 17th, 2021). This was an absolutely astounding trip and the high points of my life!! Check out the blog link below for more details (this is a work in progress and may not be fully complete by the time this video posts).
**Special thanks to my amazing friend Jen who made transport possible and without whom I would not have been able to make this trip happen!!
Be creative and find your adventure this week!! ✌️😎
Gaia GPS Geo-Mapping of the Trail and Route
Check out the recorded route and photo waypoints on GaiaGPS. Geomapping (and any GPS activity) takes a ton of battery power - for the Apple Watch as well while tracking activity with GPS so I brought a high capacity multi-device charging battery pack to recharge during lunch at the half-way point.
Trip Planning and Getting There
I found some great guides and videos to prepare for this trip . . .
The Rim to Rim Trail becomes available once the North Rim opens on May 15th each year. Many people do this trip in two days, overnighting at Phantom Ranch (which is usually booked out years in advance - I didn't have that kind of time). There is also a Trans-Canyon Shuttle which takes hikers from the South Rim to the North Rim to start the hiker but typical departure times from the South Rim are 8AM and 1:30PM and I wanted to start the hike by 4AM in order to finish by sundown at the South Rim - this means you would otherwise need to find lodging on the North Rim (again the only lodge booked out far in advance) in order to start early the next morning. In addition to this complication, due to COVID 19, the shuttle was booked for the entire month of May and I wanted to hike before it got unbearably hot in the later months of summer.
Luckily I met an amazing friend at work who gave up two days of her life to drive out to meet me at Grand Canyon Camper Village in Tusayan (about 7 miles from the park), which was 4 hours from where she lived in Fort Defiance, AZ. We had dinner and then took naps until midnight. After getting up we both drove to the Backcountry Information Center in Grand Canyon National Park and I left my truck there. We then drove another four hours to get to the North Rim where she dropped me off to start the hike - while the Grand Canyon is only ~23 miles across in this area, Rim to Rim, the nearest bridge and crossing takes you hours out of the way and then down a remote road to arrive at the North Rim.
While we had to park about a mile from the trailhead (due to a rather large number of people hiking), I was able to start the trail around 4AM on May 17th, 2021. Many people enjoy hiking the trail later in the fall (October) but this is the time I have here in the area. The temperature on the North Rim was a comfortable mid-40s when I started but no ice, snow, or mud to be seen.
Itinerary and Locations Along the Trail
Northbound, this route starts on the North Kaibab Trail and progresses down numerous switchbacks down and through Bright Angel Canyon (following Bright Angel Creek which eventually flows into the Colorado River at Phantom Ranch).
Significant Stops Along the Way
(Additionally there are various rest houses along the way - see the GPS mapping for waypoints)
Manzanita Rest Area
Cottonwood Campground (the first campground and rest area on the trail)
The Box (a narrow canyon just prior to arriving at Phantom Ranch)
Phantom Ranch (campground, post office, some supplies, water)
Bright Angel Campground
The Colorado River with the Silver Bridge (leading to Bright Angel Trail) and the Black Bridge (leading to South Kaibab Trail)
Indian Garden (another campground and rest area with water)
Bright Angel Tunnel (there are actually several of these on the ascent)
(The Day Prior to the Hike Scouting the South Rim - Looking Down Bright Angel Canyon)
(One of the Many Footbridges over Bright Angel Creek)
(Morning Sun Cresting the Rim)
(Trails Into Sunlight)
(The Fluorescent Green of Bright Angel Creek in The Box)
(The Silver Bridge to Bright Angel Trail as Viewed from the River Trail Connecting the Bridges)
(The Beginning of the Ascent up Bright Angel Trail)
(North Rim in the Mist - Upon Finishing the Trail)
Takeaways from The Trail
While I visited Grand Canyon National Park in 2018 as part of a National Parks Roadtrip, I only hiked along the Rim Trail (a worthwhile thing to do). Now I feel like I have truly EXPERIENCED the Grand Canyon, gotten in it - down and dirty - and came back alive. A truly amazing experience and challenge.
Take water seriously and refill when you can. Luckily I hiked at the perfect time of year and ended the hike on an overcast day but otherwise you would lose a ton of fluids (particularly on the ascent as this takes place after midday). But also take electrolytes seriously. I ended the hike on a very fatigued note with salt caked down my face and while I brought and ate salty snacks and food, I should have also added electrolytes to my water.
I should have carbo-loaded prior and brought more calories. If the Apple Water can be trusted, I was at approx. 4,000 calories for the day - well over anything I had eaten or brought to eat, and it took it's tool on the exhausting ascent and endless switchbacks up Bright Angel. I would highly recommend eating and high carbohydrate meal prior and bring high calorie, complex carb, snacks such as Snickers, Pop Tarts, Honey Buns, etc.
The hiker's axiom is "what goes up must come down," well this is the opposite of that - like a reverse summit - and unlike summiting a mountain where the most difficult part is the middle of your hike (getting to the top and it's now downhill), the most strenuous part of this hike occurs at the very last when you are most fatigued.
Have a great playlist . . . this song by Ben Platt was on constant repeat and was my motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
The Gear List for the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim
For food, see the video, but I would do it definitely in the future as discussed above.
For camera gear - see production notes below - I only used the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max with the DJI OM 4 Gimbal and took the GoPro Hero 7 as backup but did not use this. I also took the RODE Wireless GO Mics but did not use this either.
Editing: Adobe Premier Pro (Creative Cloud)
Music: Epidemic Sound, MUSICBED, Soundstripe, YouTube Music Library
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