Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Grand Canyon in Winter, Days 5-6: Everyone has a story

 We crossed the steel bridge and climbed away from the river. The first part of the Bright Angel Trail leading from Phantom Ranch is all in the shade at this time of day, and we hiked the Devil's Corkscrew without much problem, though a few months from now it would be a different story. A few months from now you would need more liters of water and to leave by four in the morning. It was hard to imagine, as I could not remember what it felt like to be warm.

It was still winter and we searched for sun in the pockets we could find. Arriving at Indian Garden campground, our last campsite, we hastily set up our tents and rushed the mile and a half to Plateau Point for sunset.
 As we sipped hot drinks, the sun slowly sank over the canyon. A few of us walked together, Peter and I making up incredibly bad scenes from a Harlequin type canyon romance: "The sun shone on her alabaster skin." Maybe a new career?
 Or maybe not.
 We could see where we had gone the days before and where we had yet to travel.
Looking toward the South Rim.

Hard to see, but that's where the devil's corkscrew climbs.

On our last pre-dawn morning we packed up for the final time. Somberly we headed up for the final push to the South Rim. Our packs were light and we all walked at our own pace. Soon I was passing curious day hikers who queried me on what, exactly, I had been doing. The snow and ice started well below the rim and I "chained up" for the last climb. Before I knew it, I was on the rim.
 The ascent was bittersweet. I had made friends for life, but now we were scattering to the four corners of the country. When would I see them again?
 I've hiked solo so often and with long-time friends that it was interesting to delve a little deeper in other people's stories. The people I hiked with were from all different walks of life and each had their own, unique story. Hiking for hours allows bits and pieces of these stories to come out in ways that would not happen in years of casual conversation.
 That's why I like backpacking. It gives you that gift of time. The record for an RTRTR is 17 hours, but I'm not about that. Five nights in the canyon was enough for me to let go of the stuff that builds up over the long working months. I'll leave the records to someone else. I need time, huge blocks of it. I need to listen to the stories.
Goodbye, canyon, for now. I'm not through with you yet.


  1. What a great way to spend Christmas! Hmmmm.....wonder if I can talk my hubby into going there and hiking?

  2. Thank you Mary,
    That was wonderful!!!

  3. Actually the record for R2R2R is closer to six hours. I just had to point it out because it boggles my mind, too.

    But I love the idea of backpacking in the Grand Canyon. Maybe I'll make it a goal for next winter. Tonto Trail is one place on the definite life list. Great write-up.

    1. Six hours?! Maybe the 17 is for hiking, not running. Crazy.

    2. Yeah, Rob Krar ran 6:21 sometime last year on the 42-mile South Kaibab/North Kaibab out-and-back, which is the typical route for a running R2R2R. The women's record is around 8:15. The FKT geeks keep track of the R2R2R2R2R (23 hours) and even a R2R2R2R2R2R2R2R (68 hours. I did some copying and pasting here.) Runners are silly like that.

      Someday I'd like to run a R2R2R myself; I'd probably aim for the 12- to 15-hour range. Obviously without a heavy pack, and of course hiking all of the steep parts. But backpacking in the canyon does sound like a sublime experience, and if permits are actually attainable, I'd like to try that as well.

    3. I just for the heck of it put in for a solo permit in March and got it. I don't know if I will actually go. I didn't think I would get it. It's the main corridor too, Bright Angel to Tonto to Hermit, not an RTRTR. So if you go in a small group or solo seems you can get permits.

  4. MARY!? Winter camping? That's a surprise! Weren't you the one that said you'd never want to do it? Sounds like a wonderful adventure! With the lower sun angle, did the canyon stay mostly shaded all day long like in the pictures in this post?

  5. Glad you had fun adventuring with new people. The sights look amazing.

  6. Sounds like a wonderful way to spend a vacation! Really enjoyed the report!


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