Permit stage

When I arrived at the Grand Canyon NP, I clearly knew what I wanted to do : Hiking the rim to rim to rim. But I also knew that I needed a permit to do it, which people usually book months in advance. And of course, I haven’t, but I really trusted in my karma to think I would get one.

So, full of positives vibes and with no doubt, I showed up at the backcountry office. I explained my plan to the ranger and asked for a Bright Angel Campground’s permit for tonight, and another one for 2 nights later.

First thing, he asked me if I had ever hiked in the Grand Canyon and if I had experience hiking and backpacking. I just answered that I hiked the South Kaibab trail until Skeleton point 2 years ago and that I knew a bit about the Grand Canyon climate. I probably could have said that I was an experienced hiker, many people consider me like that, but I haven’t.

Then, he told me it wasn’t possible to get a Bright Angel’s permit for tonight, but possible for tomorrow. Meanwhile, he offered me another option : hiking to Indian Garden’s campground today, sleeping there, and tomorrow hiking from there to Cottonwood’s campground, spending another night in the Canyon, and then going up to North Rim where they have a backpacker campground. In that one, no need to book, as long as you are a backpacker or a biker, just show up and they will give you a campsite. Good new for me !

So my options were : Waiting for one day to do the rim to rim as I planned, or starting today, hiking the rim to rim in 3 days instead of 2 as I imagined. It took me few minutes to take the decision, I’ll go for his option, I was so looking forward hiking the Grand Canyon that I couldn’t wait. Especially because I knew the area for having visited the South Rim 2 years ago, so spending one day just going around wasn’t an option !

 

D1 : South Rim to Indian Garden (4.9 miles ; -3060 ft)

So time to repack my staff and find some gas for my stove, I started to hike around 2:30 PM. This is actually the worst time of the day to hike, but on the Bright Angel trail, you get a bit of shady portions, so it wasn’t that bad. I arrived at the campground around 5, as I took my time to go down, taking many photos. Seriously, I could have taken thousand of photos so it was stunning.

Arrived at the campground, I set up my tent, and hanged my backpack  (it seems that’s the thing to do). Once done, the ranger came to check my permit and give me advices. But the first thing she asked once she saw my permit was “What time are you planning to leave tomorrow ?”. Honestly I thought about 7:30 AM, but I answered 7:00 AM. « That’s too late !  » she said. She recommended me to start between 5 and 6 AM. She explained that there is a portion after “the box” which is very long, with no shade. And leaving at that time would make me hiking that part at the worst time of the day : after noon! I took consideration of her advice and thought that I would see. I then took information about the night temperature here as I saw many people set up their tent without the canopy. “Well, it goes down here until 68-70 F”. Perfect, it means 20-21° for me, which is quite warm. So no need the canopy, I’ll sleep watching the stars J

But for now, I’ll hike a bit more until Plateau Point  (only 1 ¾ miles more). That was quick, but then from there, I had a beautiful view on the Colorado river. It really worth it ! I stayed there for a while, took some awesome pictures and then went back to Indian Garden. I had diner and went to sleep around 8:00 PM… Early I know, but as it’s dark around 7, no much more to do…

 

D2 : Indian Garden to Cottonwood ( 11.9 miles ; -1320 ft/+1600 ft)

So, considering the advices of the ranger, I woke up around 5:30 AM, and noticed that many people had already left… It took me about 1h to unset my tent, get my breakfast and get ready. So I started at 6:30 AM, which is really early for me! The trail is kind of flat at the beginning, and then the descent becomes steeper, but that trail offers a very nice hike. There, I crossed many people hiking up… They sure have started earlier than me ! Once down, the trail head in the East direction along the Colorado river until the bridge. On the other side are the Bright Angel campground, and a Phantom ranch a bit farther. I stopped there for a fresh lemonade, too sugary for my taste, but I guess good carbs for the second part of the trail.

All the portion crossing “The box” is very nice, and also very shady. You’re clearly in the inner canyon here. But then arrives the part the ranger told me about… And of course she was right, it’s so hot here and no shade. That part is not that long, but the heat makes it longer than it is really. I decided to do a stop by the Ribbon waterfall, but as the trail became a bit confused to reach the waterfall, I made a U-turn. I was engaged in a very steepy-rocky trail with my big backpack, and not really sure that was the good trail, but didn’t see other option… So I stopped in a very small shady area under rocks, had my fruit and my peanut butter/cereal bar and continued to the campground. I arrived there around 2:30 PM… So early to stop hiking for me !

I selected a spot with a bit of shade, and went back the creek to put my feet in, to cool my body. That was great ! Back to my campsite, I talked with my neighbours for ages. By the end of the afternoon, I decided to head back to the creek, but first I stopped at the tables that were in the shade for a while.

There was already a girl laying down here on the bench, and that girl made a big change for me!

We started to talk. And quickly I noticed how shaped she was, with very strong shoulders and arms, which reminded a friend of mine… She actually had the same kind of morphology. She told me that she crossed me this morning in the steep part of the trail between Indian Garden and the river. She then explained me that her and a friend were running the rim to rim to rim… in one day ! And then I noticed her cap : “Houston Iron Man”. For those who don’t know what it is, this is an extreme triathlon : 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles cycling an a marathon running to finish!

So now I understand that she can run rim to rim to rim in one day ! She explained me that she’s worrying about her friend because she’s been waiting for 2h now, and still she has not seen her. She’s usually slower than her, but it starts to be a bit long… Then we talked about races, hiking and travel… By the same time, I was thinking to myself : “Damn, they are doing the Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim in one day, while you’re only hiking the Rim 2 Rim in 3 days… What The Fuck !!! I’m nothing compare to them !”

And then her friend arrived, we talked a bit longer and they left to North Rim… Leaving me with my frustration, making me feel so small !

I went back to the creek after that, at least to wash my legs and cool down again, but always thinking about that girl. I had my dinner and then went to bed, again very early. I’d like to start early tomorrow to hike up before the sun burns.

 

D3 : Cottonwood to North Rim Campground (7.5 miles ; +4265 ft)

I woke up a bit earlier on that day : 5 AM. Again, same rituals : unsetting tent, repacking my stuff and breakfast, so I started to hike at 6 AM… Good time I think. But hiking, I was still thinking to the girl of yesterday… And then I decided that once I’ll be at North Rim, instead of coming back in 3 days to South Rim, I would do it in 2 days. I would apply for a right Angel campground’s permit, because I still haven’t spent a night in the deeper part of the Canyon. Wait, no ! I’ll ask for a permit for Indian Garden, I can hike that long in one day, and it’s still rim 2 rim in 2 days… Well, I can’t choose, let’s see. I’ll go to the backcountry office and see what’s possible. That way, I don’t have to choose, availability will choose for me, that’s better. Let’s hike for now, and enjoy the landscape ! That’s not a long distance today, but about 4200ft up, so it can be a bit tough.

I finally reached the top a bit before 10:30 AM, which was earlier than I expected. That wasn’t that hard. Being honest I didn’t feel I hiked up 4200ft ! From the top, I still had to hike to the North Rim campground, and at the backcountry office to get my permit to go back tomorrow.

So first, I went to the Backcountry office, and guess what, the 2 options I couldn’t choose one were available… So I had to make the decision ! Well, I finally decided to get a permit to go back to Indian Garden, the challenge was attracting me so much. Once that formality done, I took advantage of the scale they had outside to weight my backpack : 24 pounds, but water was almost empty and less food than when I started… Anyway, I walked to the camground and on the way, another idea started to grow up in my mind : what if I go back in one day!!! I can try, and then if too tired at Indian Garden, I can stop, I have a permit for that… Yeh, that would be cool, that’s the challenge I want ! So my decision was taken, I will go back in one day !

Then I set up my tent, had a good salad for lunch, did a short hike along the North Rim and got a shower… I also shared my project to go back in one day with a Canadian guy who was in the campground. He asked me what time I planned to start. Around 5 AM I guess… Then he explained to me that people who usually do that start around 3 AM… Holy shit ! I’m not gonna do that I said. 5 AM is early enough for me.

So that night, I went to bed super early, like 7:30 PM and slept like a baby until the day after J

 

D4 : North Rim to South Rim (24 miles ; -5761/+4380 ft)

I had set up my alarm at 4:32 AM (I know, a kind of OCD, my alarm has to end my 2, lol). Anyway, I woke up, unset my tent with my headlight and got my breakfast. I was quicker than the other days, probably because I was so excited about my project. So I left the campground at 5:20, with my headlight of course. I reached the North Rim trailhead at 5:30 and started to hike down. My motivation was so big that I thought my backpack was much lighter than the other day, while it wasn’t. Still the same ! I overtook a guy hiking down on a good pace, but I was hiking on a good pace too. I probably used my headlight for ½ hour, and then I saw the sky changing colors. That was beautiful ! All my senses were so aware of everything, that was one of the best feeling ever ! And I started to do some mathematics in my head, but first of all, I told to myself that if I arrived at Indian Garden after 4:00 PM, I wouldn’t go farther… So started the calculation, counting what time I should arrive at Cottonwood, Phantom ranch…

Anyway, that was so good ! I passed Cottonwood at 8:30, good pace I thought. I didn’t stop, thinking that I would probably stop in Phantom ranch. Then I started to dream about that lemonade, and planned to stop there. I know, it’s just sugar, but that sugar would be so helpful to hike up on the other side…

One thing I noticed, I was hungry quite quickly. I started to eat a ¼ of my peanut butter/cereal bar like 2h after I started, and then was angry every 1h, but by then after 4h hiking, I started to be hungry every 45mn. I have enough experience to know that nutrition is one of the key for this kind of hike. So, no matter, I ate every 45mn ¼ of a cereal bar…

I reached Phantom Ranch at 11:20, and thought that I was on a good pace. So I made the stop and got my lemonade J Then arrived the guy I overtook at the beginning, he was with another guy. We had been chasing each other all the morning. We started to talk and the other guy told me he was from Colorado. I explained that I was supposed to hke the Colorado trail, but as I broke 3 ribs end of March, I wasn’t shaped enough in July to do it… Then they started to laugh at me. “I think you’re shaped enough to do it ! Look at what you’re doing now!!” Which made me realized that yes, I was shaped enough to do what I wanted…

After that break, I left them and hit the trail at 11:40AM. A20mn break was enough to have some food and recharge my body with energy.

The first part along the river was ok, and then that part I found so beautiful hiking down was in the sun, making the way up a bit more challenging. I mean much more challenging than it was going down, but I loved each moment on that part. Especially because I remembered that was the place I crossed those girls, the ones who inspired me. That gave me more energy. But even with that, I had to do more breaks because of the heat than I wanted. But fortunately for people hiking on that day, sky was a bit cloudy. Then I started to bless the clouds each time they were hiding the sun…

A bit before Indian Garden, I met a German girl hiking up as well. We were hiking on the same pace so we started to talk. And here’s another thing I haven’t said yet, it’s if I go up to South Rim, I have no place to sleep tonight : Remember, I was supposed to spend the night at Indian Garden. But now, obviously, I’ll be in time to go until South Rim. So talking bout my challlenge and that, she invited me in her campsite about 6 miles North of the entrance. She told me that she had a big campsite for herself, and she would be happy to share it with me if I don’t find anything else. And then we arrived at Indian Garden, at 2:20 PM. So early, remember, my limit time was 4 PM ! So she gave me the address of her camground, and the number of her campsite and left… See you later girl !

I stopped for about 10 mn, time to refill my bottles of water and went on. Only 3060 ft more and that will be good. I have to admit that those last 4.9 miles were longer than expected. Wthe tiredness of the day, the heat, it took me a bit longer than expected to reach the top.

 

And then I became a badass !

I reached it at 5:55 PM, exactly 12:35 later than I left the North Rim Campground. Then I became a Badass !!! I can’t even explain the feeling. I felt so smug about what I had accomplished ! I was so so happy, proud… OMG, I miss words to express the feeling… Being honest, that made me feel greater, that everything was possible…
I did a 40 day hike last year, about more than 500 miles in the Pyrenees mountains, but for any reason, for me it was nothing to compare with that. I more proud of that 1-day challenge than my thru-hike !

So time to calm down my emotion, and then went back to my car. Then I had a dinner I really deserved : a fresh geen salad with eggs, turkey and ham… Heaven for me ! On my way, I met that guy, the Canadian from yesterday : “You did !!!! Congratulation, high five girl !!!”. And again, I realized what I’ve just accomplished and felt so proud of myself again.

I drove North to join the German girl and had a good rest ! Awesome.

 

After posting that adventure on facebook, I received many congratulations messages. What a feeling, especially from my US friends who know what it is. And then a girl with who I share many things from a life point of view told me “You’re a certified badass!” Yes, I’m such a badass and I’m proud of it !

 

 

Thanks all

About the author: snookmam

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