Back in December when I was putting together our Grand Canyon backcountry permit, I didn’t apply for camping in The Corridor. My thinking at the time: the trail is good, we’ll want to get away from the crowds, we’ve been here before, and 23 miles is a short day by thru-hiker standards (when not on the Hayduke).
I didn’t think about the eight days of food that would be in our packs on our backs or recall how spectacular the trail and landscapes of this super highway are: side canyons and waterfalls beckon for excursion, the lemonade at Phantom Ranch, etc. There are times for going at awe pace along Bright Angel Creek and marveling at cactus and yucca growing in the seams of 1 billion year old rocks! What was I thinking not trying to get a night in The Corridor?
Too late to change the plan. The Corridor is booked. A reminder to think about what you want and your mindset when you are on trail vs what sounds good when you are in your pajamas with a mug of tea and your gear is in your closet, not on your back.
This morning we were on the trail by 6:30, knowing it would be a full day between the 16 pounds of food in our packs, the views, oh, and close to 6,000 feet of elevation loss and 6,000 feet of elevation gain.
I am continuously in awe of many aspects of the engineering tenacity of the late 1800s and early 1900s. The audacity to build routes that tunnel through great walls, hang over cliffs, and switchback deep into canyons. The Bright Angel and North Kaibab Trails are as incredible as they are beautiful.
Shuttle bus delivery to the Bright Angel TH. We started down the trail, but it didn’t take long for us to be distracted by the Gambel oak, Douglas-fir in budbreak, and pinyon pine growing among the cliffs of Toroweap and Coconino sandstone. The adorable and aggressive rock squrriels turning tricks for food (we gave them none, while others offered them food for poses… despite the Park Service warnings of the squirrels carrying the plague).
We cruised by the shade of cottonwood groves of Indian Gardens CG, through the canyons of Tapeats sandstone, and dropped into Granite Gorge along the Colorado River. Crossing the river on the silver bridge (the one with the water pipeline for the South Rim) with swallows in figure eight flight above. Stopped in at Phantom Ranch for a 10:40 cup of lemonade. Oh that lemonade is nice.
Now time to start going up hill, but only gradually the first few miles.
Hiking along Bright Angel Creek in The Box amid the basement rocks, so many swirls of red with black metamorphic and igneous rock, sparkly pyrite, cactus and yucca growing out of the seams in the Vishnu. The Tapeats sandstone several hundred feet above and side canyons to explore. I hope a future trip to the Canyon and the Corridor includes a day or two to poke around here.
Out of The Box, the trail slowly rising to meet the Tapeats. We admire giant yucca, meadows of prickly pear, side springs that support lush vegetation and a choir of canyon tree frogs ribbeting like goats.
We stop for lunch at Cottonwood Camp and end up holding a campsite for a pair of hiking kindred spirits. They too are in awe of the canyon and content to sit and admire the Redwall cliffs. We chat trail for a bit. Then as Gabriel and I head out of their camp, the shadow of a large raptor crosses over the trail. I look up to see a condor flying low.
We hike up, starting to really gain elevation beyond the Pump House and the Bright Angel shale. Roaring Springs gushes out of the Muav into a beautiful waterfall. The spring is the source of Bright Angel Creek and water for all visitors to Grand Canyon NP. Up into the cliffs of Redwall, switchbacking through the red Supai, back into the beautiful stripes of Coconino and forested benches of Toroweap. This time the benches have aspen and white fir amid the oak, Douglas-fir, and ponderosa. We are a good thousand feet higher than on the South Rim. We top out at the North Kaibab TH.
Rim to rim in a day. Close to 6 pm. No records. We paced ourselves, as we still have seven days to go. With the North Rim park services open, we headed over to the general store for hot cocoa. It’s cold out up here.
I also picked up a copy of Brighty of the Grand Canyon to read. Daybreaker recommended it with much enthusiasm. And now that the big elevation gain day is over, why not add a little weight to the pack?
Tonight we are camped in the hiker-biker camp on the North Rim. Happy to have amenities (running water, trash, washrooms) for one more evening, but amused that the camp sites for people traveling by human power are the sites furthest from said amenities. Perhaps it was hard for park planners to imagine the needs of park visitors without cars.
Day 49: 23.7 miles; 714.8 miles total. Bright Angel TH on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to campground on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
GPS: not needed; people sighted: MANY, too many to count; roads: about a mile on the North Rim to get to the campground.