Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Running the Grand Canyon Part 1: Rim to River to Rim

This past April, I finally made the decision to run the Grand Canyon...well, at least some of it. :) 

My amazing running friend Kathryn (and by amazing I mean she is a BEAST on the trail!) was going to run R2R2R (that's South Rim to North Rim to South Rim, for those unsure of our South of the Canyon lingo) again and she asked me to come along. I originally planned to run the entire 40 mile-something out and back, but decided in the end to try my hand first at a trip to the bottom and back. I would see how I fared and try again in the fall, hopefully. 

We planned on meeting at the South Rim on Friday night. I decided to take the day off from work and get there super early (like 2 pm) so I could walk around and be a little touristy. I got there, found our hotel room at the Maswik Lodge, and took off on foot exploring what the Grand Canyon Village had to offer. I did some shopping, got a "bite" to eat (as in, I ate prime rib at one of the nicer restaurants with a view!), explored the museums and watched the film in the visitors center. But I really wanted to see the sunset (I have never seen it here before!), so I stayed out until dark to catch a glimpse of it.  

Sunset on the South Rim.

I forced myself to get to bed SUPER early. It was entirely too hard. And I knew I would have to get up and answer the door when Kathryn and Clint arrived. So, I stayed up and read until they showed up around 10 pm. We discussed logistics before bed (such as start time, how far we will both be going, etc.). I called a taxi and set up a pick up time for the morning (far too early). However, Clint was getting up much earlier: 3am. He was meeting some friends and they were going to hike R2R2R (yes, the whole thing). It would take them over 21 hours to complete. 

Kathryn and I woke up bright and early (Clint had already left a while ago) and started to get ready for our adventure into the Canyon. The taxi picked us up on time and we drove over to Yaki Point. We took a few photos and off we went! 

A chilly start at Yaki Point.

These signs welcome hikers to each
of the trailheads. Be careful!

The run down South Kaibab trail was, to say the least, magnificent. I kknow it sounds corny, but jeez! The Grand Canyon is a beautiful freaking place, at all times of the day. Mornings and evenings are some of the prettiest times however. It was hard to keep my eyes on the extremely uneven, stair-like trail. I wanted to look out at the view, but had to keep reminding myself to keep my eyes on my feet so I wouldn't go flying face first into the dirt, or worse, over the rim. There were a few close calls. Your ankles start to wear out after 7 miles of continuous downhill, with quite a few holes thrown in. I was wobbly by the time I reached the black bridge! 

About a mile into the South Kaibab trail, we found ourselves stuck behind a conga line of Grand Canyon mules. I guessed they were carrying supplies to Phantom Ranch, which is the only way PR gets anything. 

The downhills were killing me, like I said before, and I was keeping up with Kathryn for a good portion of it. I think we separated about 2-3 miles above the river. I could see the trail ahead so I could see her running ahead of me. We were about a mile apart. I feel now that I should have tried to keep up, but I didn't want to get too tired from the constant downhill pounding (which was already happening) and make the mistake of tripping and ruining the rest of the run. So, I slowed down and took my time for the rest of the day. I came out here not only to run, but to experience the beauty of the Grand Canyon.

Almost ran into this little
Bighorn sheep as I was making
my way down to the Black

She just kept on running. :)

Entrance to the Black Bridge.

The Black Bridge
I made it to the Black Bridge/Colorado River and I was on my own for the rest of the day.
I knew it wouldn't take too long to climb out of here (but it would sure be hard!). So, I decided to take my time, look around, explore Phantom Ranch and the ruins by the river. I also took some time to think and meditate because hey, I just made it to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. ;)

The remains of Bright Angel Pueblo by the river. 

Proof that I made it to the bottom. :) That sand felt so good to
walk on! I could have laid down and took a nap right there. 

The water was so peaceful...and incredibly smelly. 

I was headed for Phantom Ranch,
but I really wanted to get on the
North Kaibab time!
I will see you again in October. :)

Made it to Phantom Ranch! It's less than a mile from the river. 

It had a great mess hall. I'd love to stay here sometime and see it
when it's really crowded! 

The menu. I had ordered a sack lunch a few days beforehand.
I paid for it and picked it up when I got there. It was pretty good.
So much better than the Gu's I had in my pack. I love real food
on longer runs. 

I had to send some postcards. :)
 After Phantom Ranch, I had to make the decision to turn around. I was sad to do so. I wanted to keep going but I didn't want to be stuck in the canyon after dark. Even though I had my headlamp, not sure why I didn't go a few extra miles. I know I could have, looking back on it, but being in new territory, I wasn't sure what to expect. 

I ran down to the river again and crossed the White Bridge. This bridge FREAKED ME OUT!
It must have been the fact that I could see to the bottom and I was thinking about it too much. Anyway, I had to walk it (and hold on to the sides at the same time! So funny!). I (finally) got to the other side and begun my journey out of the Canyon.

Looking back down the river

Heading back up...this sand is tough
to run through!

One last full view of the river
before my ascent
What I need to conquer up ahead...

Had to rest at some of the switchbacks...hiking back up is HARD!
Hiking back up (I swear, I tried to run, but it is so so so very hard) is one of the hardest things about the Grand Canyon. It won't take too long if you keep at it and make forward progress. But once in a while, I had to stop. Trying to run was almost impossible (I felt so weighted down!). I applaud those who can do it. That is something I want to be better at for my next crossing. 

Looking back down the trail...

It felt like I was going straight up!

Getting closer to Indian Gardens...

A squirrel was posing so nicely I
had to take his photo

I love the rock formations around this
part of the trail

I'm making progress! Slowly, but surely. :)

Indian Garden is right around this
bend. This tree always reminds

Finally made it to Indian Gardens! What a great place to relax for lunch.

I eventually made it to Indian Gardens and I had lots of time to spare to sit back and eat my lunch. I was freezing so I found some spots in the sun to sit. The squirrels wouldn't stop bugging me, so I had to constantly shoo them away. I wish people wouldn't feed them so much! 

I was surprised at how quickly I arrived at Indian Gardens. I was hoping for it to take more time. At this point, I knew I could have run farther past Phantom Ranch. Dang it! ;) 

After I finished up the lunch I picked up at Phantom Ranch earlier, I sat for awhile, enjoying the act of not moving and thinking about what I had left ahead of me. I have done this hike before, so I know the effort involved into getting out of the canyon. "It's not going to be fun" was something that I kept telling myself. 

The trail heading back up. You see
the South Rim in the upper left
side of the photo. I have a looong
way to go. :)

These signs are everywhere. I think I thought they
were funnier than they actually are because I was a little
delusional at this point... 

Working my way up Bright Angel Trail. 

One of the bathroom/water stops along the Bright Angel Trail.
I didn't use any of them on this trail because I just wanted to be done. 



I was so happy when I made it out of the canyon! This was my first Rim to River to Rim Crossing and it was a huge accomplishment for me. I had tears of joy running down my face when I touched this sign. I'm sure I was getting the weirdest looks from visitors. But they had no idea what I just accomplished! I was so happy! 

I took a few photos, made a few calls (Chance, parents...I had to tell someone!) and took a much needed break. I just sat there for a few minutes and thought about what I just did. I also did some people watching (mostly because I could hardly move and my knee was acting up again). Visitors at the Grand Canyon can be so strange! And most of them would never consider doing what I did today. And that's okay with me. :)

I wobbled back to the hotel around 2pm. I took a hot bath and took a long nap. I woke up around 6pm or so and went to look for food at the Maskwik Lodge cafeteria. After that, I was worried that Kathryn hadn't showed up yet. So I went to the trailhead and waited for awhile. I brought my light and warm clothes (+ a blanket, it was getting really cold!). I finally got some word on what was going on. Kathryn got cell service and sent me some text messages about her location. It was going to be awhile so I went in search of more food. I was very drowsy at this point. I was eating a huge bowl of pasta and almost fell asleep in it! I went back to the room after that and fell asleep until Kathryn showed up. She got back around 10pm and I believe Clint came back around 12pm. 

Sleep never felt better! I woke up so refreshed! We all went down for some breakfast and then packed up and said our good-byes. What a fun adventure that was! I am thrilled to say I have accomplished a Rim-to-River-to-Rim. But I am planning for a full crossing soon! I am hoping to run with other enthusiasts in October for a full R2R2R. I'm so incredibly excited! 

My next race is THIS WEEKEND! I'm running the Javalina Jangover 50k in Fountain Hills, AZ. I'm also involved in a Women in Firefighting Bootcamp THAT SAME WEEKEND in Mesa, AZ so it will be interesting! I'll let you know what happens. ;)

Keep Exploring! 


  1. This is just awesome! I finally visited the GC again as part of a trip back to Tucson in March and I totally didn't recall the canyon edge being so... right there in many places. Maybe I blocked that out from my childhood visit? haha. You are not only brave but super badass. What an accomplishment!

  2. WOW, a HUGE congratulations!!!! The pictures are stunning!!


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