Craig Wisner

Grand Canyon R2R2R, 10/9 thru 10/10/2010

A couple things spawned this trip:
1. A desire to start getting out and doing things immediately. I’ve had my eye on the Grand Canyon for some time, but somehow it’s never actually made the calendar. I’m trying to follow more of a “if not now then when?” philosophy when it comes to trip planning these days…On that note, this trip was a total success; quick, cheap, pretty easy to plan. Whereas most people I talk to turn the Grand Canyon into a major outing that requires vacation time, many logistics, and much planning, this trip was actually very simple.
2. The other purpose was to get a feel for the canyon in preparation for running a R2R2R nonstop this spring. I wanted to get a feel for the water situation, distances/elevations, and logistics firsthand. Again, this trip worked great- I’m very confident about what I have to do to run it this coming spring.

I left Los angeles at 2PM and arrived at the South Rim at around midnight. I tried to sleep in the car at the picnic area across the road from the South Kaibab/Yaki Point turnoff but was quickly discovered by a ranger. He was cool about it and gave me directions to the Forest Service land about 10 miles away where I could sleep in the car without issue. I’m glad I know about this area now- saves having to spend any money or worry on sleeping in the park.

I woke up, drove to the picnic area where I’d leave the car for the night, and hit the South Kaibab trail at about 7AM.
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One thing I’m certainly not used to is hitting steep downhill without a warmup…usually my running has me doing the opposite.

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down….

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down…

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…met a ladyfriend…

…and down some more…

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Looking back on the South Rim now…

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…and met another friend. I’m far more accustomed to the nasty-tempered Mojave Green. This one would’ve *probably* let me pet it.

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Climbing now…The climb up to the North Rim was by far the best part of the trip. I got passed by Catra Corbett on the way up…as did everyone else…

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Camp at the North Rim campground. Very cool that they maintain hike/bike camps without reservation. The location was really good, right on the rim…and far from the Winnebago Warriors, generators, and smell of lighter fluid.

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Sunset and South Rim from just below my camp…

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Night brought high winds and low temps, probably around freezing. Primarily due to my own laziness in staking, my poncho tarp was flattened a few times in the night. Securing stakes with rocks would’ve taken time…but waking up three times in the night to re-stake the tarp? I was hoping for wind protection with the shelter but would’ve been far better off just sleeping in a bivy.

I was on the trail in the dark the next morning, looking to make the South Rim before temps got hot…
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On the way back (up South Kaibab again), I realized what a disaster park employees/SAR must have on their hands here. It’s totally easy for someone inexperienced to find themselves on the canyon floor in only a few hours, enjoying cool morning temperatures all the way down.
And then they realize their pack is heavy, the sun is hot, and they’ve got a LONG way up to go. I’ve never seen so many people under serious duress. A college girl vomiting by the trailside, beet red and sweating and many, many people that seriously appeared on the verge of cardiac arrest. And this is in October…Summer must be a disaster.

One of my favorite signs (I kept running into different versions of this guy on the trail!):

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______________________________________

Overall, each rim to rim took me ~7:30.
I feel great about that time, knowing I can easily shave it down when running without a pack this spring. I think <15 hours will be a reasonable goal for a single day R2R2R based on what I saw.

What I liked:
-Seeing the whole South-North in less than 36 hours and only taking a weekend to do the whole trip.
-Plenty of water opportunities.
-Learning where to sleep in GCNP for free!
-The approach to the North Rim. Great views, amazing cliffside trails.
-Sunset on Sat. night.
-Running down the North Rim in the dark on Sunday morning.
-The weather…Early October was great for this.
-An amazing weekend indeed. No regrets whatsoever.

What I disliked:
-Doing this trip with a pack. The entire time I was wishing I could just ditch it and run. Soon…
-Crowds on the way in. Oh my…
Going out on Sunday was much better.
-To be honest, I wasn’t really impressed with the whole middle section. Both of the rims are great, but the scenery between Phantom Ranch and Cottonwood wasn’t all that spectacular to me. I’ve run far more interesting canyons in Capitol Reef, Zion, Bryce, etc.
-I don’t think I’d ever want to camp in Bright Angel or Cottonwood, I think it would be better to just go R2R and skip the crowds and permitting. It’s “backpacking” because you carry a pack to get there, but the campgrounds don’t feel like backpacking.
-Bothering with a shelter. The wind was high enough I figured I’d sleep better with a windblock…and then the wind got so high it was tearing up stakes/flapping the tarp all night. A bivy would’ve been far better than a tarp here.
-Driving I-15 South on Sunday night. The recklessness of the returning Las Vegas crowd is getting scarier every time I drive here. It’s got to be one of the most dangerous American freeways.

Finally, my favorite sign:
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I’d never heard the term “estivation” until now. I thought it was just called drinking beer and napping. Now I don’t feel so bad.

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