We were starting in the shade but we could see the North rim was already in direct sunlight. Even though it was the second week of September we knew it could get plenty hot. We each carried water (at least enough to get us to the next water stop along the trail) and our own particular idea of proper fuel. I had lots of gels and bars and gummy items as well as a fat bag of corn nuts. That, a pocket camera and two 26 oz. water bottles was all I carried in my water belt. Rick and I wore racing flats for the journey.
The trip down the canyon was full of twists and turns with lots of leaping from one uneven surface to another. The trail was well maintained but that didn’t mean it was smooth going. In places it was more like running down a set of very uneven stairs — a small stair here, followed by a large step and again a huge step and a normal one… x 17 miles.
We had about half an hour of shade before we descended enough and the sun rose enough to greet us with its killer smile. Don’t get me wrong I love the sun. Where would we be without it? It’s just that it was now going to be our constant companion for the rest of the trip.
After a few running spurts that took me well ahead of my companions it became clear to me that some of my fellows had not done the requisite training to run this whole thing. I’d run ahead for a while and wait for five or ten minutes and we’d regroup. Rinse and repeat.
In addition to the magnificent scenery I was greeted with a few strange sights. At one point I smelled cigarette smoke. WTF? I decided to investigate and just over the lip of the trail, hidden from sight was some dude kicking back with his ciggie puffing away. There went my illusions that this was unanimously revered as a sacred site.
Another time I came around a bend and there, sitting just off the trail was what had to be at least a 16″ cast iron skillet. I took a picture of it (I should have put my shoe in it for scale) and pondered what crazy skit played out that resulted in its deposit in so precarious a place. For the next fifteen minutes I giggled to myself as one cockamamie scenario after another drifted through my dehydrating brain.
One thing you’ll discover about the GC is that from most points on the rim you can’t see the bottom. People drive up, get out of their cars and peer into what looks like a large wide hole. They then get back into their vehicles and drive off content that one more item on the bucket list is ticked off.
WRONG! Hell no, all wrong!
You can’t really experience the canyon unless you go down into it. I prefer the trails but others swear by river rafting. No matter. To quote Kool & The Gang you gotta “get down on it.” Only by subjecting yourself to the terrain and variety this beauty shovels up can you feel the pulse, the rhythm and the life of the place. Trust me on this one.
At one point after about 45 minutes of steady descent we saw the Colorado river. Another ten or fifteen minutes and we were taking the black bridge over the river to the other side. We ran as a group the last little bit to Phantom Ranch and took a 45 minute break while we refueled on luscious lemonade and cooled our heels in the welcomed shade.
Well this is taking longer to tell than I thought so I’ll have to wrap it up on my next post.
See you then.