By Jeanine Behr Getz
Looking for adventure, a bucket list strike, a physical challenge or are you perhaps just looking to explore a natural wonder of the world?
Look no further than a down and up adventure, aka Grand Canyon Rim2Rim hike.
Located in northwestern Arizona, the Grand Canyon is considered by many one of the 7 natural wonders of the world that every American should see. The canyon formed by millions of years of erosion, wind, rain and the Colorado River, stretches 227 miles long, is 1 mile deep and approximately ten miles wide. The rock levels represent a cross-section of the geological history of the Earth with the stone near the river being some of the oldest on the planet with an age of nearly two billion years.
In 1906 U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt established the Grand Canyon Game Preserve. In 1908 he then designated the preserve a U.S. National Monument and after 11 years, in 1919, the Grand Canyon finally was made a National Park by an act of Congress.
The Grand Canyon is one of the most visited National Parks per year, over 5 million visitors, but less than 1% of those visitors ever make it to the bottom of the canyon.
There are three ways to experience the bottom of the canyon, hiking down, taking a mule ride or rafting the Colorado River.
We chose hiking! My friend Audrey and I started adventure hiking together close to 11 years ago. We trekked the Haute Route, day hiked Mt. Washington and Franconia Ridge, climbed Mt. Whitney and the list goes on. We share a love for the outdoors, physical challenge, and laughter. We can rough it, but at the same time have a deep mutual appreciation for indoor plumbing.
Each year we put a hike on our hit list, this year it was Grand Canyon Rim to Rim. Our original date was in March 2020. The park closed the day before we were supposed to leave due to Covid-19. As days of quarantine turned into weeks into months, like many of us, we started getting anxious for an adventure.We started to plan our Rim2Rim 2020 “redo” in late August. We went from a March date to mid-October. My extended spring/summer couch surfing had to quickly pivot into trail and boot breaking in training and our once solo venture now benefitted from the expertise and knowledge of an experienced guide.
The Rim2Rim north to south traverse of the Grand Canyon is considered a strenuous hike. It usually takes two days to complete, (we completed it in 12 hours). It is a once in a lifetime bucket list achievement.
Our 3-Day Itinerary:
Day 1: Drove Phoenix to Jacob’s Lake Cabins (North Rim), with a few scenic stops along the way. We enjoyed a hardy dinner at Jacob’s Lake and turned in early. We had a 3am wake up on Day 2.
Day 2: 4am departure, an hour trip to the North Rim trailhead. Breakfast in the car. It was 25 degrees out at 5am when we turned on our headlamps and started our North Kaibab Trail descent. The stars shone bright and were plentiful. The night was as quiet as it was dark. Beauty abounded. We descended 1 vertical mile over 14 miles. We shed layers and our headlamps as the glow of the sun rising overtook the night sky. There were amazing landmarked sites each step on the way, starting with the Supai tunnel, Red Wall bridge, to Roaring Springs. We took a snack break at Manzanita before reaching to downhill halfway mark of Cottonwood campground.
Whenever I adventure hike, my heart races with anticipation, with excitement and butterflies at the start. I would imagine it’s similar to the feelings an actor has before taking the stage or an athlete has before taking the field. It takes me awhile to settle in, breathe normally and soak in all the sights.
7 miles in and 7 to go until lunch. Phantom Ranch is the place for lunch. We found a shaded picnic table and proceeded to steadily gobble down a sandwich, chips, and cookies, maybe a Snickers and a fruit roll up or two and plenty of water.
The trail was pristine. There was plenty of clean drinkable water and several campgrounds along the way with compostable toilets and toilet paper! You may dismiss our excitement, but for most hikers these are unexpected coveted luxuries.
After Phantom Ranch, but before starting our 10-mile ascent, we took a detour to the Colorado River for a dip. 45-degree water never felt so good. It was a welcomed ice bath for our knees and feet.
Following our detour, we crossed the silver bridge over the Colorado River and we watched a line of mules carrying their passengers down the Bright Angle Trail from the south rim we were now heading up. They looked exhausted! Oh boy, up we started. My clothes completely dried within 30 minutes after our swim. As we climbed the Devil’s Corkscrew, the butterflies I had before were replaced by panic, sweat and wobbly knees, our ascent just got real!
10 miles and 4,700 feet to go. Our 25 degrees at the start melted into a 90-degree cloudless sunny blue-sky day. We were so hot we took our sunglasses off. Don’t ask, it helped. Switch back to switch back we traveled higher and higher out of the canyon. Water was now scarce as we passed Indian Gardens. As we put one foot in front of the other and worked our way up, the more people we saw, we knew the closer we were getting. At the 3-mile station, we looked straight up to see our final destination. 10 hours into our day, it was the last push to the south rim.
At 5pm, we reached the top. We were met by our support guide with cheers, pictures, cookies and Coke Zeros! A feast and feat to be reveled.
There were hundreds of Grand Canyon sightseers taking selfies with the backdrop we just hiked 12 hours through, everyone admiring the sites one of the natural wonders of the world had on display.
We laughed, we congratulated each other, we downed the cookies and we marveled over the day, the views and our accomplishment.
12 hours, 24 miles, 10,000 +/- vertical feet.
The day ended with a much-needed shower, a well deserved dinner at Plaza Bonita and a mandatory night’s sleep. We stayed at the Grand Canyon Plaza in Tusayan (South Rim).
Day 3: Morning Starbucks run, a 9am departure, early delicious lunch in Flagstaff Downtown Diner, and then a 3-hour drive back to Phoenix.
Hope you enjoy some pictures from our once in a lifetime Grand Canyon Rim2Rim Express Adventure.
Send us any suggestions for our next hikes.
See you outside!
Jeanine & Audrey