Zen On Dirt

A Grand idea

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I’m known for having big ideas. Sometimes, they turn out awesomely stupid. Another times, stupidly awesome.

Running the Grand Canyon had been on my Stuff to do this Winter list since we hauled our bikes across it last spring during our AZT tour and it nearly killed me. Really, earlier in the winter when I was still pretending to be a runner, I wanted to do Rim to Rim to Rim, but with age and experience (and a bad case of shin splints), even I’ve learned the difference between a bad idea and a really bad idea. Scott and I had been pretty consistent with our 4-5 mile runs 2-3 times a week for the past month, what could possibly go wrong with a 17-mile trip with ~5,000 feet of elevation drop, and then gain?

To be honest, I was a little surprised Scott agreed to a south rim to river to south rim trip. He’s generally the more logical one of the two of us. But when he said yes, I wasn’t about to try to talk him out of it.


AZT exhibit at the Grand Canyon Visitors Center. 

We left our little camp on Schnebly Hill in the morning and made it to The Place in Flagstaff just as they were opening their doors for breakfast. Fully bellies and another short drive, we were ready to pay to get two cars into the National Park. Scott bought an annual parks pass, which will pay itself back going to Glacier and Olympia National Parks later this summer, but $105 between the two of us. Ouch.

I used to hate the crowds at National Parks. I used to not like big party bike races. Now, I embrace being part of the circus. It’s not every day, it’s not going to kill me to deal with people on trails every once in a while. And it’s the Grand Canyon.


We managed to find two parking spots near each other, discovered that we could find everything needed for running in the cars, and ran to catch the shuttle bus to the South Kaibab trailhead.  Amaze-balls people watching.


And then down.


And down.


And stop and take a picture of a flower before going down some more.


Look at those achilles tendons!

The crowds weren’t too bad. Neither were the mules. Mules are amazing athletes.


But the heat…that was something special. 100 degrees forecasted for the bottom, we were pretty glad to be doing no aerobic work as the sun beat down on us late morning/early afternoon.

We made it to the river in around 2 hours, which I think is pretty good for the million photos we took, and bathroom breaks, and really, not being in too much of a hurry. I can only imaging how fast people who can actually run the more rubbly and technical sections can do it.

Instead of heading straight to the cantina for lemonade, we stopped to dip our legs and tootsies in the river. So cold. So good. With cool legs and warm bodies, we headed up to Phantom Ranch to waste away a few hours until the sun lost its intensity.


I was impatient. After two lemonades and snacks, I was ready to go. No, Scott said. It’s hot. We’ll roast. I pouted and read a National Geographic. We went down to Bright Angel Creek and soaked the toes a little more. When the sun goes behind the cliff, we’ll go, Scott said. But I wanna go now, I whined. We stayed put. Scott is the more logical of the two of us.


The best $11 ever spent on food. Refills on lemonade were only $1. And the summer sausage, so salty.

Finally, with bladders full of water, we cruised across the bridge and pointed for Bright Angel Trail. The sun was firmly behind the cliff making for a lovely running temperature, especially with shirts soaked in river water. The legs felt surprisingly good and I was amazed at how much of the up we could actually run. Or jog. We’ll call it jogging.


When we got to the top three hours later, I thought maybe we’d gotten away with stupid. The legs felt ok. No blisters. Minor chafing. Maybe? Are we runners?


Indian Gardens. So green. So awesome. 

A quick dinner at the lodge (They have a fajita dish there for $15 that has 2,100 calories. I almost got it.), we made our way to the super-not-so-secret free camping right outside of the park. A nearly full moon illuminated the canyon on our drive, casting ghostly shadows down into the depths. We threw sleeping bags out and fell asleep hard.

Halfway through the night, we woke up and discovered, No, we hadn’t gotten away with it.

DOMS. Shoot!


We spent the morning touristing the rest of the Canyon, we did, after all, pay $105 dollars to get in with both of our cars, hobbling from view point to viewpoint and eating a fairly to mostly yummy breakfast burrito before heading east, north, and then west to Jacob Lake Lodge.

Jacob Lake Lodge means one thing: Cookies. And if you’re snoozing, you’re going to be losing.


We drove the rest of the way to St. George that afternoon, giggling at the fact that while yes, we were sore, we’d totally pulled off a really fun little adventure on our way north. This may have to become an annual tradition.


One thought on “A Grand idea

  1. fucking awesome. I loved those cookies at Jacob lake, even more because you were the one who told me to stop off and eat them! And the summer sausage. So good. At least situationally. So glad yall had a good experience!! Sending hugs!

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