One of the things that Scott and I try to give special attention to is making sure that we both have a sense of independence. Living in a Scamp and only having one car can sometimes lead to difficult planning when we want to do separate things, so when the opportunity arose for Scott to go bikepacking with Lee in Northern Arizona, I was stoked.
Mostly for my own selfish reasons. A whole week at the Grand Canyon without Scott there to tell me that my sometimes outlandish ideas weren’t reasonable was a tempting prospect. I do dumb things sometimes, and often it’s better to not be told ahead of time that what I’m doing is dumb.
Since we had to drive from the Kanab area down to the South Rim, I decided to engage the Automatic Shuttle opportunity and run a Rim-to-Rim. I mean, Scott had to do the drive regardless, I might as well run it?
So after breakfast at Jacob Lake Lodge, I stuck my thumb out to get a ride for the 40 miles to the North Rim. Ed from Albuquerque picked me up. He was on his way home from the Senior Olympics in St. George where is basketball team got the silver in their age group of 65 – 70! He told me that even though he looked like a slightly overweight person who couldn’t move efficiently, he was the fastest on the team.
I thoroughly enjoyed my Rim2Rim, mostly because I didn’t have to hurry. With R2R2R, there’s always a sense of urgency. One way? No problem, I’ve got all day.
I even had plenty of time to stop by Ribbon Falls, a detour off of the main corridor trails that I’ve never had time to visit. Apparently there’s an Upper Ribbon Falls, and an Upper Upper Ribbon. Investigations for another day…
Definitely spectacular, and not at all what I was expecting. I sort of wish my lens had actually opened the entire way…
Sometimes it’s better to not be in a hurry.
I stopped at Phantom Ranch for the requisite lemonade and wrote some post cards, because time! I had time! Scott was going to meet me on the south rim at some point in the afternoon, but he had a long-ass drive to get around the Canyon.
And then of course I was a complete idiot and hauled ass up S Kaibab because there was some Bro with a group who was clearly trying to catch me after I passed his group on the approach to the bridge. I figured he’d relent eventually and wait for his group…but no. And once I got it into my head that I wasn’t going to let him catch me (he was so loud and obnoxious on the trail when I passed), well, I couldn’t let him pass me. I got to the rim pretty worked over.
(When I woke up sore the next morning, Scott had zero sympathy. I’m an idiot. I know.)
And then I ended up having to wait for over an hour for Scott to show up. Idiot! (Me, not Scott)
Lucky for me, Monday and Tuesdays are my big work days, so I had a chance to sit and recover from my poor life choices.
Wednesday morning I drove Scott and Lee to the Grandview trailhead where they were going to start their bikepack on the AZT. While they futzed, I headed down the Canyon for a lap of the Horseshoe Mesa, mostly because I wanted to spend some time at the Page Spring, which, in my opinion, is one of the most magical water sources in the world.
Hey there Little Buddy
I ended up running into a group of four women at the Cottonwood Spring who were doing the loop in three days. They thought I was a little nuts, I told them that I was a little jealous and would love to spend some nights in the Canyon…I’m just a terrible planner and permits for Canyon camping favor the planners of the world.
I’ve never seen a cactus grow like this. You keep doing you, little prickly pear! I dig it.
Since I knew the entire loop (Megan and I had done an extended version in the spring where I ended up puking at the top, in front of all of the tourists, it was awesome. So awesome.), I wasn’t too worried about time. I knew where I was going, I knew I had plenty of daylight.
It takes me a little while to get comfortable in the Canyon each trip, so this ~17 mile loop was a good reminder that while it’s important to treat the Ditch with a high level of respect, I am actually strong enough to do long days down in her depths.
I hung out at Page Spring for a while, enjoying the ambiance. I had plenty of time to get out of the Canyon, and to be completely honest, I was a little nervous about it given my previous experience. But, as it turns out, if I’m not chasing Megan around, it’s actually a pleasant climb out of there. No puking was done.
I opted to go big the next day. New Hance trail to Tonto to Grandview. Then hopefully hitch a ride back to where my car would be parked at New Hance.
Leaving the car in the morning, I dutifully hit an OK on the SPOT I was carrying. Scott thought that it would be prudent to leave a time stamp and location whenever I went into the Canyon since I was traveling solo.
When the NP Search and Rescue helicopter came flying overhead 45 minutes afterwards, I had a moment of panic. Did I hit the SOS button instead of OK? I pulled the SPOT out. There’s no way I could have hit SOS, you have to lift the flap to hit it. I definitely hit OK.
I turned the SPOT off and kept heading down. The heli hovered overhead, sweeping up and down the canyon. I could see people inside looking out the open door, looking for something.
Are they looking for me? Did I drag an SOS signal for 45 minutes down the Canyon?
I pulled the SPOT out again. Nope. I definitely hit OK.
Maybe it misfired.
The heli continued to circle.
I’m not going to get out of here for another seven hours. What if the authorities have been called, Scott’s called off his bikepacking trip to come back because he thinks something is wrong? What if they called my parents?
I pondered turning around to get back up to the rim quicker, and then realized how silly that would be. I pulled out the SPOT one last time. Nope. It was OK I hit. F-it.
I kept going down.
(Turns out, I hit OK, not SOS. I have no idea what the heli was looking for. There was nothing that came up on the NPS search and rescue page in the days after.)
Thoroughly unnerved, I headed down to the river. Which had a beautiful beach.
The heli-nervousness had killed a bunch of time so now I was a little worried about getting out a) before dark and b) before everyone went home and couldn’t give me a ride back to my car. So I boogied.
I was really hoping for smooth, fast trail. Much of the Tonto is smooth and fast. This was neither. Doh!
Still, I eventually gained the Tonto Plateau (where things did get somewhat smooth and somewhat fast) and started feeling pretty good about my time. I knew how long it would take me to climb up Grandview from climbing up it the day before, and with a refresher of the trail, I would have been comfortable doing it by headlamp if needed.
I ended up running into the group of four women again at their second campsite of the trip. One of them asked me if I got scared doing stuff solo. I admitted that sometimes I get scared of “bad people”, but that the vast majority of people in the Canyon were good people, so I actually felt a lot safer down on these trails than in many places in the world above the Rim. I can’t decide if that was a commentary on the Magic of the Canyon, or the somewhat sad state of being a woman in the world.
At the top, I sat around the trailhead for a little while talking to people, hoping to get an offer to get me back to my car, but everyone was driving the other direction. It was four miles out of your way people, seriously? I’ll tell you good stories, I promise!
I did eventually get a ride, but it took some doing. It was a young couple from Alabama who were headed down to Tucson. I told them to stop in Sedona and to eat at Seis while they were in Tucson. Picking up dirty runners has perks! Like good advice.
I had to work on Friday so I posted up at the Stage Stop cafe in Tusayan. The people watching there is top notch. And the couch is super comfy. And the internet is passable.
I was still pretty tired the next day, so I went for a straightforward hike down to Dripping Springs. The water of the main spring (not featured here) comes straight out of a fissure in the roof of an alcove and flows at a pretty steady rate. It’s pretty neat.
But there was a group of boy scouts there and a know-it-all leader who I found incredibly annoying, so I stayed away from the main area. It is a National Park on a Saturday. I know.
I love ravens.
With one more day and limited energy, I chose a route down to some ruins that I’d seen pictures of.
I stopped to chat with a Canyon Wren. Usually they’re elusive little creatures, but this one didn’t seem to mind my presence.
On the way to the ruins, I got to check out an old route into the Canyon that I’d been eyeing for a while. I have a somewhat strict (and getting stricter) policy of not redoing old things unless they’re truly spectacular, so getting to see a new part of the Canyon was neat.
The ruins were beautiful, tucked up at the base of some rocks, completely hidden from view unless you go poking around.
So many secret things to go find…
The day was still relatively young, and I knew that my climb out of the Canyon wouldn’t take that long, so I made a detour out to Plateau Point by the Indian Gardens campground. It’s one of those places that is a couple miles off route…and never gets the energy dedicated to it because I’m always in the middle of something big.
I’m learning how to slow down.
There was a water fountain on Plateau Point! So much awesome I can’t even put it into words.
After hanging out at the water spigot at Indian Gardens for a while, I decided that it was time to get back to the Rim. I’d be meeting Scott in Flagstaff the following morning, my week of Canyoning was over. And I was a little sad. I’d seen a ton of new stuff, revisited some of my favorites, and done a pretty good job of not completely running myself into the ground.
I could have done much worse.
I gave the mules at pat at the top. Someday, I strive to be like you. Surefooted. Endless endurance. And pretty much not giving a shit if a NPS Search and Rescue copter is flying right over your head for hours on end.