Chad – 1, North Kaibab Trail – 0

This post is going to be drastically different from the normal posts because I’m mentally and physically exhausted.  You see, I’ve hiked from the top of the Grand Canyon down to the bottom (notice I said bottom and not river), and then back up today.  It’s taken me all day; 15 hours.  I took a lot of pictures, went through 3 full refills on my camelbak pouch and just about killed myself doing this.  But you know what?  I can say I did it. We went 12 rounds and I beat it.  I’m sore, tired and dirty.

So rather than a narrative about how my day went, the following is a series of thoughts that ran through my head at different times during the day

5:15am

Jesus, it’s freezing and there’s ice hanging off my tent.  Maybe I should just skip the Kaibab and relax back at the cabin today.

6:00am

Finally at the trailhead.  There’s hardly anyone here yet.  Good, I like getting on my way before the crowd.

Should I take my trekking poles?  Nah, my camera will be in my hands most of the time.

Wow, this trail is covered in mule shit and smells like the livestock barn at a county fair.

Hmm, this descent angle is pretty steep.  There are a lot of switchbacks here.  This is going to be rough coming back up.

6:15am

Oh wow, the trail is starting to open up, what a beautiful view.

I wonder how far down I should go?  I know it’s going to take twice as long going back up.  I’m making good time, let’s push it a little.

6:30am

Wow, the further down I go the more beautiful this view gets.

Ok, this is starting to get really steep. Man, I am NOT looking forward to coming back up this.

What a beautiful day this turned out to be after last nights horrible mess.

7:00am

Oh wow, I’m at my first water station, I’m making pretty good time.

Look at these other hikers with their trekking poles.  pa-tink pa-tink pa-tink, all down the hill.  At least I can hear them coming up behind me.

Mules.  Bunch of lazy bastards.  Hike down like the rest of us.  It’s called exercise.  Does that mule ride swing you through the McDonald’s drive-in when you’re done?

Oh look, a tunnel, I wonder what’s on the other side?

Holy shit.  Look at all those switchbacks!  Ugh, THAT is going to destroy me coming back up, but it’s so early I can’t turn back now.

8:00am

I wish my ears would stop popping.

Getting warm now.  Time to shed some layers of clothing.

Oh wow, look at that view.

I pity these people carrying their 50lb packs down here to camp.  Having to come back up this with that added weight would be hell.

Oh look a bridge.  Wow, I’m close to the footbridge and I haven’t even broken a sweat yet.

9:00am

Ok, well, I guess I wasn’t as close to the footbridge as I thought.  But it’s getting closer!

What’s that sound?  Sounds like heavy blowing winds but there’s barely any breeze at all.

9:30am

Whew, made it to the footbridge.  I should take a picture of how far down I’m come so far.

Now I should take a picture of the other direction to show how much is left.

Wow, still a long ways to go.

Despite my impending horrible climb back up, this keeps getting better and better as I go down.  I’m glad I chose to do this instead of skip it.

It’s still pretty early, let’s see how far I can get by noon, each lunch and then head back.  That’s the plan and I’m sticking to it.

Oh this is a cool little bend in the trail.  Whoa, that’s a pretty steep drop off.  I think I’ll stick to the inside.

Wow, every corner I turn it the scenery gets better and better.  You certainly don’t get this view from the top.

10:00am

Wait a minute, why am I going up again!?

Whew, it’s getting kind of warm now.

I should have had more than an apple for breakfast.  At least I can stop for lunch soon.

11:00am

It’s amazing how much sound carries in this canyon.  I can clearly hear people’s conversations that are near the top of the trail.

Well, I knew that leveling out was too good to last.  Back down again.  Ugh, and it’s stairs instead of a ramp too.  That makes for a rough return trip.

This is REALLY going to be tough going back up, but I REALLY want to see what’s around the next corner.

Oh, look at this little rock bridge.  I guess if it can hold a mule it can hold me.

That wind noise keeps getting louder but I still don’t feel any wind.  This is weird.  Maybe it’s just an echo of the breeze off the canyon walls.

Wait a minute, oh wow, that’s no wind.  That’s a HUGE waterfall falling out of the middle of the canyon all the way to the bottom!  This is gorgeous!

Wow, how can I get this whole thing in the picture and still convey the size of it?  (That’s what she said?) This is impossible.

11:30am 

Getting close to lunch, I’m starving.

Oh almost to Cottonwood.  That’s a good place to eat lunch.

12:00pm

Whew, made it to Cottonwood!

Ah, lunchtime. Time to shed these layers of clothing, unzip the convertible pants into shorts and eat my tuna salad packets.

Hmm, there’s quite a few people passing through here now.  Geez, those packs look heavy, haven’t these people ever heard of ultralight?  Yeah, I’ll be passing you on the way back up.

Funny that I haven’t run into an Germans today.  Maybe their bus tour is over.

I should change my camera lens for the trip back up and take some zoom shots.  Hey look, there’s a butterfly on the other side of the canyon.  And a lizard.

1:00pm

It’s really too bad I didn’t decide to do this as an over night trip.  It’s only 7 more miles to the Colorado River and nearly flat.  I’ve done the hard part already.  I really should head back.  Ugh.

Oh, I need to refill my water first.

Ugh, look at that.  Can the helicopter just come down and get me?

1:30pm

Starting to breathe deeply now.  Slow and steady, this isn’t a race.

Ok, wasn’t such a great idea.

Ok, short break.  Then more stairs.  Miles and miles of stairs.

2:00pm

What’s that noise?  Whoa!  Where the hell did THAT come from?!?!   Holy shit!  That’s a rattlesnake!

I think I need to change my pants.  I’m totally not going any closer until that thing leaves.  Go somewhere else, you’re in my path.

Oh my God that scared the shit out of me.  Glad it moved off.  Whew!  Calm down, Chad.  I need to slow down and take my time.

2:30pm

Man, my legs are burning and I’m sweating like crazy.

There’s the waterfalls again.  I should just go dip my head in one.  I need to take another break.

This spring water is awesome.

3:00pm

Where the hell is that footbridge?

Ugh, more mules.  Smile and wave as they go by.  Fake laugh at their little comments about how tired I look.

I swear to God if one more person on a mule says that looks tough, I’m ripping them off their mule and shoving their face in mule shit.

Damn this camera is heavy with the zoom lens attached.  At least I can use it to look ahead – ah there’s the footbridge!

3:30pm

ATTENTION Brain:  This is the legs, we will not be following instructions anymore today until we are safely in a vehicle.

Wow, this may have been the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.

I wish I had my trekking poles.

WTF are these two jackasses doing?  Are they RUNNING the North Kaibab Trail?  These guys are in TEAM USA uniforms and RUNNING the trail – two wide. I don’t think they even see me here.  There’s no room for 3 wide on this ledge idiot, stop running and move over!  Why are you still running at me full speed?  That’s it buddy, I’m bracing to put my shoulder into your skinny ass because I have nowhere to go and you are NOT pushing me over this cliff.  Yeah, you see me not moving now don’t you jackass?  Uphill travelers have the right of way and you don’t need to be RUNNING on this hazardous trail.

Haha, your running hat blew off down the side of the canyon!   HAHAHAHAHAHA! (and yes, I actually did laugh out loud at that.)

4:00pm

Oh God, make the pain go away.

That’s it, this camera is going in my pack, I can’t carry it anymore.  It’s like an anchor.

Oh no, my camelbak is empty.  I need a break anyway.  Time to use my reserve bottle to empty into the camelbak.

Oh no, I sat down and now I can’t get back up.  Maybe I can camp right here.

If one more cheerful person on their way down asks if I’m OK, I’m pushing them off this ledge.  Yeah, we’ll see how cheerful you are on the way back woman.

5:00pm

I think I’m having a heart attack.

I can’t feel my legs anymore.

I need to take more breaks.  Maybe one every two switchbacks.  Yes, that’s my new goal.

5:30pm

Stop smiling at me you lazy donkey riders!  Wait, don’t leave, can I get a ride?

Ok, new goal:  pick a tree or rock and make that the waypoint for the next break.

Ack, my camelbak is empty again.  I know there’s a water station up here somewhere.

6:00pm

Oh water!  Thank God.  Don’t mind me passersby, I’m just bathing in your spring water.

I smell mule shit, I have to be getting close.

I don’t remember it being this long on the way down.

7:00pm

…it’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the cream of the fight…

It’s getting a little chilly now.  Maybe if I wasn’t soaked in sweat, that wouldn’t be a problem.

Maybe if I push a rock over on myself they will have to chopper me out.

7:30pm

I can hear cars again.  I never thought I’d be excited to hear the sound of a car in the middle of the woods!

Ok, I think I remember this part.  Not much further now.

8:30pm

Chad, you are such a pussy.  Breaks every 100 feet.  What’s wrong with you?

It’s got to be the thin air.  I’m from Delaware, I have an excuse for not being used to this elevation.

That’s a sad excuse.  And why are you now talking to yourself?

9:00pm

I can see the parking lot but my legs won’t move.  Move legs, MOVE!  There’s food and water in the Jeep, GO!

I think I’m dying.  Come get me Jeep!  Save me!

I can’t even drive, I’m so exhausted.  Having a hard time keeping my eyes open.  Oh, a country store.  I need two Mountain Dew’s, two Snickers bars, and a bag of Doritos.

I should get gas.  Hey kid, I’ll give you $5 if you pump my gas for me.

OYMYGODTHISMOUNTAINDEWANDSNICKERSREALLYHITTHESPOTANDNOWI’MWIDEAWAKE!

And that was my day.

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2 thoughts on “Chad – 1, North Kaibab Trail – 0

  1. I had so much to say in response to this, but I will try to keep it brief (though abbreviation is NOT my strong point). I was a backcountry camper of the GC who carried a 55lb pack and almost stepped on a rattler on my way down. They say the way down is what gets ya cuz its the opposite of summitting a mtn. We thought my tiny combo thermometer/whistle was broken ’til we reached the lodge and the temp read 125. Here’s what NPS has to say about what you did:
    North Kaibab Trail- A day hike beyond Roaring Springs is not recommended. Many years of experience have shown that hikers who proceed beyond this point during the hottest parts of the day have a much greater probability of suffering from heat-related illness, injury, or death. This trail is also used by mules. NOTE: Round trip to the Colorado River is 28 miles and trail descends almost 6,000 ft. Under no circumstances should you attempt to hike from the rim to the river and back in one day!
    WARNING: There are no easy trails into or out of the Grand Canyon!

  2. Pingback: The final countdown. | Wayfaring Westward

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