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Arizona Trail Day 54 – The Canyon | Average Hiker

Climbing up to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on the Arizona Trail.

May 4, 2022

It was dark as I quietly broke camp and crept down the trail so I would not wake up the other hikers’ cowboy camping about 8 feet behind me. Breakfast was at 5 AM, and I wanted to be the first in line.

Nobody else was in line for breakfast at 5 AM, but my little box with three tiny pancakes, boiled eggs, sausage, a sip of orange juice in a small foil-covered cup, and coffee was ready to go. The retail value was probably about $8. Mule toted value was apparently $32. Not backpacking food value was $50. I wolfed it down, drank too much coffee until my surroundings were suffused with grey morning light, and then took off up the trail. I wanted to see the Grand Canyon and not hike in the dark.

As I slowly hiked through this fantastic world, weaving between the sheer canyon walls, I was mesmerized by the otherworldly terrain crisscrossed with bridges and scattered bits of history. It was even more beautiful than I had imagined.

Forrest the Ranger was hanging out at Cottonwood, and we chatted a few minutes before I headed on up the canyon, stopping for a break at Manzanita. This was one of my favorite stops along the trail, and interesting as I watched a helicopter drop off supplies at the ranger station. I also chatted with several Rim to Rim to Rim runners that stopped in for water. A couple of the runners were already headed back to the originating rim and had run through the night. So now I knew what those crazy bouncing lights had been this morning.

The climb to the North Rim was not like the popular climb down. This trail was hiked less, and the earth was a rich, darker red. Small tight switchbacks and narrow trails with sharp drop-offs rattled my “heights meter,” which had not been triggered on the way down. Even a few small sections of trail with rock slides across them had not been cleared. Hiking up to the North Rim was a little more rugged and a little more “puckering.”

Forrest passed me on the way up, and he offered his Ranger Cabin in the campground where I was staying so I could clean up and grab a beer – trail magic! It is always when least expected.

Dragging myself over the North Rim, I was struck by the drop in temperatures and immediately dropped my pack and dug out my Puffy as a GINORMOUS raven dropped down ten feet in front of me and watched. Did I look edible or weak from the climb?

Looking past the spooky bird, I spotted a miracle! Atop a distant hill was a pit toilet and making a wide circle around the crazy bird, I jogged towards it for a brief 30-minute reprieve from the cold wind.

I finally forced myself to leave the slightly warmer toilet house and headed across the parking lot and back into the woods, aiming for the campground with the best hiker/biker sites along this trail. There were actual views of the Grand Canyon, and even though the store and facilities were closed for the season, another pit toilet was still closed!

Wandering around the campground, not sure where to go, I was approached by “Silver Bullet.” She told me to follow her and guided me back to the hiker/biker section, where she had set up her tent. We chatted for a bit as I made dinner, and about an hour later, the hikers from Bright Angel campground joined us a few campsites away.

As the Bright Ange hikers walked by, I noticed that one of them was being followed by what appeared to be a female grouse. They said she had been following him for about a half mile. She ran over to visit me for about 10 seconds before sprinting after the same hiker. Clearly, there was some bond, and I watched as she settled down near the hiker over where he was setting up camp. He HAD to change his trail name to “Grouse Whisperer!”

Silver Bullet headed down to visit the other hikers after they had set up for the night, but I began getting sleepy as the sun set, so I crawled into my shelter for the night. I wasn’t anti-social, just anti-cold.

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