Sleep??! What sleep!??? Morning came even quicker than the day before! For a brief moment I thought, “Maybe that rest really helped my legs recover from the hike yesterday”. I did feel much better as I swung my legs out of the bunk and onto the floor. I quietly gathered my things, stood up and put my small pack on.
As we made our way out the door, careful to not wake the other 7 people in the bunk house, I was surprised that it was still quite warm! Not cool in the least! A few steps from the bunk house I think we laughed...I know I did...my legs were not rested AT ALL! It was comical seeing each of us hobbling along for several hundred feet, until our legs stretched out a bit.
We walked to the sign that pointed us to the trail head and off we went. It was 3 am and the stars were amazing! I had brought my DSLR and a small tripod for moments like this, as I had planned to capture the Milky Way as it loomed large in the dark, desert sky, but my interest in taking the time to do this was simply outweighed by the desire to make the most of our hiking time in the cool darkness. It shows just how much the energy drain affected my photographic enthusiasm.
We made really good time to the first rest point. The uphill grade was a very welcome change and was so much easier on the knees. No pain, all gain! We hiked through sand along this part of the trail, which seemed odd to me!? We also found ourselves quite close to the edge of the trail at a few spots. I should mention that perhaps that aspect of this hike was one of my favorites. The trail today as well as the day before, came excitingly close to the edge on numerous occasions. I suppose for some it would be quite alarming if thought about too much, but it really gave the trail some character and added to its adventurous feel. We took a break at the River Rest House about 1.5 miles into the hike and after watching a group go past, we hit the trail. It was still dark, so no photos and no real interesting observations as we were just hiking in the dark at this point.
What I really liked most about the next section of the trail, was the long and somewhat dramatic switchback about midway between the River Rest House and the Indian Garden Campground water point, some 3 miles in front of us. Dawn brought some light to our hike and we were now able to take a look around us! This climb was enjoyable for both the views and the uphill climb. The ascent certainly got our heart rates up, but I really enjoyed this stretch. The scale of the trail here was made clear when you were able to see a hiker further up on the long, stark switchback. It is one of my favorite parts of the trail/photos that I included here.
Look close, find the person on the trail to the right. Gives a sense of scale!
We rested at the top of this beautiful switchback and took in the view as we watched some hikers slowly making their way up...breathing hard and smiling....just like us. We then set off for the Indian Garden Campground. We walked through some pretty green areas at this point and I was surprised at the change in geography. Up until now it had been mostly "desert" in nature. We rounded a corner and came upon a little waterfall...almost an Oasis of sorts! After pausing here we walked a good long stretch with trees and greenery on both sides of the trail.
We were feeling good at this point and before we knew it, we were walking into Indian Garden Campground. This was a nice little area with water, benches and even a couple Raven's to keep us company. I felt like we were really moving quickly compared to yesterday's initial downhill of 4 to 5 miles.
After a short break we were on our way, with the sun accompanying us! When that sun comes out, you feel it! From here out, we would start to feel the effects of the sun and the elevation gain, but we would also start to enjoy the views available from a higher perspective! We continued our hike up the trail, and by this time it really started to lead "UP"! 1.7 miles up the trail, we took our next break at the 3 Mile Rest House. You earn this rest a bit more than the previous part of the hike as the grade steepens a bit. We were certainly feeling the previous days hike in our legs!
Just as we were about to start back down the trail, we observed some mules and riders taking a break on the trail. It was proper etiquette to allow the animals to rest, as going past them would be impractical and rude. Hell we didn't mind a longer break...who am I trying to kid!!??
When the mules made their way past us, we got up and followed a few other hikers that had been waiting. From here on, the trail would maintain a relatively constant and significant uphill. We found ourselves moving a bit more slowly from here on. The previous days hike...the elevation gain, and the heat...would continue to slow us down. We found ourselves taking more frequent breaks. In hindsight, it was a good thing, since it forced us to take a longer look around and soak in some of our unique surroundings.
An additional interesting fact in my case, was that as I became more tired throughout the day, I found myself occasionally not lifting my left foot up high enough to clear a stone or carved out step in the trail. This caused me to bang the hell out of the front of my foot/shoe several times...and each time I thought to myself, "pick up your damn feet"!! This hurt like hell, as the previous day had my feet hitting the front of my hiking boots once in a while due to the steepness of the descent the first few miles. I would later pay the price for my laziness!
As we trudged our way along the trail, with fresh faced tourists walking down laughing and talking...likely wondering why we looked like tired old men, I remembered something I heard at the Phantom Ranch the previous day...that this hike was "not a race"...and, "try to enjoy the journey...take it in vs just completing it". As we took our break at the 1.5 Mile Rest House, I realized that we were about to complete what had been a likely "once in a lifetime" adventure. From this point on, while I enjoyed the views from our ever improving vantage points, I felt a little somber that the whole thing would soon be over.
We were now taking breaks even more frequently, sometimes after just a hundred yards or so. It was of some comfort that the wide eyed, energetic tourists that we had seen come down the trail earlier, would later be huffing and puffing, with looks of "I didn't think it would be this hard" on their faces, on their way back UP the trail. It made me feel better....
Our legs were smoked as the last three miles are just a steady climb up and out of the Canyon. We talked a bit about the hike and what we might sit down to eat once we made it to the top. When we rounded the last corner, legs sore, and somewhat exhausted from the 2 days of hiking, it was exhilarating and sad all at the same time. Patrick wasn't able to sit and take it all in, as Dennis and I sat down just before the end of the trail. He hiked on up and out! I think he simply couldn't resist just finishing, and he was the first one to the end.
After a few minutes, Dennis and I got up, groaned a bit in doing so, and walked the last 400 feet or so, meeting up with Pat near the South Rim Lodge. We decided to have a sit down meal at the lodge....we deserved it! After a fantastic cheeseburger and several of pitchers of lemonade/iced tea each, we did a little looking around in the Lodge's Store and picked up the requisite "Rim To Rim" T-Shirt! We then slowlllllly made our way out to the rental car and we were off to Las Vegas...A/C on full blast! We had completed the Rim To Rim Hike!
After a long drive back to Las Vegas, and a long hot shower we were able to get a good nights sleep...FINALLY!!!! The next morning I enjoyed a great breakfast with my two brothers, and I was dropped off at the airport.
It had been a whirlwind adventure...challenging...difficult for sure, but at the same time very rewarding . We had met some very nice, and equally tough people along the way. I had completed the hike with my two brothers, making it all the more gratifying. It would take some time for the whole thing to sink in.
A week later I would lose three of my toenails as a result of banging my left foot into a few steps! A small price to pay for conquering the Rim To Rim!!