Today’s the big day! Eliza and I are hiking into the canyon to meet the men, who hiked down to Phantom Ranch yesterday and are hiking the 14.5 miles back out today. We thought it would be fun to meet them on the trail, instead of just waiting at the top trail head. Oh, silly us.
Here’s the view down the north Kaibab trail to the canyon, and the operative word is down. As we were hiking, we kept talking about how far we were going to go to meet the men. Should we stop at Coconino point? We have to make the tunnel, can we go further? Could we make it to Redwall bridge? Could I make it through the Eye of the Needle and walk along the cliff edge? I wanted Eliza to see the springs, could I make it that far?
Turns out that we could only make it to this gorgeous bridge, Redwall. It had taken us an hour and 40 minutes to hike the 2.7 miles down, with the last .7 taking us a long time. Too slow compared to other hikes and I was frustrated. There were small pebbles and huge rocks on the trail and we were both stepping carefully so we wouldn’t get hurt. We slid many times, but never hit the ground, so that was good. I knew going back straight up was going to be a slog, and as much as we wanted to meet the men further on, I knew they wouldn’t be happy to hike the last miles of their long day slowly. So we had lunch on the bridge and headed back out.
It was hot, but not as hot as it had been the week before. We were so lucky! Only in the 80’s, with an occasional cloud cover that saved us from baking in the stone canyon. We hiked with a few people heading down, and many of them had no water. There are huge signs on every trail head stating how much water you would need for how long of a hike, but many people didn’t heed the instructions. Crazy.
As we were going back up, there were tons of people on the trail and we did a lot of side-stepping of the mules’ leftovers. I actually had one foot on the trail and one foot on the side of the mountain as one mule train passed, and the rider didn’t keep the mule to their side of the trail and almost stepped on me. I was able to jump to the side of the mountain with both feet, staying out of the ditch and out from under the mule. Needless to say, we think mules should have their own trails on the rim, and stay off the hiker trails. If you’re too lazy to hike this hard, stay on the rim!
Here we are back at the Coconino overlook, whew. I’m holding the sign to keep me up! We rested here for about 20 minutes, telling a couple of nice guys about Bend, and the whole time, I was watching the trail below us for the men. I knew they would have left Phantom Ranch at 5:30 a.m., and it was 14.5 miles out, so they should be catching us any minute. Eliza had just headed up the trail again when I saw them below us and I hollered to her to keep going, and we’d catch up. She had been patiently waiting for me the whole hike up, and wanted to see how fast she could do the last .7 miles, so she was going on ahead. As I watched the guys stride, I knew I was in trouble because they were coming up much faster than I’d be able to go.
I’d had my PBJ, so I took off up the trail after Eliza. I had hollered hello to the men, but they didn’t hear me. Eliza made it to the top in 15 minutes, while I made it in another 15, and the guys were 15 minutes after that. So we didn’t get to hike with them as we had planned, but we also didn’t hold them up.
Here are Nate and Dan coming up the trail at the end! I am “whooping and hollering”, which of course, Nate could have done without. I was and am so proud of them. 29 miles in 2 days, with a steak dinner at Phantom Ranch, and 100 degree temperatures in the canyon. Going down, search and rescue had them go around a hiker who had died on the trail, so they knew what a tough hike it was.
Here they are! Tired, hungry and full of stories of their hike. Dan told Eliza and I that we did the hardest 5.4 miles of the hike, so that made us feel better. Well, a little better, we were all exhausted. Another perfect day on the road and a dream come true to hike the north Kaibab trail with our kids.