My feet are tingling, going numb at times, and then itching again, all through the night. my calves are THROBBING. But other than that I sleep well, in intervals, with a soft breeze blowing through, at times too hot, and then cuddling with my puffy new quilt (which I absolutely ADORE). I did not set an alarm, waking up naturally with the sunlight, at around 6 am.
I pack up all my stuff, leaving my pack on the picknick bench, with the pockets zipped and the food sack closed (this will become important later 😉 ) and head over to Megan and Steve’s camp for breakfast.
I have coffee, another hamburger, and get treated to some blister care from Megan (thank you! 🙂 ). We chat for a while, I am really happy to have met the two of them, they are awesome :).
At around 7:15 I headed back to my campsite to pick up my bag and head out, when I was greeted with THIS:
NEVER EVER LEAVE ANYTHING EDIBLE UNATTENDED!!!!! I learned that the hard way. The smart and cunning ravens around the campsite managed to open my pack, unzip the side pockets and just tore everything apart to get to any kind of food I had packed.
Within about a half hour they had managed to relieve me of 3 energy bars, energy chews (which I was saving specifically for the last day 🙁 ), a dinner, an oatmeal breakfast and a tuna pouch. Absolutely cleaned me out of food.
If it wasn’t for the generosity of Steve and Megan, I would have had to go hungry….for 16.7 miles/ 26.9 km. No bueno. Thankfully they still had way too much food left over, so Megan gave me two energy bars and a dinner (Pasta Alfredo – which was absolutely delicious).
THANK YOU SO MUCH MEGAN AND STEVE!!!
After this little horrific episode, i managed to hit the trail back towards Phantom Ranch at 7:45am, covering those 7 miles of (mostly) downhill in exactly 3 hours. I didn’t take as many pictures, because this was basically just backtracking.
I stayed at Phantom Ranch long enough to have some lunch and air out my feet and headed out on the Bright Angel Trail at 11:45am, crossing the Colorado River again – only this time on a scary bridge that you could see through… which for me, was pretty much the scariest part of the whole 3-day adventure. Never mind the sheer drop-offs where one misstep could lead to your death, the REAL scary is the see-through metal suspension bridge ^^ .
The first part after the bridge is a longish slog through very soft, fine sand. And it feels like you’re not making any progress whatsoever. But once you make it through that, it is actually a pretty nice trail leading up towards Indian Garden. This is also where the only water source was for me, other than Phantom Ranch, so I was carrying 3l the whole day. Some of the switchbacks seem endless, and at times the ascent is pretty steep with rocky trail, but overall, looking back, it didn’t seem all that bad.
At one point, just before Indian Garden, I had to ford a small river. I bet there was a way around it somehow, but I guess I missed the turnoff. So off the shoes went and I crossed barefoot, which was actually really nice and soothing for my aching feet. The blisters on my heel had bothered me in the morning going down to Phantom Ranch, but ever since crossing the bridge and heading uphill, the pain was gone.
I made it to Indian Garden by 3 pm. Somwhow, I felt really sluggish and slow. I still had roughly 5 miles/ 8 km and over 3000 ft/ 933 Hm of elevation gain to cover, which honestly at that point seemed impossible. I was at a bit of a low point…but there’s nothing you can do about it, except keep putting one foot in front of the other – which I did…for the next 4 hours.
The hardest part of the Bright Angel Trail is the switchbacks between the rim and Indian Garden, and coming from the bottom of the canyon this means that you are doing the hardest part at the end. Which sucks.
Those switchbacks are killer. But when you look back every so often, and actually see how far you’ve already come, it’s the best feeling in the world. Each step, each little forward momentum, has to be earned the hard way.
At one point I started greeting each turn of another switchback with Queen’s ‘Another one bites the dust’, which actually helped a lot. Humor in the face of adversity seems to make everything a little less hard.
I made it to the 3 mile resthouse by 4:30pm and the 1.5 mile resthouse by 5:45. I so much wanted to get to the rim before dark, but that meant I’d have to cover the remaining 1.6 miles/ 2.6 km and 1.131 ft/ 345 Hm in a little over an hour. Phew….
Under normal circumstances that deadline wouldn’t have been a problem, but after 3 days of hard hiking, exhausted from the climb already, I didn’t knoow if I was going to make it. It was starting to get colder, but instead of stopping to put on some warmer clothes, i just hauled ass. The wind was back as well, trying my patience to the limit.
At exactly 7 pm, I stood atop the South Rim, shivering in the cold, but absolutely exhilerated. I looked back towards the North Rim, where I had stood only yesterday, amazed at what the human body can accomplish.
I had made it.
44.5 miles/ 71.6 km with an ascent of 10.141 ft / 3.091 Hm and a descent of 10.541 ft / 3.213 Hm in almost exactly 60 hours.
I felt badass….and a little weepy with joy. So I shed a tear, looked back one more time…and then got the hell away from the freezing wind and the cold, back to my car, blasting the heater until my teeth stopped chattering.
I guess you’re expecting some kind of profound ending to this narrative, but I wouldn’t know what to say. I am going to end this story the same way I ended my hike… looking back fondly, proud of my accomplishment and looking forward to the next adventure.
Keeping you posted…