Day 29…..22 miles…..AZT mile 712.4
Today we walked rim to rim of the Grand Canyon and it was awesome! I’ve been wanting to do this for awhile now and it absolutely lived up to the hype.
This morning we caught a couple of buses to get from Mather Campground back to where we got off the trail yesterday, the South Kaibab Trailhead. Starting down the South Kaibab trail it was steep but the trail is very well taken care of and graded for mules so it switchbacks nicely for about 8 miles to the Colorado River. We cruised down and then took a nice break in the shade of some cottonwoods at Phantom Ranch. On the north side of the river the trail turns into the North Kaibab trail and for about 6 miles follows a relatively mellow trail through a very impressive canyon. We took a little detour to check out Ribbon Falls and found a sweet little swimming hole. It was about 90 degrees in the bottom of the canyon and a quick dip in an icy cool bath felt so good, I definitely recommend a side trip to these falls if you’re exploring the canyon. From Ribbon Falls the trail started to climb rather steadily and for the next 7-8 miles we were crushing switchbacks uphill to the top of the canyon. We walked over to the closed North Rim CG and found only four other hikers who were in the middle of a 2 day rim to rim to rim hike so we set up our tent and ate supper with them. For whatever reason the north rim of the canyon is all closed up for another month but this keeps the crowds on the south side. Plus there’s no mule trains on the north side so instead of smelling mule piss while I walk the only foul smell over here is my own scent, a combination of b.o. and sunscreen. I think one of the true joys of thru hiking is you can find yourself in some amazing places and have them almost all to yourself.
Today was a lot of fun. A few years ago I hiked from the north rim to the river and back then last fall QB and I hiked from the south rim to the river and back but I had yet to make it across the canyon in one shot. Today was the day. I’m glad it worked so nicely into my thru hike of the AZT. Ultimately I think I’d like to do a rim to rim to rim hike in one shot but that seems super tough. We met a few people doing that today and I think some were doing better than others. When I got to the end of the day though I didn’t really have a sudden urge to do it all over again. Someday though, probably or maybe. mule trainthis guy Tach told us he’s hiked down to the river and back 113 times plus a bunch of other stats about himself
Day 30…..27 miles…..AZT mile 744.1
What a difference a day makes. While yesterday we walked through what is arguably the most beautiful famous hole in the world, today we walked a paved road for 20 something miles.
From the north rim CG we walked the half mile back to the North Kaibab Trailhead and the AZT. Going north we heard reports that the trail had a lot of snow so after checking it out we realized a better but more boring option would be just taking the road for awhile. Although it’s probably a few miles shorter than the trail there’s a closed highway, rt 67, that is more or less parallel to the AZT so we walked that for about ten miles until we were outside the national park boundaries. The further north we went there seemed to be less snow so we would check the trail whenever it came real close to the road. After an almost all day road walk we rejoined the trail and walked patchy snow postholing here and there until we got to the edge of a major burn area. It was super windy all day and looking out towards the burn it appeared that the weather was about to make a nasty turn. We decided to camp in some pines south of the burn about an hour before we usually stop and I’m glad we did because while I write this the rain is starting to beat down on the tent.
Day 31…..29.3 miles…..AZT mile 772.4
Holy mackerel! The weather last night went crazy on us. While we were eating our supper of cheese and rehydrated beans we got our first taste of an Arizona thunderstorm. The thunder and lightning was one thing but the wind was the real issue. I’m not sure that a tornado didn’t touch down nearby, I’ve never camped through a more intense windstorm. After an hour or so it settled down but around 2:30 this morning the storm returned with a vengeance and was off and on for the rest of the night. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little scared. At least it wasn’t thunder snow, it was pretty cold and we camped close to 9000 feet. I did get some sleep though and this morning I woke up happy to be alive and enjoyed another day of hiking the Arizona National Scenic Trail.
For the first ten miles of the day we walked through an apocalyptic looking burn and the skies were clear but a cold wind was still whipping. Eventually the burn ended and we walked through a pine forest for half a dozen miles before getting to a road that led to the town of Jacob’s Lake. This is more like just a little inn that has a diner and gas station but it was worth hitching into. We crushed a couple of cheeseburgers and each bought 4 big cookies to go. Outside the store we met a handful of hikers going west on the Hayduke. The Hayduke is high on my list. It’s actually less of a trail and more of a suggested route that goes through southern Utah and Northern Arizona(seriously if anybody is considering doing this soon get in touch with me). After a couple hours at Jacob’s Lake we started hitching back to the trailhead but didn’t have much luck and walked about mile until an Arizona State Trooper pulled over and gave us a ride the rest of the way(not my first hitch from a trooper, once in CO a trooper drove me about 60 miles east of Denver). Back on trail QB and I walked fast the rest of the day and put in another ten miles before we found a campsite at sunset.
Day 32…..17.1 miles…..AZT mile 788.5
Made it to Utah today and the last day on the Arizona Trail went super smooth. All morning we hiked through pinyon pines and juniper trees until the last 3 miles where we dropped down a couple thousand feet and had views looking into the red rocks of Utah. After 800 miles my legs and body are feeling really good and I feel like I’m just hitting my stride. If there was another couple thousand miles ahead of me, I’d be alright with that. This summer I’m doing things a little differently though and I’ve got some other stuff going on, so I won’t be walking to Canada from here.
We didn’t see anyone all morning until the very end of the trail where we met a couple Hayduke hikers walking south, Twinkle and Ping Pong, who were just starting out on something like a 2 year trip around the world. We talked to them for awhile and now I really want to hike the Hayduke, as well as travel around the world for 2 years. A little further on and we made it to Stateline Campground, home to the northern terminus of the AZT. We high fived of course and took a few photos with the sign. Our plan was to get to the town of Kanab, Utah. Since there was nobody at the Stateline trailhead we walked another mile and a half to the busier Buckskin Gulch trailhead. There we met a photographer, Jay, who was exploring Southern Utah and capturing it on film. He went out of his way and drove us an hour to Kanab. We ate a meal at the appropriately named ‘Trails End’ restaurant and got in touch with some local trail angels Richard and Lynn. These two are both recently retired teachers from Moab and put us up in their beautiful home looking out towards Kanab’s Vermillion Cliffs. Hosting hikers is a relatively new hobby for them and they are really good at it. Throughout the trail QB and I have been reading Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey and Lynn and Richard not only knew him Abbey from Moab but Lynn is really good friends with his widow Clark. Small world right?
From Kanab QB and I are planning to hitch west for a few days and squeeze in a small adventure before we fly to the other side of the world for a month. I hope you liked reading about my Arizona Trail hike, I certainly enjoyed sharing this trip. Stay tuned for more and feel free to follow me on insta @endlesspsummer for more pictures.
-Endless Richard and Lynn’s backyard