Sunset at the Canyon
With Ironman behind us and Thanksgiving break upon us, it was time to do some more exploring of the Grand Canyon!!! The GC is basically in our backyard, only a short 75-minute drive away from our home in Flagstaff. My last GC adventure consisted of a 180-mile bike loop from my house to the South Rim, along the rim, and back home. That day was super fun but now it was time to spend a few quality days as a family and to get down into the canyon.
(Rim-to-river-and-back report is further down if you want to skip the family part...)
Love this place!
I mean: Who doesn't want to run to the bottom of all of this awesomeness?
Especially when there's water down there?
(A lake? A river? A waterfall? A puddle? Count me in!)
But first my shopping buddy, Max, and I had some grocery shopping to do while Noah opted to stay home alone and read. So we bought lots of healthy Thanksgiving food and a big can of whipped cream just for fun. Partly because Max insisted, partly because canned whipped doesn't exist in Germany and so I was going to pretend I am Max's age and spray
some lots in MY mouth as well!
Wanna know how
most all of our family hikes into the Canyon go?
We have fun up at the rim and goof around:
Wow. A family picture!
The kids run/roll/fall down the trail at lightening speed and I don't get any pictures.
Eventually we take a break, have a snack, take some pictures:
We keep going down. Then something happens. This time Noah fell and hit his head on a rock. So we take a long break during which the kids suddenly get VERY tired.
Once we give in and decide to turn around, they suddenly realize how far UP they have to go. Max throws a temper tantrum and refuses to walk one. more. step:
I hike ahead and hide two gummy bears somewhere on the rocks and they have to come and find them. It works like a charm! Suddenly there is no more complaining. Just happy faces:
a gummy bear in hands = happy Max
It took a total of 12 gummy bears to get them back to the top. So the sugar high was minimal.
Good times all around.
Ok. Not really. Max started to get sick Wednesday afternoon on the drive there and then threw up a whole bunch of times that night. Otherwise he seemed fine so we were blaming the giant can of whipped cream. Until he told us that one of his friends at school had thrown up in the middle of the carpet on Tuesday. Oh boy! Sure enough, Noah and Karl got the stomach bug Friday night and all Saturday. Not such good times but they rallied and we still had fun!
I got in one morning run along the rim and the sunrise was spectacular:
can't get enough of this view
We stayed in a small apartment that belongs to Karl's friend, who is a wildlife biologist in the park but was with his family in Flagstaff, which worked out so well! Not a fan of winter camping! The neighbor had a super nice dog the kids loved and we took for a few walks:
sweet Maggie and my boys
Thursday night it was time to plan my little running/hiking adventure! It's sad but I had never been down to the bottom of the Canyon. Not sure why. Just never made it to the top of my priority list, I guess. And, I have to admit, steep long trail runs like that make my legs ridiculously sore because I don't do them often enough. So, naturally, I had made plans to run rim-to-rim-to-rim (also known as a Grand Canyon double crossing) in one day. All or nothing, right? I live in some sort of distorted world where everybody I know that goes to the Canyon does rim-to-rim-to-rim. So, needless to say, this spectacular adventure is on my bucket list and I only have about 5 more months to check it off!
But - I didn't do it. It wasn't Go big or Go home this time around. Because, after all, it is my off-season and I can do whatever the heck I want during those few weeks. And I can change my mind and back out of things even if it hurts my pride. It kills me to say I am going to do something and then not follow through. So hard for me. Which is why, if I am not sure I actually have the guts to do something, I announce my plans to a few friends and then there is no way out. Works well for me!
But, for this one, I had enough reasons (I am not going to call them excuses...) to be content with cutting my voyage into half. Besides the fact that it might be a good idea to just to down-around-up before going down-over-up-down-over-up and get a better idea of what you are in for, my body wasn't fully recovered from Ironman and neither was my mind. I just didn't feel like dealing with more logistics, nutrition, hydration, getting up at 3am, and getting to the point where I may not be having fun anymore. Plus, I would like a buddy or two for the big trip...
So this was the revised plan:
1) Bike to the Bright Angel bus stop
It was dark and freezing and I had trouble finding the actual bus stop. Barely made it in time. Also, turns out that biking with two hand-held bottles is a bit tricky...
2) Catch the 7am express shuttle
Bus was nice and warm all 8 of us became friends and shared stories. But it still took too long (about 30 minutes). Should've run the extra 5 miles along the rim trail. Next time...
3) Down South Kaibab Trail
Wow! A cold, quiet, absolutely gorgeous morning in paradise! Only encountered a few other hikers. Took it easy on the downhill. I was running but certainly not fast. I really took in the beauty of the Canyon and let it sink into my soul.
4) Cross the Colorado
Nothing like running through a small rock tunnel, crossing a fast and furious river on a tiny bridge, and finding yourself at the very bottom of a 6,000ft canyon. Amazing!
5) Explore the campground and Phantom Ranch
I wasn't in any hurry. So I ran around the campground and found a lovely spot for our little backpacking tent once the kids are old enough to hike down here AND back up. Which will hopefully be by June... Phantom Ranch is pretty cool too and I wouldn't be opposed to staying there either...
cannot WAIT to pitch my tent here
6) Check out North Kaibab Trail and Clear Creek Trail
I still wasn't ready to head back up, so I ran a few miles on North Kaibab and a bit on Clear Creek. Running along the creek was so nice! Water makes all the difference to me and I decided to finally stop for a second and get my phone camera out of my pack. I don't mind going slow but I hate stopping, especially when it's cold. And cold it was! In my head it was going to be nice and warm down there. Warm enough to want to cool off in the creek. Haha! Not so much. I was in the shade for the entire run (maybe 10 minutes of direct sun) and never really got warm. It was still gorgeous though!
7) Come back across the Colorado
I was sad to leave. I am so coming back to camp down here for a few days. It's a promise, Karl! But NOT in the winter.
8) Run/hike up Bright Angel Trail
I like this trail better than South Kaibab. Especially the bottom half where you are running next to (and sometimes through) Pipe Creek and then Garden Creek. So fun and pretty!
It just gets prettier and prettier up to Indian Garden. Water, green, leaf trees, fall colors, awesome trail, HEAVEN!
If the kids can't make all the way down by June, I think I would be fine to just hike to Indian Garden and camp there next year. It's that nice!
Then my phone died, the trail got steeper and more crowded, and I was still having a blast. It was fun from beginning to end!
I have absolutely no intentions on setting any speed records in this amazing place. Not this time, not next time, and not when I do rim-to-rim-to-rim. It's all about finding my happy place and taking in as much of this beauty as possible. Enjoying the journey.
Sorry. No selfies. Both my phone and I suck at selfies. And I still can't stand the thought of someone catching me taking a selfie. But in case you are wondering, here is what I had with/on me:
Tri shorts by Coeur*: Loved them. Yes, I realize they are made for running AND biking and thus have a thin fleece chamois but they are my favorite shorts for running. And I love the pockets in the back which will even hold my phone in place nicely without bugging me. And, believe me, I get bugged easily.
Compression Socks by Coeur*: I don't wear compression socks in public places. But I figured the Canyon isn't really a public place. Haha. And it wouldn't hurt on that long and steep downhill. They added some warmth and kept the rocks and dirt away from my feet.
Tank top by Zoot: I figured by the time I got down there, it would be so warm I would want a tank top. Haha! Still turned out to be a good choice in combination with the arm warmers.
Arm warmers: I didn't want to futz around with arms warmers that slide down, so I wore my makeshift ones. Just get a pair of knee-high socks and cut off the toe part. Voila. Easy and cheap.
Light jacket: Found this one at H&M in Germany. Perfect choice since it provided plenty of warm and then still fit into my tiny backpack.
Gloves: The super cheap ones from Target. Definitely needed those since I was using hand-held bottles.
(*Random lady I was passing: Hey, you. Ironman was last weekend. Me: I know. I did that one too. Lady laughs: Of course you did! Haha. Looks like I am not going to pass as a cool trail runner chick anytime soon!)
The Zoot Ali'i 14 is one of my favorite running shoes. It's obviously not made for trail but it turned out to be the perfect choice. Just enough grip and lots of comfort while being light. My issue with trail shoes is that they are usually rather heavy. I own about 3 pair and dislike all of them.
I used two of Karl's Handhelds with my T3 Triathlon bike bottles in them which was plenty. More than enough actually. I would've been fine with just one since it was cool all day and I was able to refill at Phantom Ranch and at Indian Garden. Still nice to have extra though.
I also had a tiny old CamelBak on that someone handed down to us recently. That's about all I can handle and if it doesn't fit in there, I am not bringing it. Worked out great.
One bottle of OSMO pre-load on the way down. Two bottles of OSMO active. Two bottles of plain water.
Two Think Thin bars. Because those taste the best!
That's it. After almost two weeks of eating whenever and whatever I wanted to, that's all I needed for a five-hour run/hike. Actually, one bar would've been plenty but, like I said, they just taste so good! I also had rice crackers, veggies, a gel, and some chews with me just in case.
Now that I have a few things figured out, I can't wait to do rim-to-rim-to-rim. It's gonna happen. Believe me. The plan is to do it in May after 70.3 St. George. The WHEN is sort of up to Coach, just not the IF.
So if you want to join me, I am going to accept applications starting in January ;)