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    • My wife has dreamed forever of hiking to the river, staying at Phantom Ranch, and hiking out the next day. Tough, but doable. Of course, we would do the popular Bright Angel Trail from the touristy South Rim.

      However, I got to thinking what if I threw in a round trip to the top of the much lesser traveled and tougher North Rim Trail? What could go wrong? Just an extra 28 miles on the day and 7,000 of elevation gain.

    • We arrived at the South Rim the day before and did the walk along the paved trail to look over the vastness of the canyon. The impression is wow that's big and dry and death from heat and thirst may be our fates.

    • We decided to take the plunge at sunrise on Monday and damn the canyon is pretty then.

    • Descending Bright Angel Trail is incredibly dramatic. We knew it would be. What surprised us was seeing trees and MOUNTAIN GOATS (!!). We didn't get that impression from looking over the edge from the top.

    • As I was going crazy over the bighorn sheep and fumbling with my iPhone, wishing I had brought a dSLR like a lot of other people on the trail, some experienced Grand Canyon hikers and runners just shrugged and kept going.

    • Halfway down the trail you join a creek where a family of elk live and you get to cool down under the shade of really green cottonwood trees. Nice.

    • There is a great beach at the Colorado river where the rafting companies land. You can hike down the trail and then catch a raft out of the canyon! Who knew? Or you can take the raft to the base of the trail and hike out. Kinda like a bus stop, but for rafts.

    • Phantom Ranch is basically impossible to book. My wife got a bunch of phone lines going and repeat-dialed during their narrow window once a year, the year before you want to go. Somehow one of the lines connected after an hour and I don't know how many busy signals, and we got dorm rooms for a night. 🎉

    • My GPS said we hiked about 11 miles down and lost 5,800'. The North Rim Trail is supposed to be 14 miles up and 7,000' of gain. No time to waste, fill the bottles, gotta get these 28 miles in before dark. Otherwise my worried wife, who will be waiting and wondering with no cellular coverage, would really start worrying.

      I thought the terrain on the Bright Angel Trail was dramatic. Oh my God, the north rim trail. Most of the way I was in awe that they could even cut a trail among those cliffs. Who knew it would be so forested? Dense evergreen and aspen forests? Not what I was expecting.

    • The trail follows a thundering small and crystal-clear river for almost 10 miles. There must be 7 great bridges that cross it. At the higher altitudes, I couldn't imagine where the trail was going to go. Sometimes the answer was they would carve it into the side of a cliff. Sometimes they would just blast through a tunnel. Anyone know they history of this trail?

    • I couldn't believe the desert flowers I saw along the way. This isn't the Grand Canyon desert I expected to see. Maybe May is a magical time of year?

    • As popular as the south rim trail was in the morning, I expected to see a fair number of people on the north trail. But from Cottonwood campground, 6 miles above Phantom Ranch, to the top and back (16 miles of hiking), I saw only one couple.

      As I began to get anxious thoughts about what could go wrong (it was cold on the north rim, forecast called for 32 degrees overnight), I thought of the confidence-inspiring signs the Park Service kindly educated us with:

    • I don't want to diss the National Park Service in the slightest tho. At the top of the north rim I spent time reading their other extremely fascinating signs with great historical photos. And the trail! I can't begin to imagine the work and ingenuity that went behind building it.

    • I did make it back without twisting something or stepping off the edge and my wife forgave me, I think, of my craziness. My GPS said I went 38.9 miles on the day with 10,500 elevation gain. Not sure where all that gain came from, but I think it's because the north trail goes up and down a lot. So the 7,000 number I heard was probably net gain.

    • For people who are smarter than us, there is another way: the mule trains. I have to say that beginning our hike back out the next morning I was thinking, "Hmmm... Nice-looking mules. I have some blisters. How much for a ride back up?" I suppose Uber will have their own mules from the bottom soon.

    • And now for something truly mind-blowing: running the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim (!!) in a day has become a thing and the best runners are competing to break each other's records. I am not making this up. Here's a 6-minute video of Jim Walmsley doing it in under 6 hours! How is that humanly possible?!

    • I don't know if I should be more impressed by Jim Walmsley or the person with the camera keeping up with Jim Walmsley.

    • Great thread. Dang, 38 miles in a day!? I looked down at the trail once and my fear of heights took over. The trail never got narrow enough to make falling off a possiblity?

    • Yeah, that guy with the camera is Jamil Coury (Jam Jam), filmmaker and ultrarunner. He used a DJI Osmo hand-held stabilizer/camera combo for that. Walmsley had just set the course record for Rim-to-Rim and wasn't sure he wanted to run hard back the other way, so he relaxed for a few miles on the way back making it easier for Jamil to keep up.

      Walmsley had a great write-up about his record-setting day and here's a great excerpt:

      One of the more memorable moments of my run happened during this stretch of the canyon. I ended up coming face-to-face with a mountain lion for the first time in my life! I’ve never been more certain about what animal I saw in the dark! Cats are so elusive and I usually only catch a glimpse or I walk away thinking I may have saw a bobcat or coyote or something. It was absolutely frightening, but so exhilarating! It was a complete fight-or-flight moment. Literally, 50 yards in front of me, I saw some really bright, white reflections. There aren’t many, if any, fluorescent markings on the trail so that got ruled out pretty quickly. I soon noticed those were definitely a huge set of eyes in the middle of the trail. This encounter was in the narrow box canyons just a couple miles past Phantom Ranch. Huge cliff walls were on my left, the Bright Angel Creek on my left as well, and another huge cliff wall was on my right. Literally nowhere for either of us to go. I soon realized these weren’t like any deer eyes I’d ever seen before. This was something else. This was an animal and it was something big. I started shouting at it at the top of my lungs and making loud noises. Meanwhile, I was running full speed at it. It was an amazing feeling. I don’t think I even took into consideration that the mountain lion didn’t have anywhere to go. All six feet and 140 pounds of me, warrior shouting at it, was enough to trigger one of the most athletic things I’ve ever seen in my life. The animal turns to its left, my right, (this is when I spotted a tail, two to three feet long and mostly black colored, and was later able to confidently identify this was a mountain lion thanks to Ian Torrence), and then it made an enormous leap up the cliff wall. I have no idea what it possibly jumped on, probably a little ledge I didn’t even consider was possible. The next mile or so, I was flying! I looked back several times over my shoulder to try to spot those big eyes again and see if it had gone predator mode and started chasing me. Luckily, I never saw those white eyes again and I wasn’t an early morning breakfast on this day. During this section, my Strava data shows where I ended up hitting a 5:22 mile and a 5:45 mile. At first, you may think that’s just normal, weird data from running in the canyon. That could very well be part of it, however, it was probably pretty accurate. Definitely a huge flush of endorphins was pumping through my veins and I was running scared.

      This photo has been circulating on the net but I think it was taken by Myke Hermsmeyer Photography: