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Begins: Mar 13, 2020
Date: Sun, May 16th, 2021
Start: S Rim Grand Canyon
End: N Rim Grand Canyon
Daily Distance: 21
Trip Distance: 738.5
Entry Visits: 96
Journal Visits: 1,644
Guestbook Views: 18
Guestbook Entrys: 2
Arizona Trail Map
We're getting close to done with spring hiking in Arizona. Temps usually get into the 100s by the end of May. This year, with the prolonged drought, water sources are becoming marginal. Since we had hiked a lot at the Grand Canyon, we weren't sure if we wanted to do the rim to rim hike that is part of the Arizona Trail. As luck would have it, the weather forecast called for a brief period of temps in the upper 80s in Phoenix (temps there tend to mimic the ones at the bottom of the Canyon). So we hurriedly packed up the packs and headed to the S Rim.
Many of the federal facilities are still not fully open (or open at all!). The Visitor Center is closed. But the Backcountry Information Center just reopened. When we got there, we talked to a Ranger about overnight camping at Cottonwood campground, and were able to get a permit. The BIC folks have been more friendly and helpful the past few years, and we appreciated what they could do for us. We might have still been able to do a rim to rim as a dayhike, but at 67 and 81, we didn't relish putting ourselves through it if we could avoid it!
We caught the first bus to the Kaibab TH the next morning (4:30am). It was just light enough to see, and those ahead of us on the trail made an interesting sight with their headlamps bobbing down the switchbacks in the starting chimney. We were at Cedar Ridge as the first sunlight hit the cliffs above us. The temps were pleasant, even as we descended in elevation. The trail looks dry; not much flowering along the trail. There was a new shade structure with rainwater collection system at Tip Off. The Emergency Phone had been relocated there also. We kept going until we reached a shady spot in the Shinomu Quarsite, then took a break to enjoy the views. In the past, I've seen bighorn sheep above and below this area, but forage can't be too good this year.
Phantom Ranch was as busy as ever, filled with R2R and R2R2R hikers. We didn't see many backpackers at all during the entire hike. The dining area at Phantom was closed to hikers, but they had a takeout window to sell cold drinks and snacks to folks. We took another break to enjoy the cold drinks and snack. The narrow gorge heading through the Box is often an oven, so we didn't linger long.
The hike seemed to go quickly. Just before the Box opened up, we found a shady spot to sit for lunch. Ever minute or two, another group of hikers/runners would go by. No exaggeration: there must have been nearly 300 people attempting the R2R or R2R2R! Out of the box, we climbed over a hill with views of Ribbon Falls. The bridge is still out, but the creek is an easy wade. We opted to pass by this time. Within a mile of Cottonwood, we met a guy who was suffering from heat exhaustion. He had no energy, had been vomiting, and was understandably miserable. His wife had gone ahead to find a Ranger. We stayed with him, offering what help we could up the trail, until the Ranger took over. We saw the hiker later at Cottonwood, looking a bit better after some fluids, rest, and food.
The camping spot for AZT hikers is mostly in the sun, but we were grateful to have it. We shared it with a lone hiker who arrived later. At sunset, another group of thrus showed up and set up nearby. We spent the afternoon talking to people around the campground, and cooling off in the creek.
We started early the next morning. No rush to get out, but the hill is a long one! The morning light was beautiful on the canyon walls. We took a good break at Manzanita, talking to a R2R2Rer, and using the water and toilet facilities. Then, steady climbing took us past Roaring Springs, thru the Eye of the Needle, over the Supai Bridge and Tunnel. We took a break there until the crowds started to show up. From there, the trail was a dusty climb, with us walking thru deep powder. At the top, we took a chance to enjoy the end of the climb! A short walk led to the Lodge and our vehicle. The weather forecast was for scattered rain to start at 11; by our watch, it started at 11:03, a mix of rain, hail, and snow!
We celebrated with a couple of hot chocolates on the patio behind the lodge, looking at the Canyon.