Grand Canyon backpacking report (using three pairs of shoes + bare feet too)

Discussion in 'Front Page News' started by Thea Gavin, Jul 12, 2019.

  1. Thea Gavin

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    Grand Canyon backpacking report
    (using three pairs of shoes + bare feet too)

    By Thea Gavin


    Last month, since I was already at Grand Canyon's North Rim (for a creative writing workshop I lead there every June), I decided to take a stroll down to the Colorado River and spend the night at Phantom Ranch, a fun overnight backpacking trip I'd done several times from the South Rim.

    Of course I "knew" that it was 14 miles each way from the North Rim (twice as far as from the South Rim), but I was feeling good about the workshop and happy to have a few days to enjoy the canyon solitude.

    Long story short: to hike 28 miles in two days, in summer heat, carrying a way-too-full backpack (a sort of "rebound" pack job in response to being very cold backpacking in May) . . . well, it was a bit of a rough go the last five (steep!) miles.

    But . . . one step at a time . . . I made it, experimenting with three different kinds of minimalist shoes (Sockwas, Merrill Pipidae Wrap sandals, and my new Merrell Vapor Glove 4s) plus my own strong bare feet to carry me down and up.

    A full account--with a few photos--is posted on my blog here: https://theagavin.wordpress.com/201...-the-summer-heat-another-click-bait-headline/

    Happy Summer Trails!

    Thea

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  2. BareFootHeath

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    Hi Thea,

    That was a neat read. Your commentary on too much stuff grabbed my attention.

    Doing day hikes that involve a climb I sometimes struggle with the essentials/non-essentials issue. I want lightness for speed of movement but also want to be prepared to hunker down overnight if situations (weather or injury) change.

    I’m planning a long hike next year (the British Columbia section of The Great Trail) and find myself leaning more towards a fast packing gear selection due to the time constraints I’ll have. Definitely don’t want to leave gear on the trail either.
     
    #2 BareFootHeath, Jul 16, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2019
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  3. Barefoot TJ

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    I'm always so proud of you, Thea.

    How far is it one way from the south rim?

    I'm sure carrying all those shoes weighed you down. Could you strap some of them to your waist next hike? I've done that in the past, strap things to my waist, and it really lightened the load off my back and hands.

    I'll mirror your report to the home page soon. Thanks for sharing!
     
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  4. Barefoot TJ

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    I just checked out the Phantom Cabins you mentioned. Very cool. The site said it's 7.5 miles down the south rim to the cabins.

    If I ever visit there again, I'll want to stay ay the cabins. Last time we took an RV and stayed at an RV park. I loved it though!
     
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  5. Thea Gavin

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    Thanks for always reading/commenting :)

    One way from the South Rim is either 7 miles (S. Kaibab trail) or 9 miles (Bright Angel trail) -- two very different trails--many hikers choose to hike down the S. Kaibab (stunning views, but no water available) and hike up Bright Angel (a little longer, but water available every few miles).

    My shoe weight did not bother me (each pair weighs only ounces) BUT . . . having all that "cold-weather" backpacking gear did! When camping overnight at the bottom of Grand Canyon in summer, one does not need a down jacket (plus fleece sweater, plus wool long underwear :) ) and often not even a tent (unless monsoon rains are expected) . . . but I all of that plus a big poncho and other cold-weather gear that had served me well the month before during a very chilly 5-day backpacking trip in the area (Paria Canyon).

    But . . . I do like to carry a small fanny pack (in addition to my day pack) on day hikes, for the (very good) reasons you mentioned :)

    Thanks again,

    Thea
     
  6. Thea Gavin

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    Yes! If you're ever at Grand Canyon again, I highly recommend "going down" as far as you can into the canyon -- a completely different (and even more awe-inspiring) experience! There are also bunkhouses at Phantom Ranch (separate ones for men and women), and it's often easier to book one of those (based on someone cancelling) than the cabins (both are usually reserved/full a year in advance, but if you have a flexible schedule you can usually find a cancellation.

    And . . . the 7.5 mile trail is the South Kaibab--super steep (about a mile in elevation drop in that distance), but amazing views (but no water available along the trail). Another trail, the Bright Angel, takes 9 miles to get from the rim to the river, but there is water along the way, and it's much easier to park at the trailhead. (There is no trailhead parking for the S. Kaibab trail . . . hikers have to take a (free) shuttle.)

    Hope this helps . . . there are a few logistical challenges to hiking to Phantom Ranch, but once you get there: it's all worth it!

    Cheers,

    Thea
     
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  7. Thea Gavin

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    I will always advise to PACK LIGHT when backpacking (too bad I don't always follow my own advice :) ).

    And congrats on the Great Trail hike/plans . . . I have dreams of through-hiking, but so far . . . they're just dreams (but I love to read people's blogs about their long hikes).

    Happy (through!) Trails,

    Thea
     
  8. Barefoot TJ

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    So they have water fountains on these trails. That's smart of them. They don't want people passing out. And good to know. Helps to lessen the weight too, although I'd still carry water in the GC just in case, not that I'm capable anymore. I have a Mizuna waist hydration system that made my runs great. I used it when water fountains weren't available; otherwise, I'd not carry water on my runs and just drink from the fountain. I'd literally have nothing to carry on my back or on my waist or in my hands...and, of course, nothing on my feet. I loved those runs the most.
     
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  9. Barefoot TJ

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    Helps a lot. I read about the bunk houses too. So neat.

    I'm going to have to revisit the doctor for my Morton's Neuroma and chronic heel-arch pain, not diagnosed as plantar fasciitis, but probably a severe case that is just not healing after all these years. I had 8 surgeries on my feet in 2012, and I'm still not like I used to be. I haven't been able to go on a barefoot run since, although I still walk barefoot everywhere I can, house (I work from home.), yard work, stores, etc. And that's soon to stop because I have lost most of the fat pads (fat pad atrophy) in my feet due to all the surgeries and other nonsense treatments prior to surgery. This may just be my new normal. But I'd love to visit the cabins or bunkhouse and maybe get there by mule. Those mules are huge! (I ride horses and love it. Although I have to wear western boots. I've had horses stand on my feet. Without the boots, you can imagine the pain and injury. Rambling...) Then I can do a little walking down there. I really want to go again. It's breathtaking.
     
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