Note: This was the first posting of the now infamous hiking trips through the Grand Canyon. The original blog is long gone due to blogspot.com deleting it. Luckily I was able to find the original web page and photos and have posted it here on a more permanent website and domain. This trip was suffered in September 2006.

Geezers Gone Wild!!


5 Guys.....

1 Overloaded Minivan.....

1044 Miles of Driving.....

6500' of Elevation Change.....

18 Miles of Trails.....

1 Day.....

0 Supervision!


It all got started on a quiet Friday morning, my neighbors never knew what was about to happen..... The minivan would never be the same...


Here we are. It's the last time we were clean, smiling, and vertical......
Herb, Mark, Ben, Terry and Rick


We left Santee and headed north, then east, then north again. We arrived near the Grand Canyon around 6 PM, after a mostly uneventful drive. We had about 30 mins to setup camp. It was cooling off very quickly, and getting dark. Our campsite was in the open camping area just south of the Grand Canyon. There's no support. No water, no bathrooms, and no jacquzzis. It brought back fond memories of the Nightmare Races we did years ago. Plenty of dirt, grass and all sorts of little piles of animal stuff on the ground...

My tent. For some reason, I couldn't zipper up the door. All I could imagine was some large, 4-legged animal sticking its head in and announcing "Hello, I'm Mr. Ed!"

Campsite
More campsite, no neighbors, and very spacious!

La luna!! Getting dark and cold quick.


Area around our campsite.

My flash wouldn't work, probably operator error. Herb is doing the cooking. We're having chicken, rice and bean burritos, with apple pie and ice cream for dessert! For those that know me, I skipped the beans, tortilla, apple pie and ice cream... I brought my own stash of stuff to round out what I couldn't eat.

Another shot of the 5 of us at the campground. I'm on the left... The night pretty much stayed this way, dark and cold. Herb woke up with ice in his water bottle. I did very well in my tent keeping warm and actually slept! I normally don't sleep on the first night out camping, guess work is just working me over. Throughout the night, I could hear coyotes and elk making their respective noises. There was one time around 3 AM where I could hear something, something very large walking by my tent. I could hear heavy breathing, plenty of footfalls, and what an odor - I thought Rick was out sleepwalking. My second guess was elk walking through, but I wasn't going to make a sound, or get out of my tent. In one of the local newspapers, there was an article of some very unlucky guy that got attacked and killed by an elk! Elk are huge animals, topping 1000 pounds! Several elk were easily hopping over a 4' barbed wire fence. If I tried hopping that fence, I would have ended up in the local hospital, with stitches in places I can't publically describe.

In the morning, we quickly packed up and drove to the canyon. When we got to the gate, there was a sign that had $25 on it, but I couldn't read it because Herb was just driving way too fast in that minivan. The ranger in the shack asked us where we were from, San Diego we said. How many in the van?? 5. Now, were all pretty much thinking it's $25 per person to get in. With a long theatrical pause, the ranger said today was FREE!! It was National Lands Day - or something like that - and there was no charge for using any National Park in the United States. Cool!! Massages after the run!

We parked the van, and got all prepared at the Bright Angel trail where we were going to finish. Herb had this nearly brilliant idea that we should park the minivan near the end of the run. Little did we know just how important that small idea would become. This is the trailhead sign sending us to the start of the South Kaibab trail. We had to take a couple of busses to get there, but we eventually made it. Rick was the only guy that could read a bus schedule! According to the bus driver, there was some guy out who was celebrating his 79th birthday by hiking the trails we were about to run, 79 times in a row! We told her, we're just going to do this once, and we'd let her know how it goes before we decide on any other trips.



Ben and Terry heading towards the trail head, Herb is on the very left of the photo. Notice his hat...



The sign at the South Kaibab trailhead. We're all reading the various warnings. You'll notice a photo of a girl running in the upper right of the second photo. She died on an attemp to run the Grand Canyon, she was in her mid twenties, if I remember correctly. Since all of us are geezers, we were still pressing on with our plan.


Still reading the all the warnings.

Lean, mean and ready to go, we had no idea what we were getting into!

This photo is at the very top of the South Kaibab trail, looking out into the Canyon. Just incredible.


Now, that doesn't look so bad! The very start of the South Kaibab trail.


Another photo looking out into the Canyon. After this point, I really only had a 3 word vocabulary - wow, and holy cow!

Herb running down South Kaibab - notice anything missing??


Herb running back up South Kaibab because he left his hat and sunglasses at the trailhead!


I'm looking down at the South Kaibab trail. You can see another hiker way down there in the upper part of the photo. You can see the 'stairs' put into the trail. These were pretty big logs, that were nailed into the dirt. It made it very difficult to run, you either had to take very small strides, or very large strides, but not the correct stride for me. Made running very challenging. 


Another look into the Canyon from South Kaibab. We've gone down less than a mile at this point.


Plenty of warning signs on the South Kaibab trail. It's difficult to read, but the paragraph under the Warning reads:

"DO NOT attempt to hike from the canyon rim to the river and back in one day. Each year hikers suffer serious illness or death from exhaustion."

Luckily for us, we were running and not hiking - plus we're geezers!


Just another photo looking out into the Canyon.


Another look into the canyon.


Herb and Rick coming into view.


Herb taking a photo of me, taking a photo of him. That's Rick next, and Terry in the back running down South Kaibab. Most of the trail was this powdery, very dry, fine dirt. This photo doesn't show many logs in the trail, but just wait, there'll be more.


Looking nearly straight down from the trail.


Very sharp turns limited downhill speed. For most of this trail, there was no room for error. You overshoot a turn, your going to go over the edge. You'll get to the bottom quickly, but I'm sure there'll be a huge hospital bill afterwards! The logs made it difficult to have a normal stride, so the legs really took a beating.


Another overlook into the Canyon. Some of the bottom features are getting bigger.


That's Ben heading down ahead of me. You can see on the right all the log stairs in the trail.


Yet another look into the Canyon, going mostly North.


Still another look, going mostly South.


Ah, our arrival at Skeleton Point - that's Ben.


A few seconds later, I make my presence known at Skeleton Point.


The first time I could see the Colorado River. Looks like a small creek from up here.


There's a canyon within the Canyon!


Another trail heading out into the Canyon. I don't know the name of it.


Herb and Rick coming down.


Now, these guys were a bunch of asses. This is a supply train coming up, probably from Phantom Ranch. The protocol if a mule train is on the trail is to stand on the inside of the trail, and be quiet. So I did. Earlier in the day, there was another mule train, all with people on them instead of supplies. Luckily, we were going in opposite directions. Getting stuck behind one of these mule trains is slow, dirty and very aromatic. The gentleman in the photo must be in the Federal Witness Protection Program as he couldn't be photographed. Who'd think of looking for him out here??


The trail is getting rockier.


Tonto-Trail East! A nice place, restrooms as well. It's hard to tell, but there's another guy in the photo. He's sitting down in the shade, at the very left of the building. He's partially blocked by the sign post. Someone told Ben there was a 7-11 on the otherside of the building, he went to go check it out. Us geezers like 7-11.


We're still at Tonto-Trail, and this is a photo of my Garmin showing my current running time and distance. Almost an hour, and a shade under 4 miles. Remember, I'm going DOWNHILL. It's going to be a  long day....


It's hard to see, but in the middle, slightly to the right you can see Rick and Herb coming down into Tonto-Trail.


Herb still coming into Tanto-Trail


Still coming...


Terry making his way into Tanto-Trail.


Terry has made it...


Just looking out towards one of the rims from Tanto-Trail.


The emergency phone. Wasn't expecting to see something like this on the trail.


Still part of the South Kaibab trail. We'll get there eventually!


The right side of this photo actually matches the left side of the photo from above. It was very runnable, and I let the brakes off and had some fun. We stopped where the trail disappears. I had this crazy idea of putting my camera into video mode, then tossing it over the side. I figure I'd get about 4 seconds of video before the camera hit the bottom. The camera would be destroyed, but the flash memory card would probably stay intact. I think the video would have been the most incredible thing I would have seen.


That's Ben taking a photo of the Colorado River. I took this photo because of the shadows. It looks like George Washington's head, and some kind of reptile pincher arm. It just looked cool.


Ben just flying down the hill. This one was alot of fun. After running with such a short stride for most of this trail, it was great to be able to stretch my legs and just go with gravity.


Silver bridge is coming into view! We still have a way to go to get there. Phantom Ranch is on the trail going off to the right.


I'm not sure where this trail goes. It doesn't look like anything we ran on, but I could be wrong.


An interesting peak.


Herb making his way down....


This is Black Bridge, crossing the Colorado River. Once you cross the bridge, you go right, then under loop under the bridge. Following the trail off to the left will take you to Phantom Ranch.


Even more trails!


You can see Ben in the upper left coming down this trail. There's another hiker in the middle of the photo, as well as one on the right.


Twisty-Turny trails! Gotta love them!


The Colorado River, looking towards Silver Bridge.


We still have about 2 miles to get to Phantom Ranch from this sign. I'm guessing at this point on the distance. You can see Black Bridge on the left.


Getting closer to Black Bridge.


This little tunnel leads to Black Bridge.


Ben running through the tunnel.


Looking towards the north at the Colorado River.


Terry exiting the tunnel.


The person wearing the white shirt in the middle of the photo I think is Rick. You can see Herb at the top of the photo and his signature Geezer straw hat. The ladies in the photo were also out for a nice hike. I didn't get their names.


Herb and Rick getting to the bridge. Man, they look FRESH!


One of the staff buildings, or possibly a cabin that can be rented. It's right outside Phantom Ranch.


Off to the Ranch!


Welcome to Phantom Ranch! Total running time at this point, 2 hours and 3 minutes. Total distance covered, about 8 miles. To put this into perspective, a world class marathoner will be at mile 25, or thereabouts! We hung around the Ranch for about 45 mins or so. Chatted with other hikers, but the odd thing was, we were the only runners. Found out, if you make it this far, but can't make it out, an unreserved mule ride is $850! There were 3 Navy guys breaking out their credit cards and getting a one-way ride out from the Ranch. It was in the mid 90's there, with plenty of people resting up. Some looked like death warmed over, with some doubting they could make it back out. Us geezers were feeling rather sprited, and full of energy! So, we had a small snack of various snack bars that we packed, and refilled all our water containers.


When you leave Phantom Ranch to head towards the Bright Angel trail, you have to cross the Silver Bridge. That's Ben, and I'm sure by now, he's pretty tired of me taking photos of his backside! If you look to the right, you'll see two hikers in the photo. That's where we're  headed.


Looking south down the Colorado River from Silver Bridge.


Get to the end of Silver Bridge, and hang a right! Now the fun begins.


I've run along the Bright Angel trail for about a mile or so. I'm looking back at Silver Bridge.


I'm starting my run up Bright Angel trail. Remember that interesting peak from the photo above?? Here's a different perspective.


Colorado River looking south from the Bright Angel trail. I don't have a mileage mark, but I can tell you I've been climbing some. The trail goes up slightly on the left side of the photo.


I'm looking down on the Bright Angel trail. At this point, I could see Bright Angel ahead of me, with plenty of switchbacks. The pattern I noticed was that the higher I would climb up the trail, the steeper the trail became. Right now, my legs are fairly rubbery, but not totally toast. Do I keep running, or do I hike? I knew Ben was ahead of me somewhere, and my other friends we behind me somewhere, so I was OK being alone. I really didn't know exactly where I was, and I didn't have a map with me, so I really had no idea what the trail was like climbing out. I had plenty of supplies for being out 10 hours, and I knew there was plenty of water on this trail. So, I decided from here to hike. It was the safest plan, and once I finished, realised it was a very smart decision.


Another shot of the Bright Angel trail down below. It would be my last photo until I finished. Mostly because I didn't find the Bright Angel trail all that photogenic compared to South Kaibab. Besides, fatigue was starting to set in....

I'll tell you the rest of my story without photos. I kept hiking, and working my way up. I never doubted I wouldn't make it to the top, but this trail is relentless. I'm not a fast hiker by any means, I tend to plod along at a very even, but slow pace. People that I had passed running an hour ago, were catching up and passing me. We'd chat about this or that, until they were out of earshot. One thing I found very funny was overhearing conversations from hikers heading down Bright Angel to the river. Some were talking about these guys from San Diego that were out running the canyon. Wow, even though I'm not running right now, we're all celebrities! Slowly plodding, I make my way up to Indian Gardens, there's water, restrooms, and plenty of people just hanging out taking a break. Ben waited for me there, and I told him I wasn't running anymore. I didn't know this at the time, but I was only half way up the trail! I still had 4.6 miles of climbing uphill to reach the rim. Ben continued on running up, and I kept hiking. My Garmin was giving me a pace of 32 minutes per mile! I was burning up the trail! My fastest walking speed on level ground is around 18 minutes per mile. Just call me Team Sloth...

Around 90 minutes later, I make it to 3 mile rest house. Ask around how far it's to the top, and most people tell me 3 miles, or they don't know. There's more people taking a break here, and they are really starting to look beat up. Not many are talking. It was an amazing climb from Indian Garden to here. I fill up with water, have a very small snack, and head back out. Ben waited there for me as well. He took off, and I started hiking again. Well, this time, I made it about 100 yards up the trail and I started getting dizzy and nauseated. I move towards the inside of the trail closer to the canyon wall, away from the sheer drop on my right. Would hate to get too dizzy, fall over, then down the cliff. So, I find a comfy rock and have a seat for a few minutes. I keep drinking water and took an extra electrolyte pill. I started feeling much better, so I'm getting dehydrated. I switch my Garmin to alarm every 10 minutes, and I take a good drink every time it goes off. The alarm is a life saver because at this level of fatigue, time goes very slow. What I think is only a couple of minutes, is actually 10! I can see how people could get confused and disoriented out here leading to all kinds of problems - none of them good. I keep my scorching 32 minute per mile pace. I'm seeing more people coming down the trail at this point. It's getting to be 1 PM, and people are coming down?? Some are wearing street clothes, carrying a small 16 ounce water bottle, and NO FOOD! Not good.

I make it to the 1.5 mile rest house. I went through 100 ounces of water in 1.5 miles! There's more people there at the rest house, most of which are not talking much. Some are laying down. I didn't stay long there. I didn't want to stop. My legs were in extreme pain, and starting to get stiff. I didn't want to sit, or stand around too long because I was afraid my legs would lock up and I couldn't hike. I had plenty of CliffShots left, so I started eating them every 15 to 20 minutes, along with water. I saw Terry hike into the rest house, so I stopped and waited for him. We got together and hiked awhile. I don't know how far exactly. The thing with Terry is, I can't keep up with him when he's hiking. I have to jog slowly. Even though he's just as thrashed as I am, he's killing me. We stay together for about 45 minutes, then I needed to grab a rock again. I told him to press on, I'll be at the top shortly.

I sit and have a chat with some guy from Pakistan. He was trying to reach the river, and was one of those people in street clothes, carrying a single 16 ounce water bottle and no food. His friends were trying to talk him out of going down to the river, Terry spoke with him at length, and this guy was nowhere near the physical shape we were in. Luckily, he came to his senses, and turned around. He caught up with me after Terry moved on, and I was sitting on the rock. We talked some more about how far I've been going today, and just how hard it is. I figure I was about a mile from the top, so it didn't bother me that I was taking a break. What's another 10 minutes?? I parted ways with my Pakistani friend and started hiking. My legs felt 1000% better - note to self - eat, drink and have more electrolytes in the beginning! Bring something with protein in it...

My hiking pace has dropped to 26 minutes per mile, I'm sprinting! I hear 3 other people talk about these knuckleheads from San Diego that were running up the canyon! No one asks me for an autograph... I get about 1/2 mile from the rim, and I can hear people talking, and the tour buses. Something in my head snaps, and I start running again. I've had enough, this is my hail mary, my final push. I actually drop to a 10 minute mile, and the trail ends! It changes to pavement, and I go flying by people, up around the corner, and I'm done! A few people point at me and say, "that's one of those San Diego idiots!" I don't care.. I start walking around, looking for Ben and Terry....

I figure they are at the van, so I start walking out that way. My legs a totally thrashed, it's all I can do to keep picking them up. I get near the parking lot, and think very funny. There's two flights of stairs to walk down to get to the van! No way, I can only negotiate the stairs once.... I grab the railing, and lean way out to  get a good view of the van. The interior light is not on, so the doors are all closed. I spend about 30 minutes walking around looking for Ben and Terry. By this time, I'm totally starved and need to get something to eat. I go into the snackbar and buy a banana, apple, some funky looking Gartorbarf and a bottle of cold water. As I'm waiting to pay, I see Terry walking in the snackbar - what dumb luck. We didn't make a plan on where to meet if we all got seperated.

I'm outside waiting for Terry, sitting on the rock wall. Now I'm freezing, my legs feel like someone is sticking skewers into them, and I've got the shakes going on. Terry comes out and tells me Rick and Herb are an hour behind him! I'm thinking, it's more time than that. The Bright Angel trail doesn't get easier as you get closer to the rim, it only gets harder. I'm guessing they are 90 minutes away. So, Ben, Terry and I sit on the edge at the end of the Bright Angel trail waiting. Herb and Rick make it up at 6:11 PM, right before sunset. Good, we're done!! We were supposed to go back to the campsite, but there's no chance of that. We get in the car, and head towards Williams where we find a cheap hotel for the night, and a diner for some dinner. Odd, I really wasn't that hungry, but I ate anyway.

Post Mortem

Needless to say, I was very sore. Not just my legs, but my back and ribs even! My legs were so sore, that I could feel every spring in the bed at the hotel. Trying to get out of a chair took several minutes to get my nerve up to prepare for the pain. On Monday night after work, I pulled in the driveway, and grabbed my work backpack out of the back seat. The momentum of the heavy backpack started me walking down the driveway. My legs hurt so much, I couldn't stop! I was this nicely dressed Frankenstein heading towards the street! I was much better by Wednesday, and totally pain free by Thursday. I did a 5 miler on Friday and felt fine.

Here's some interesting stats about this run/hike:

Water: I drank 3.125 gallons of water.
Food: I ate 1800 calories, mostly of ClifShots.
Electrolytes: 25 Succeed Caps, which works out to be 8,525 milligrams of sodium. The maximum per day for most people is 2500 mg.
Calories Burned: 3800, according to my Garmin 305. Don't know how accurate that is.
Running/Hiking Time: 5 hours, 38 minutes.
Overall Time: Approx 7 hours, 30 minutes. That accounts for all the time at Phantom Ranch, taking photos, waiting for others to regroup...
Average Pace: 21 minutes 57 seconds per mile.
Max Pace: 6 minutes, 31 seconds per mile.

Would I do it again?? You bet!

Mark