November 9, 2009

The Granddaddy- Part 1

"...a descent into the Canyon is essential for a proper estimate of its details, and one can never realize the enormity of certain valleys, till he has crawled like a maimed insect at their base and looked thence upward to the narrowed sky."
                                                                    -John Stoddard

7 days
113 miles
Epic Adventure into the Grand Canyon

Why did I choose the Grand Canyon for a vacation? Why not somewhere far away such as Europe or Mexico or anywhere outside the state you reside in? I feel that the Grand Canyon is so spectacular, so breathtaking that to not explore and deeply experience it while I live within 3 hours drive of it would be criminal. I think it is awesome that people from all over the world take their vacations to visit my backyard. I feel fortunate to live within three hours of such wonders. I must take advantage of living so close and experience everything I can while I can.

I submitted a permit request to hike the Grand Canyon way back in July. At the time, I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to do this hike because four months out is a long time to plan for on my time scale. What if I something comes up or I get sick or have a change of heart? Fortunately, the stars aligned and the trip came at a time when I wanted a break from work and craved some much needed excitement. So off I went. I got all the adventure and excitement I desired along with inspiration and refreshment.

ROUTE- Grand Canyon Eastern LOOP

South Kaibab
-6 miles
-Tons of People
-No water
-Very open, good views of canyon
-Fast descent

North Kaibab
-15 miles
-Tons of people
-Prevalent water fill ups
-Tighter, more intimate canyon than South Kaibab
-Enjoyable hike but difficult towards the top

Ken Patrick
-10 miles
-Zero people
-No Water
-Mostly flat, easy walking through burnt forest
-Sweet rim walking from Cape Royal Road to Point Imperial

Point Imperial
-2.4 miles
-Zero people
-No Water
-Essentially an extension of Ken Patrick to FR610

-14 miles
-I saw one guy, Eric (I think), at the bottom hiking back out
-No water until Nankoweap Creek 12 miles down
-Absolutely stunning views on the way down
-Walking along cliffs edge was awesome and quickly overcame fear of heights
- I don’t know how they put a trail through here, I found myself stopping and saying, “There’s no way the trail goes this way, I must be off course.” I wasn’t off course.
-Most enjoyable trail I have done in the Canyon

Colorado River (Nankoweap to LCR)
-Difficult bushwhack along river
-10 miles
-Zero people
-Water in Colorado River (for drinking)
-This section beat me up badly…Difficult hiking/scrambling, cuts on legs and arms, and took longer than expected

-9 miles
-Zero people
-Water in Colorado River to drink
-Relatively flat, not much vertical
-Awesome trail 400 feet above the river on cliffs edge
-2nd most enjoyable trail to Nankoweap

-12 miles
-Zero people
-Water in Colorado
-Route descriptions on net scared me, but trail was easy to follow…Kinda
-I passed a turn off and ended up adding on 3 or 4 miles
-Very fun trail, especially 75 mile slot canyon

-30 miles
-3 or 4 small groups, including a backcountry ranger
-Sparse water in springs and creeks (Grapevine, Cottonwood, New Hance)
-Relatively Flat, Easy, 1000 feet above river on Tonto platform
-Sweeping views of canyon, Windy trail
-I was ready to be done about 10 miles in on this trail

South Kaibab
-Cake Walk
-5 miles
-Trail felt like a Phoenix International Speedway
-So wide and smooth compared what I was on the past 5 days.
-Even though it was uphill, it felt easy
-Home Sweet HOME

Total Mileage ~113 miles

Equipment and Food

I decided not to buy any new equipment for this trip. I wanted to see what I needed and what I didn’t need to make it on a 7- day backpacking trip. I found that you really don’t need much to be comfortable. Next time I would pack even lighter and invest in lighter gear. I believe that the less weight you carry and the fewer things you bring, the more enjoyable the trip becomes. However, I don’t like the idea of obsessing and glorifying the gear instead of the adventure, natural beauty, and true solitude.

Weight: I never did weigh my gear before heading out but I did at the end of the trip. My finished pack weight (as I stepped off the trail) was about 18 pounds with water and what little food I had remaining. At full capacity with food, water, and fuel I bet I topped out at about 40 pounds at the start.

Weight of Pack as I stepped off the Trail (~18 pounds)

To wear: I brought the following: trail running shoes, thin synthetic socks, thick wool socks, running shorts, half tights, Sporthill running pants (best pants I’ve worn for running/athletics), Sythetic tee shirt, cotton t-shirt, underarmour tight lonsleeve, and a running long sleeve, oh and a trash bag in case it rained. At night I wore all clothing I brought to keep warm. Adequate amount of clothing but could have used a shell for wind protection.

To cook: I used a homemade alcohol stove (a fancy feast cat food can with notches cut into it), aluminum foil wind screen, and a 2 cup stainless steel pot.  The stove burns denatured alcohol at a rate of less than 1 oz per day (to boil 2 cups of water).

To sleep: I used my old mummy 20-deg sleeping bag, Thermarest Prolite 4 regular, and a 5x7 space blanket. It was just enough to keep me warm. I counted on not having rain but I had the space blanket and some string in case I had to rig something up

To eat: Breakfast was typically just snacks/energy bars. Lunch was normally peanut butter and tortillas and some energy bars/snacks. Dinner consisted of either soup, couscous, or instant Idaho potatoes. The couscous wasn’t very appetizing on the trail. It is simply too bland. I should learn some better recipes because the food got dull and unappetizing. Luckily, I ran into a rafting party on Day 4 whom fed me three fresh meals.

Some of the food I brought before I consolidated and re-packaged it

Illegal Gear: Ok… I brought an mp3 player w/ voice recorder along with me. I know hardcore backpacking enthusiasts would detest having an mp3 player in the wild, but it turned out to be a saving grace. I used the mp3 player to record messages while hiking or during blustery nights when it was too cold to write. Also, while waiting for 45 hours for a boat to take me across the river I listened to audio sermons and books. Additionally, darkness came at around 6pm so when reading got old; I turned on the mp3 player. I know this is “cheating” but I hardly felt like it ruined the wilderness experience.

NEXT POST will show the hike pictures and videos.


  1. Bring along a block are cheddar cheese, throw a couple cubes into the water as you're boiling it. Result - cheesy couscous or cheesy mashed potatoes, which makes either much more enjoyable. The cheese, espcially sharp cheddar, keeps suprisingly well. A thru hiker on the AT told me he kept blocks up cheese for up to 2 weeks on the trail.

  2. I think that is a great idea. I will definately try it out next time. Couscous is just too bland. The first time I met a guy with a block of cheese, I was astonished that cheese (a dairy product) could last that long without being refrigerated.

  3. awesome Zach! time to sign up for backpacker magazine!

    matt and amy :)