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Barefoot Hiking at Grand Canyon . . . Eventually . . .

May 26, 2012

Lured by the opportunity to view the annular solar eclipse from the Grand Canyon, I got a backcountry permit for Point Sublime on the North Rim and set off with hubby Steve for a bike-packing adventure up and down the 18-mile rough and rocky two-track road.

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Pushing up another hill on the road to Point Sublime.

Five+ hours later, we rolled into one of the planet’s pleasingest places. “Wow” and “Woo-hoo” barely do it justice.

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Point Sublime, North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, United States of America, North America, Earth.

It was a tough place to be barefoot, though: the ground was covered with almost-invisible mini-goathead sticker-thorns. So I had to keep my old old old Merrell sandals on most of the time . . . the only bummer about the place. (Speaking of my old sandals: they worked great for mountain biking.)

After enjoying the eclipse and the company of the other three adventurers who’d chosen Point Sublime as their viewing platform for this rare cosmic event, it was time for our next exploit : an overnight backpacking saunter seven miles into the Grand Canyon down the North Kaibab Trail to Cottonwood Campground.

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Backpacking shadow puppets and fossil walls on the North Kaibab Trail.

Since we were on vacation, a leisurely morning that included a big ol’ campstove breakfast meant we didn’t hit the N. Kaibab Trail until 10 am. And . . . since the end-of-May weather was warmer than usual, this meant the ground was too sun-baked and toasty to hike without shoes in the middle of the day. Bummer #2.

But this gave me a chance to try out my new Merrell Pipidae’s for something more than wearing to work. (They’re OK but not great for sitting at a desk and/or standing in front of a classroom: comfortable, yes, but sweat-inducing indoors)

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Merrell Pipidae sandals, backpacking down the North Kaibab Trail.

At least in the Pipidae’s my toenails didn’t turn black from bumping up against the end of an enclosed shoe. A little chafing happened where the middle strap passed over the top of my foot, so I tried putting thin socks on, which helped a little, but I was really glad to get to Cottonwood, remove my sandals,  and dip my toes, feet, and entire body in Bright Angel Creek.

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Bright Angel Creek at Cottonwood Camp, North Kaibab Trail.

After the wind gusts died down, the moonless night got peaceful and freckled with stars stars stars (and the star-like tiny glow of the North Rim Lodge high above on the canyon rim).

Morning: time to pack in the dark at 4:30 am and head back up the trail.

No bummers today . . . we hiked in cliff-shadow almost the whole seven miles back to the Rim, so I could remain shoeless and bliss-filled all the way up up up (~3500 feet in elevation gain during those seven miles) to the trailhead.

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The bridge below Roaring Springs, courtesy of a convenient rock-ledge tripod.

It took us just over five hours to hike down, and the same amount of time to hike back out. Do we go slow? Do I stop all the time to take photos? Do people love to comment on my (lack of) footwear?

Is the Grand Canyon grand?

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The traditional “I-was-here-and-this-trailhead-sign-photo-proves-it” shot, with a barefoot twist.

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After seven miles of barefoot backpacking, my feet feel fine!

And now I’m back home in Orange, CA, already plotting a barefoot Rim-to-Rim hike later this year . . . Lord willing and the creek don’t rise . . .

One last favorite North Rim photo–from the eclipse event at Point Sublime. My little pocket camera did not do too well taking eclipse photos, so I looked for other oddities to “image”-ine.

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