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32 miles barefoot hiking/running below the Rim at the Grand Canyon . . . but I never made it across

June 27, 2014

I just returned from a wonderful two weeks at the Grand Canyon . . . the first ten days at the South Rim for an intensive Wilderness First Responder certification course (80 hours of combined classroom and practice) and the final days at the North Rim for some unwinding time–that class was tough!

Every day we had to learn how to deal with all kinds of back country medical emergencies . . . such as the spine injury portrayed here by fellow class member Greg, immobilized on a back board and ready to be placed in a litter for transport.

 

I am now officially a "Woofer" -- a Wilderness First Responder: WFR-er.

I am now officially a WFR (pronounced “Woofer”).

Sure all the classroom work and learning was fun--but--what "made" my week was being able to wake up early and hit the Bright Angel Trail for 3-6 miles of Canyon therapy.

Sure all the classroom work and learning was fun–but–what “made” my week was being able to wake up early and hit the Bright Angel Trail for 3-6 miles of Canyon therapy.

Oh-dark-thirty at the Bright Angel Trailhead. There's the faintest of light on the horizon . . . it's not quite 5 am.

Oh-dark-thirty at the Bright Angel Trailhead. There’s the faintest of light on the horizon . . . it’s not quite 5 am.

The sixth day we had a break in classroom time . . . so I headed down the Bright Angel trail to Indian Gardens, about five miles each way.

The sixth day we had a break in classroom time . . . so I headed down the Bright Angel trail to Indian Gardens, about 4.5 miles each way (along with a 3,000 feet change in elevation each way).

My dusty footprint on the Bright Angel Trail--the mule-hoof and foot traffic have pulverized the trail surface into a mostly smooth ride (except for the many log and rock steps). It's a nice surface to be barefoot on--just a bit steep at times.

My dusty footprint on the Bright Angel Trail–the mule-hoof and foot traffic have pulverized the trail surface into a mostly smooth ride (except for the many log and rock steps). It’s a nice surface to be barefoot on–just a bit steep at times.

In my two weeks of hiking and wandering, this was my "worst" injury . . . I stepped on a smooth rock, mid-trail, that was covered in a fine layer of slippery dust, causing me to slide down its face and catch one toe-nail. The bleeding stopped in less than a minute, and I continued on . . . paying a bit more attention to potentially slippery surfaces.

In my two weeks of hiking and wandering, this was my “worst” injury . . . I stepped on a smooth rock, mid-trail, that was covered in a fine layer of slippery dust, causing me to slide down its face and catch one toe-nail. The bleeding stopped in less than a minute, and I continued on . . . paying a bit more attention to potentially slippery surfaces.

Of course I had fun taking "foot selfies" along the Bright Angel Trail . . . a weird hobby, for sure :)

Of course I had fun taking “foot selfies” along the Bright Angel Trail . . . a weird hobby, for sure 🙂

Just a few more . . .

Just a few more . . .

Notice how the rocks are the same color as my skin . . . I am becoming lithic . . .

Notice how the rocks are the same color as my skin . . . I am becoming lithic . . .

After the class ended, I headed to the North Rim for some time away from the crowds. This is how I spent my 55th birthday: running and hiking barefoot 5.5 miles down the North Kaibab Trail to the Pump House (near Roaring Springs).

After the class ended, I headed to the North Rim for some time away from the crowds. This is how I spent my 55th birthday: running and hiking barefoot 5.5 miles down the North Kaibab Trail to the Pump House (near Roaring Springs).

After three dry winters, there are fewer seeps along the trail; this one is still refreshingly wet.

After three dry winters, there are fewer seeps along the trail; this one is still refreshingly wet.

Lots of elevation change along the 5.5 mile trail from the North Kaibab trailhead to the Pumphouse: 3,641 feet, to be exact.

Lots of elevation change along the 5.5 mile trail from the North Kaibab trailhead to the Pumphouse: 3,641 feet, to be exact.

Soaking my feet in the chilly waters of Bright Angel Creek was fabulously refreshing, but I couldn't linger . . . it was only 8 am, but the temperature was hot and getting hotter.

Soaking my feet in the chilly waters of Bright Angel Creek was fabulously refreshing, but I couldn’t linger . . . it was only 8 am, but the temperature was hot and getting hotter.

There is nothing like hiking in the shadow of an umbrella to make the desert heat bearable. Mine is from GoLite: http://www.golite.com/Chrome-Dome-Trekking-Umbrella-P928.aspx

There is nothing like hiking in the shadow of an umbrella to make the desert heat bearable. Mine is from GoLite: http://www.golite.com/Chrome-Dome-Trekking-Umbrella-P928.aspx

My hubby met me about a mile from the trailhead; it was around 11 am, and the ground was toasty, so I jogged from shadow to shadow and waited for him to catch up. This is the only photo of the bunch I didn't take . . . and . . . note my umbrella is now strapped to my little pack. After reaching the Supai Tunnel, I knew I was going to "make it" without succumbing to heat stroke (a very real danger I had just learned about in my WFR class). This upper mile + of the North Kaibab consists of much-pulverized dust, thanks to the frequent mule trains. Gotta love the poof dust!

My hubby met me about a mile from the trailhead; it was around 11 am, and the ground was toasty, so I jogged from shadow to shadow and waited for him to catch up. This is the only photo of the bunch I didn’t take . . . and . . . note my umbrella is now strapped to my little pack. After reaching the Supai Tunnel, I knew I was going to “make it” without succumbing to heat stroke (a very real danger I had just learned about in my WFR class). This upper mile + of the North Kaibab consists of much-pulverized dust, thanks to the frequent mule trains. Gotta love the poof dust!

Until next time . . . I miss the Canyon already . . .

Until next time . . . I miss the Canyon already . . .

 

So my total mileage “below the rim” was 32 for the two weeks . . . I would have liked to gone Rim-to-Rim, but it’s just too hot at the bottom of the Canyon right now. So I enjoyed my time on the upper Bright Angel trail in the early morning hours before class, and then my birthday trek down the North Kaibab Trail (and all of it sans shoes, except for one hour on the North Kaibab, when I had a moment of indecision about my ability to hike up from Roaring Springs through the rocks and heat and put on a pair of sandals, which irritated my feet and my psyche and came off PDQ).

Happy Barefoot Birthday Trails to Me 🙂

 

 

 

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