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R2R FKT: BF

October 16, 2015

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Some acronym definition to begin:

R2R= Rim to Rim, or traveling on foot from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other, usually along the “main corridor” trails of South Kaibab or Bright Angel on the South Rim, and North Kaibab Trail on the North Rim.

FKT= Fastest Known Time . . . Here’s a succinct explanation from an article on the Trail Runner Magazine web site: “A fastest known time is the fastest reported time for an effort on a specific trail or route. This roughly corresponds to a race’s course record, except that FKTs are usually solo or near-solo efforts.”

BF=Bare Foot . . . my preferred method of trail travel.

I was able to put all these ideas together last weekend (Oct. 10 to be exact), and with the cooperation of some glorious fall weather (thanks be to God!), complete a shoe-less, 21-mile Canyon crossing in 12 hours and 20 minutes . . . not even close to the 2 hours, 51 minutes, and 28 seconds by the legendary Rob Krar in May 2012. BUT (and it’s a big one). . .  I like to think I’ve accomplished something that even Rob K and his beard could not pull off: crossing the canyon in one day, shoe-less-ly. (I did a barefoot crossing in two days back in October 2012.)

It’s an odd distinction, to be sure, but all my googling related to “barefoot Rim to Rim” turns up nothing on the subject (except for the above-noted blog post by yours truly).

So I’m gonna go with me being the “grandmother” of this new game.

My route was chosen ahead of time by the group I was assisting (the National Park Service requires first-aid-trained helpers AND and a permit for organized group crossings these days): the 7-mile South Kaibab Trail down.

While the SK is  a bit too steep for my tastes–I would have preferred the longer Bright Angel Trail–it does come with spectacular views out and over and across the ever-changing canyon.

On the other side there is but one “main corridor trail”: the 14-mile North Kaibab Trail. This kind of South Rim to North Rim crossing is considered a little more challenging than the reverse, since the North Rim rises about 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim. More stats: the Colorado River is about 5850 feet lower than the North Rim, and 4860 feet below the South Rim (about 10, 710 feet total elevation change).

I was privileged to travel with such a wonderful group of hikers  . . .  and all of them were so well-prepared for the 21 miles of muscle-straining down and up that I did not have to bust out any WooFeR skills (one more acronym: WFR, or Wilderness First Responder, a certification I earned last year). The fastest of the lot were hours and hours ahead of me, but my job was to serve as “sweep,” and make sure no one got left behind . . . a pace well-suited to barefoot wandering.

After a leisurely Sunday sightseeing drive from the North Rim back to the South Rim (I visited the historic Lee’s Ferry for the first time, among other diversions), I immediately went to the Backcountry Office to get on the waiting list for a permit to stay at Bright Angel Campground. Yep, back down in the depths. That’s how good I felt the next day.

And when I returned to the Backcountry Office the next morning at 8am, I was #4 on the wait list, and able to score a camp site for the next night. Woo hoo!

So . . . Monday I hung out at the South Rim, wandering and writing (hey . . . that’s the title of this blog!), and then at the end of the day stuffed some food and sleeping gear in my backpack so I could get an early start on Tuesday.

Not too early, though. I had also thought it would be nice to have a hot meal down at the Phantom Ranch Cantina, so there was another waiting list to sign up for, and another nerve-wracking wait from 6:30-7 am Tuesday morning in the lobby of the South Rim’s Bright Angel Lodge while the very nice people working the concessions desk figured out if there was going to be a seat for me at dinner. There was! (So that was less food to have to bring, a sort of trade-off for the moderately high price of food that is all carted down via mules; all trash leaves mule-back as well.)

Tip for travelers: if your plans are flexible, you can sometimes get last-minute arrangements for Phantom Ranch accommodations. (This also worked for my previous R2R in 2012.) Otherwise, most folks make plans 13 months out, which is the earliest time frame the reservation system allows.

Enough logistics dithering: on to the adventure, via photos.

We started in the October dark at 5 am at the South Kaibab trailhead.

We started in the October dark at 5 am at the South Kaibab trailhead.

The sunrise was a spectacular distraction!

The sunrise was a spectacular distraction!

I always enjoy playing with the early rays of the sun.

I always enjoy playing with the early rays of the sun via shadow images.

One of my favorite shots from the trip came early on . . .

One of my favorite shots from the trip came early on . . .

Look closely: there's my dinner fixin's headed down canyon via mule train.

Look closely: there’s my dinner fixin’s headed down canyon via mule train.

This view appears about 5-6 miles down the 7-mile trail; the Colorado River looks oh-so-close . . . but it's NOT. And . . . at this point my left knee was beginning its old old twinge, and I was a bit worried it was going to be a very bad hike.

This view appears about 5-6 miles down the 7-mile trail; the Colorado River looks oh-so-close . . . but it’s NOT. And . . . at this point my left knee was beginning its old old twinge, which made me a bit worried that it was going to be a very bad hike.

My hiking buddy Neal

My hiking buddy Neil “heads for the light” in the South Kaibab tunnel, which opens out onto the black bridge across the mighty, muddy Colorado. Without Neil’s inspiring company–and songs!–it would not have been nearly as much fun. Thanks, my new friend!

I love it when clouds make an

I love it when clouds make an “X marks the spot” in the sky . . . this time perfectly placed above Bright Angel Camp and Phantom Ranch.

Such a lovely green-and-light-filled place! (But not nearly half-way yet . . . )

Along Bright Angel Creek: such a lovely green-and-light-filled place! (But not nearly half-way yet . . . )

This cheerful mule packer in lavender chaps agreed to pose as we hiked by . . . his good spirits just the

This cheerful mule packer in lavender chaps agreed to pose as we hiked by . . . his good spirits just the “pick-me-up” I needed. It’s hard to be grumpy in the Grand Canyon, and the smiles from fellow travelers help lighten the miles.

One of the lovely benefits of shoeless hiking is the chance to enjoy water crossings!

One of the lovely benefits of shoeless hiking is the chance to enjoy water crossings!

And mud! Lovely mud!

And mud! Delightful mud!

More than half-way, but still so far to go: here's where my spirits began to flag, but hikers do what hikers have to do: keep stepping.

More than half-way, but still so far to go: here’s where my spirits began to flag, but hikers do what hikers have to do: keep stepping.

Finally! 12 hours and 20 minutes later, the 21 miles were behind me, and it was time to celebrate.

Finally! 12 hours and 20 minutes later, the 21 miles were behind me, and it was time to celebrate at the North Kaibab trailhead.

This is what my foot looked like after the hike: not a single cut, scratch, or bruise, even though one of my hiking companions had an app that said we'd taken over 65,000 steps. (Over lots of rocks!)

This is what my foot looked like after the hike: not a single cut, scratch, or bruise, even though one of my hiking companions had an app that said we’d taken over 65,000 steps. (Over lots of rocks!)

I am a big fan of eating

I am a big fan of eating “real food” and drinking “plain water” while hiking (as opposed to manufactured gels and liquids). Here’s some of the wrappers from the food that fueled my trek: Trader Joes Bacon Jerky (yum!), “omega” nut/fruit mix, and freeze-dried tropical fruit (which I dipped into Justin’s peanut butter . . . conveniently packaged in individual servings). This stuff, plus a few almonds and dates, gave me lots of energy to not only cross the canyon, but feel good the next day.

It's a story for another blog post, but here I am two days after the Rim to Rim crossing, headed back down--with backpack--to spend the night at the Bright Angel Campground. It was such a blessing to recover from the Rim to Rim so quickly . . . at age 56!

It’s a story for another blog post, but here I am two days after the Rim to Rim crossing, headed back down–with backpack–to spend the night at the Bright Angel Campground. It was such a blessing to recover from the Rim to Rim so quickly . . . at age 56!

Speaking of getting old . . . this photo turned out to be my favorite from the whole week's adventures. After all of my 40 miles of hiking was over, I drove to Lake Havasu City to pick up my husband, who had been staying with a friend. Friend = boat = quick ride up-lake to where the Colorado River flows into Lake Havasu = a chance to jump in my favorite river and refresh my muscles with some chilly water swimming. A fabulous end to a fantastic week . . . thanks be to God for the ability to move through this beautiful world!

Speaking of getting old . . . this photo turned out to be my favorite from the whole week’s adventures. After all of my 40 miles of Grand Canyon hiking was over, I drove to Lake Havasu City to pick up my husband, who had been staying with a friend. Friend = boat = quick ride up-lake to where the Colorado River flows into Lake Havasu = a chance to jump in my favorite river and refresh my muscles with some chilly swimming . . . a fabulous end to a fantastic week . . .again,  thanks be to God–and my physical therapy team back home–for the ability to move easily through this beautiful world!

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. Paula Peeters permalink
    October 21, 2015 3:21 am

    Well done Thea! You must be very fit. An inspiration 😊

    • October 21, 2015 6:44 am

      Thanks, Paula. I do enjoy my walking (and running, when these old bones allow it). My love for movement keeps me learning how best to go about it as I age (and ongoing osteoporosis makes me even more eager to not sit and rot at my computer . . . which is what I’m doing now 🙂

      Your beautiful work inspires me . . . sort of a mutual inspiration society 🙂 Happy trails!

  2. October 21, 2015 2:49 am

    Wonderful! I love your stuff. Thanks for sharing!

  3. October 17, 2015 5:45 pm

    Wow! “Not a single cut, scratch, or bruise, even though one of my hiking companions had an app that said we’d taken over 65,000 steps.” This is just so amazing to me although when I think about it I spent so much of my childhood running barefoot and I really can’t remember getting many injuries! There is something in this! Being barefoot must make us more in tune with our senses of feel and sight. Wearing shoes is just another way that we put a wall between us and the environment. I am in awe of what you are doing and I suppose part of that is because society been conditioned to wear shoes and fear our environment in the modern, western world? As a child I didn’t give a fig but as I got older, the “must wear shoes’ conditioning had worked. I know though that when I am on rocky, slippery climbs I often think, “Wouldn’t I have more feel/grip without shoes?” Love your stuff. Thanks for sharing it! 🙂

    • October 17, 2015 7:58 pm

      “Being barefoot must make us more in tune with our senses of feel and sight. Wearing shoes is just another way that we put a wall between us and the environment.” Well said, Jane! Thanks for your note . . . I have had more than one person pass me on a trail and mention good memories about being barefoot all the time as a child. It might be time to reclaim that freedom (and fun!). Happy trails!

  4. October 16, 2015 7:47 pm

    Amazing! Glad it went well.

  5. Gina Barnes permalink
    October 16, 2015 5:49 pm

    HERO! (not an acronym) I wanna be like you when I grow up. 🙂

    Gina Barnes Web Marketing The JESUS Film Project (949) 425-7546

    • October 16, 2015 7:34 pm

      What is this “grow up” you speak of? 🙂

      My goal (it came to me whilst barefoot hiking) is to inspire folks to consider how capable our amazing feet are . . .

Trackbacks

  1. Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim: FKT vs SKT | Barefoot Wandering and Writing
  2. Barefoot and Bitter: How Osteoporosis Just Took Trail Running Away From Me | Barefoot Wandering and Writing
  3. New video of the barefoot Grand Canyon crossing (R2R) | Barefoot Wandering and Writing
  4. R2R FKT BF: The Sequel | Barefoot Wandering and Writing

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