Grand Canyon Pictorial

Last looks below the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

Last looks below the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

December 13th, 2020

If you’re just tuning in, this is my final post about the Grand Canyon. Over the past week I’ve been sharing photos, section by section, of a one-day Rim-to-River-to-Rim trip I completed in October.

On that day, we drove to the South Rim, parked the car at the Bright Angel trailhead, rode our bikes to the South Kaibab trailhead and locked them to a tree; hiked down to the river, along the river and back up the Bright Angel Trail to the South Rim; hopped in the car, picked up the bikes and drove back to our accommodations at Under Canvas.

On the map below, our approximate loop by bike (blue) and foot (red) started at lower left and went counterclockwise:

Grand Canyon loop by bike and by foot

Grand Canyon loop by bike and by foot

In yesterday’s post, we climbed from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to about two miles below the South Rim. The north view of the canyon shown above is the last photograph I captured at around 6:00 p.m. before the light went flat, I put the phone and camera away, and focused only on getting back up to the South Rim, one step at a time.

For the big finale today, my Grand Canyon Pictorial in large-format is posted on my website (best on a desktop or laptop). You can view the hike from start to (almost) finish in one long thread of photos:

Grand Canyon Pictorial

If you’d like to read the full story about hiking Rim-to-River-to-Rim, you can find it here on the blog:

Rim-to-River-to-Rim

And if you want to re-read my thoughts on hiking this last leg of the Bright Angel Trail, where I took this photograph, I’ve included the text below.

That’s a wrap! It’s been a blast reliving this journey-of-a-lifetime with you over the past week. Tomorrow, we’ll fly the magic carpet to someplace festive to begin a little holiday celebration. Happy Chanukah to those who are celebrating! And may the Christmas countdown begin!

More tomorrow,
Kelly

Post of the Day: Adding a bit of light to the darkness as we get through the pandemic together. This series features travel photos from my archives, shared with you while staying close to home.

***

The long slow climb continues. Getting into a rhythm is essential. Rather than pushing and stopping, I go even slower and try not to stop at all. The setting sun lights up the canyon’s north side in a glow, inspiring me to keep going. For the 210,000+ Americans who tragically are no longer here and can’t experience this, I keep going. Looking at how high above me the canyon rim is still, I just keep going, one step at a time, focusing on the simple fortune of being here.

Finally, at 6:21 p.m., we arrive at the 1.5 mile stop below the south rim. It’s nearly dark so we don our headlamps, eat our last snacks and resume our pace. Looking up, I see the lights of hikers ahead of us, still switchbacking up the side of the canyon, but eventually I get far enough up to trace the string of lights and find the last long switchback from right to left. Now in darkness, I know where the last climb is and I hear the hoots and hollers of people being cheered on as they reach the rim.

I plod on in the dark, seeing only the small cone of light from my headlamp and the trail within it in front of me. I have no idea what the terrain around me looks like but I do know at this point I’m on a cliff face so I hug the canyon wall, being careful not to step near the open edge of the trail.

J is ahead of me, being pulled by the reward of the end. But on the last steps of the last climb, I catch up with him as he stops to put on a warm shirt. We take our last steps to the top together. At 7:28 p.m., we summit at Bright Angel Lodge and celebrate the day, the achievement, the dream. It was a spectacular, brutal, epic, endless hike of a lifetime. I will never do it again.

And I’ve never been happier to see the car. After picking up the bikes, we drive to our camp, hobble into bed and can’t wait to do nothing tomorrow as we savor all the sweat, beauty and grandeur of today.

13 hours
20 miles
1 bike ride to the South Kaibab Trail
4,780 ft descent from rim to river
1 dip in the Colorado River
2 bridge crossings to Bright Angel Trail
4,380 ft vertical climb from river to rim
6:37 a.m. start
7:28 p.m. finish in the dark, by headlamp
1 big birthday
1 grand, spectacular Grand Canyon
1 epic hike of a lifetime

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