For quite some time now, I have been wanting to run the R2R2R. In order to complete a R2R2R you must start at the rim, run down to the Colorado River, then run up the opposite rim, turn around and head back to where you started. There are two trail heads to choose from , The Kaibab Trail, or the longer Bright Angel Trail. Both Start on the South Rim and join together after crossing the Colorado River and continue as the Kaibab Trail to the North Rim. It is roughly 47 miles, and 12,000 ft of elevation gain and loss. The trail is rocky, steep and can be very hot. A popular Endeavor for those who dare to try it.
My 1st plan was to begin my run at the 1st crack of sun light, but realising it was a full moon, and the fact that other people were beginning to descend down the canyon, I decided to get a early start. I filled my pack with food, and misc. gear, and just had the feeling I was forgetting something, but after a once over twice, I turned on the flashlight, and began a very rocky and steep descend to the canyon floor. It was hard to run, and when you did get a quick pace going it was hard to keep it soft and non punishing. I took a look behind me, and was surprised to see so many lights coming down the mountain. It was also then that I passed two girls from Phoenix, whom were had the same mission.
Shortly after, I was passing a drinking faucet, not needing and also regretting the quart I was carrying, I tested it anyway, for my mental plan of my return trip back in the afternoon.
Indian Gardens Campground [4.5 miles] came and went as fast as it appeared. It seemed like such a exotic place, somewhat of an oasis in the desert landscape. Still not deeding a drink, I ran past another working faucet, here as well.
Soon after the Campground, I was able to turn off the flashlight. It was at this time that I realised what I had forgot, "my watch"... It was not a big deal anyways, and I was glad that it was only a watch I forgot.
The Trail began to descend more gradual, and running became more relaxing. I took a few early morning pictures, and just kept heading for the river. As I began to exit a narrow canyon, I could hear the roar of the river, it was a wonderful sound in a somewhat silent place.
Upon the first views of the river, the walls of the canyons began to glow with the early rising sun. I then ran along the river north for a couple of miles, stopping to take pictures every 1/2 mile or so. I also realised by the foot prints below that I was the 1st person down this morning.
Soon I came into vision of a long cable bridge, for in which I use to cross over to the North side of the river. A corral and rangers hut came into view, and I made my way over to check for water. Finding a faucet, I sat for a few minutes and ate a snack and filled my water bottle.
Not wanting to sit long, I began jogging along the Bright Angle Creek. The trail takes you along another campground and quite a few huts. I saw a doe and it was so tame I could have pet it.
Suddenly a runner came up from behind and passed me. I began pacing him for a while, but he turned off into one of the cabins and disappeared. I continued, and another runner passed me, and this really began to puzzle me. For my last view, I could not see anyone back on the trail for miles. Then it dawned on me, that these guys had came down the shorter Kaibab Trail.
The trail meandered in and out of a narrow canyon for a few miles, gaining altitude gently, then leveled out for a few more miles, up a long barren canyon. The Bright Angel Creek continued along, reassuring you that water was close at hand.
The views were beginning to be spectacular, due to the rising sun and the glow of its rays on the canyon walls.
As the trail gained altitude, the 1st views of the North Rim came into view. There were many places where water seemed to shoot out of the canyon walls, with no creeks or other water sources above them.
I saw a couple of hikers coming down, and I crossed my 1st creek that soaked my foot. The trail then turned away from the creek and began climbing up a steep cliff, where some stunning views were 360 degrees around you. The 1st sight of snow, was soon followed bu a couple of shallow snowbanks in the hidden north faces. In a few spots the trail was carved straight out of the cliff.
A tunnel seemed to be a great place to break from the sun, before making my final push to the North Rim. Here the two girls from this morning, passed on by, as well as a couple of runners, returning back down to the Kaibab Trail, for in which they started at.
After my short break I continued to the top. I was surprised to see about a dozen runners, and 2 or 3 feet of snow. The runners were all from Utah, and were part of a group. They had all left at 3am, from the Kaibab Trail. The snow was sheltered from the sun, under a canopy of tall pines.
It was 11:45, and I took another 15 minutes or so and had a small lunch and snapped a few pictures. I then began my long down hill jog, that was steep and abusing. I needed to catch up on snapping a few pictures for the arduous climb kept me focused on climbing, not collecting photos.
For the 1st few miles back down the canyon, the Trail was taxing. I ran with one of the guys from Utah, and we exchanged short stories to make the miles go by easier. We passed the girls again, and I assured them that they would surely catch me soon. The Trail looked and felt like a long roller coaster winding its way back down to the creek.
We met up with some other runners at a drinking fountain near the most upper ranger station. I did not stop for long and continued onward to the more gradual trail, along Bright Angel Creek.
Along Bright Angel Creek, it began to get HOT! Real HOT! With two full water bottles, I pushed on. I found a pace that was satisfactory, and continuous. Stopping was not an option. With no shade, and the creek close, but out of the way, it was just better to push until the next drinking fountain in the shade.
My plan was doing great, until a nice shaded trail side canopy of brush suddenly appeared.
I took advantage of the spot and rested on a rock with my feet elevated on another rock for quite a few minutes. During this time 4 or 5 runners leaped frogged me once again. I thought it was best I pushed on to the fountains and used the guys as pacers. That seemed to work out great. They seemed to get me to the water without anymore delays.
Not wasting anymore time here, and actually looking forward to a slower uphill pace, I headed back to the river. Passing the Kaibab trail turnoff, I was along at last for my final push. I was soon back on the bridge and welcoming the coolness of shade and the Colorado River.
It was a pleasant run along the river back to the Bright Angel Trail. I took in my last view of the river and began the slow methodical climb back up to Indian Gardens Campground, and my goal, the drinking fountain. I had let myself get a bit behind on Hydration on the last section and was beginning to feel it during my climb. I was not worried though, cause I knew it was not far from here.
The trail made its way into a wet box canyon, and I was suddenly in an orchestra of singing frogs. It was captivating, and I just silently walked by for a couple of miles enjoying the peaceful sounds.
I then made my way back to the Gardens, where I met some hikers who were regretting there position, and were contemplating there first steps back to the rim. Not knowing where I had came from, they wished me luck on my journey.
The views of the North Rim across the canyon were remarkable this late in the evening. I just kept pushing and stopping so often to take photos and observe the grandeur of my views. It was almost overwhelming.
Not wanting to get caught in the dark I continued without much hesitation the last 3 miles. The Trail made its way up a steep cliff and prehistoric landslides. Every so often, the cheer of onlookers could be heard atop the rim, cheering for the successful hikers and runners. Nearing the top, the trail went through a couple tunnels and under a full moon I was took my last steps.
Now rested, and reflecting back, I can not wait to do it again. I got more than I pursued from this run. In many ways it seemed pure to the sport of Trail running and down to its raw roots. Just being out there with bare minimal, not being pushed by a clock, and taking on the Endeavor with your own terms was an experience that I find hard to express in words. It was rugged and beautiful, from beginning to end, as well as remote and wild. I saw deer, eagles, rattlesnakes, a pack rat with a face full of debris, squirrels, and Elk on both rims.