It’s spring break, and I’ve got my forty hours of work in already, so I’m heading out for a day. Plans are to hike/run a loop in Grand Canyon on Saturday, March 17.
I’ve been looking at a lot of maps and reading trail reviews, trying to find a new loop route that I can do in a day. Grand Canyon has hundreds of miles of trails but the problem is that they’re not really connected in ways suitable for day hiking. There are the corridor trails—Bright Angel and South Kaibab—that are heavily traveled by mule trains and tourists. The Tonto trail follows a bench about midway down parallel to the river. This trail is around 70 miles long. I’ve already done the section that connects the corridor trails—and it’s a spectacular trail and a nice 15-mile easy day hike loop. I’ve done the 22-mile loop composed of South Kaibab trail, the river, and Bright Angel trail. I’ve hiked the South Kaibab and Bright Angel trails many times, and they are both spectacular trails. But today I’m going to do the next shortest loop, the Hermit/Tonto/Bright Angel loop.
This is a tough loop, worthy of a spreadsheet. I’ve calculated ounces, liters, protein, carbs, calories, feet, miles, temperature and daylight hours attempting to find a way to do it without packing a tent and overnighting. It’s fairly remote, and has mainly local runners and long distance backpackers. I think it’s doable in a day.
The shuttle leaves Bright Angel lodge at 5:00 in the morning. It’s a 45-minute ride out to the Hermit trailhead where I begin the hike. Hermit gets very few visitors because of its remote location. The first eight miles is rugged and steep downhill hiking with occasional washouts and rockslides to navigate. Hermit intersects with the Tonto trail near the river and here I’ll turn right and head along the bench overlooking the river for twelve miles. This trail is nearly flat and is good for running, which I plan to do in order to make the rim by the time the snowstorm hits (24” of snow forecasted). Tonto will take me to the Bright Angel trail, and Indian Garden will be my first water source (21 miles in). Then it’s just the five miles of infamous Bright Angel switchbacks between me and my car. That’s the plan. I figure 10 hours should be plenty of time, which puts me out by 4 or 5 at night. Then I need to hurry back before snow closes the pass through the mountains above Flagstaff.
I’m leaving with 3 liters of water plus a hand bottle of energy gel/electrolyte fluid, 10 packs of gel, 4 Clif bars, and a packet of carb drink mix for the stop at Indian Garden. 2570 calories, to be exact. The hike will “cost” around 5,000 calories. I’m packing an ultralight running jacket and an extra shirt for when I’m above 6,000’, and space blanket and blister kit. I’m taking a small headlamp, my phone and keys. Finally, all that’s left is to do it. Below is the route, going clockwise.
The exciting part is that I’ll be seeing a lot of new country and doing more mileage than previously. I think I can do it because I’m packing lighter and not pushing too hard. The weather will be at a perfect 40-70 degrees with some afternoon cloud cover. I’ve been carb loading and resting for the last several days, getting mentally psyched for the run. It’s 27 miles and it’s the Grand Canyon. Nothing is easy. All the factors taken together; I think it’s the perfect challenge, and the scenery will be breathtaking as always. I’ll post an update when I return.
…and I’m back. Faster than planned. Alive and kicking