Day 45: Coconino Rim to Tusayan
My feet were beginning to complain again, particularly the left, which has had trouble adjusting to life on the trail. It’s about a half size smaller than my right foot, the latter of which is doing quite well. Lefty however, has been getting too cooped up lately in two socks, which worked great to distribute the comfort more evenly, but now requires more frequent breaks to air out so it doesn’t remain so saturated. Unfortunately, breaks on this stretch haven’t been coming easily since water is so scarce. I’m often trying to keep a good pace so I can minimize the amount of water I need to carry. This is compounded by me wondering if (realizing that) my camera gear just might be too much weight for a thru-hiker. I have no idea what I’d get rid of, but the extra eight pounds or more is definitely starting to have an effect. Granted, I could just rest more, but then we’re back to square one with the lack of water on this stretch.
Regardless, I needed to produce another 24 mile day and my feet were not looking forward to it. On the plus side though, once in Tusayan, it’d be a short day to the Grand Canyon where I’m planning on a nero day, then another relatively short day down the South Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch where I can hopefully get a permit. So there is rest in their future. And while I don’t like the idea of getting a place to stay in Tusayan, I discovered last night that my mattress pad had a rather substantial hole that deflated the pad in about 20 minutes. I spent about an hour trying to patch it last night, but the adhesive apparently needs some time to properly congeal, and with rain in the forecast, I want to make sure it’s ready to go in a dry environment.
So, long story short, this last section beat me up, but I’m getting a rest. First step, crank out a solid day of hiking to reach Tusayan.
Thanks to sleeping on the ground, I was up a little earlier than usual, and aside from a bit of chilly weather, found it easy to get things going. Once packed up, I was on the trail by 6:30am. It was only a mile to the next water, which from the looks of it, also would be the only planned water stop for the day. In an attempt to minimize weight, I assumed that most of the trail would be relatively flat, so I could probably make a lot of easy miles. In checking with the app, it looked to be just that. If I could keep a steady and quick pace, two liters should be enough.
At about four miles in, I passed the campsite I was hoping for last night. I might have reached it at the last light of day last night, but I would have been in much more pain today. It was a really good site though, so I made a note of which mile it was on the trail in the hopes that I can swing back through on my way home and camp there once and for all.
I reached the Grand View Trailhead at eight miles in by 10am, and was feeling good about my pace. I stopped for a short break where I saw a woman wearing a Yellowstone Association fleece, so I began to chat with her. After learning that she was from the Yellowstone area, we chatted some more and she even gave me three oranges, one apple, and a cheese stick, all of which tasted amazing. (Nothing will make you appreciate fresh fruits and veggies more than thru-hiking.) Her three-year-old daughter returned with her father who lived in the area and we all got to talking about going up the fire tower lookout that was there at the trailhead. Her father had a number of old firefighting stories to tell since he was now retired from it. I managed to go check out the tower, but only got three flights up before turning back due to looking straight down through the metal grates too much. When I was ready to move on, I realized that I had spent an hour there and was eager to start making good time again.
Thanks to the fruit and some cached water I drank, I was making excellent time back on the trail. Passing through the quiet evergreens of the area, it was soon broken up by the sound of a helicopter. I looked around for it, and then noticed it was flying just above the trees up ahead. Another went along the same trajectory shortly after, then another. This was a good sign. I must be getting close to the Grand Canyon to be seeing all these scenic flights going by. The downside was there was now a fairly constant and loud air noise along the trail.
With limited water, I planned my breaks by mileage and was eager to stick to each one to take advantage of a rest. I was focused on just reaching town so I also kept the breaks short enough to not get too cozy, but long enough so that I felt like I still got some benefit from it.
I took my last break with only four miles to go to town, then made a strong push to make it there as quick as possible as clouds began to build up, giving me a bit of a break from the sunny warmth that had overtaken the afternoon.
As I walked up to the outskirts of town along the trail, I was surprised to see One Gallon also on the trail. I had thought he’d have been much farther ahead. We caught up for a bit and he pointed out a shortcut to get back into town that I never did find, so I went back on the trail and finished the next mile, mile and a half before heading back toward town. The first thing I saw once I was there was a pizza place, so pizza was for dinner.
I settled into the 7 Mile Lodge, which is the cheapest option in the tiny town, but still pricey. The lady I talked to though seemed to have a little sympathy for thru-hikers and while I don’t think they have an official thru-hiker discount, it still sounded like she knocked off a bit for me. Lying in a bed now, my pad is hopefully getting the time it needs to patch properly, and my feet, now much cleaner, are resting before we walk the five easy miles to the Mather Campground in the morning in Grand Canyon National Park.