13th and 14th June, 2017
I had mixed feelings about visiting the Grand Canyon as, while I wanted to see it, I wasn’t sure I could face the crowds that it is also very famous for. So, I did a little research and realised that the North Rim is much less frequented, with almost a tenth of the visitors that the South Rim attracts. One of the reasons for this, is that it is much further to reach from a number of major cities, but as it happened was quite conveniently located from where I was in Utah.
So, finally leaving Utah and crossing over into Arizona, I arrived mid afternoon and spent some time getting myself orientated. I had originally wanted to hike into the canyon and camp down there overnight but, as permits to do so have to be booked in advance, I realised I had missed this chance and would have to do it as a day hike, setting off as early as possible.
As the only camp site in the Park itself was full, I sought some advice from a ranger about where it was possible to wild camp. He pointed me in the direction of the National Forest area just outside the Park, and on the East Rim of the Canyon. So there it was I headed and was rewarded with an impressive view of the Canyon from a little frequented spot.
I then found a lovely clearing in the forest to bed down for the night and, due to my early start, decided not to put up my tent but to sleep out under the stars, with the plan of moving into the car as a back up if needed.
After a light dinner of peanut butter sandwiches, I settled down for the night and watched the stars illuminate as the light faded. As darkness fell, the advantage of being away from artificial light was revealed as the sky turned into what felt like a personal light show, filled with shooting stars and satellites, and creating a feeling of comfortable insignificance in the universe as I fell asleep.
I awoke in the bag of my car, having sought refuge from the strong wind during the night, at 4.30am to the sound of my alarm. I promptly switched this off and fell asleep again! Despite this I manage to get myself ready to go and on the trail by 6.30am. My plan was to hike down into the Canyon along the North Kaibab trail, making it as far as the Cottonwood Camp, which is 1244 metres (4080 feet) of descent/ascent over approximately 14 miles (22km). While it was freezing when I set off in the morning, as the sun rose temperatures in the Canyon reached the mid 30s (90-100 Fahrenheit); it is for this reason that it is not recommended to do the hike in one day. However, assessing my progress as I went, I decided I could make it as far as the camp and back, and was rewarded with spectacular scenery and, once again, very few people after the first viewpoint about a mile into the trail.
After a long and hot trek, I decided to finish off my visit to the Grand Canyon with a different perspective and a more serene drive to some of the views over the North Rim.