Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Trip report
10/16-01/20/01 by "Curious George" Copsey
Synopsis: A reactions to a 3-night, 4-day, rim-to-rim hike starting from the North Rim, down the North Kaibab trail, and exiting to the South Rim via the Bright Angel Trail.

Enclosed find my trip report for our trip to the Grand Canyon. The month since we've returned has not diminished its impact; if anything, it's just beginning to sink in that I am NOT the same person who went there.

"When once you have tasted below the rim, you will forever walk the earth with your mind turned there... for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."

--- paraphrase of Leonardo DaVinci's comment on flight

What you'll find below is my trip report for our N. Rim> S. Rim Canyon trip, 10/16-20/01 I've followed a report pattern I really like of organizing the thoughts by general category.

If any one has questions, I'd be happy to answer them, as I realize that some of the statements are cryptic.


For experienced Canyoneers, this is "just" a rim to rim trip report. Other than the section on "Consciousness", it may not be of much interest to you.

I'd be especially interested in your response to my observation that in viewing the Canyon from the rim, there's a palpable feel that there "should" be something there to fill all that space.... that you can feel the emptiness/ space, as if it's tangible.. And that the absence is "heard" as silence, coming up from what isn't there.

The report will probably be of most use to ones who have never done the Canyon before; those who wonder if they can. or those who want to do a rim to rim.

Let me start by saying it was one of the finest, most meaningful things I've done in my life; the fact I did it with my best friend, my wife, makes it even more meaningful.

Reasons for doing:

This was the completion of a 31 year sentimental journey. At the age of 19, I'd gone into the Canyon from the N. Rim, totally unprepared, not having the foggiest idea of what the Canyon was about, what I was getting into. or of the impact it would have on me.

We hiked down to what was, at that time, Roaring Springs campground (now simply a picnic area), slept on the picnic tables that night and hiked out the next day. As I recall, it was brutally hot, to the point I probably was dangerously close to heat stroke on exiting.

I immediately feel deeply and madly in love with the power and beauty of the place and repeatedly, over the years, told my wife I'd go back. My intention on this trip was to return to the picnic tables at Roaring Springs.

The Challenge:

I was 50 years old; had never backpacked before; had NO backpacking equipment; and was in only fair shape/ conditioning. We had done a lot of car camping and quite a bit of aggressive day hiking on the North Shore of Lake Superior.


(Starting 1/1/01, we worked into this regimen)

3/week: manual treadmill at maximum incline for 30 minutes, with full (45 lb) pack on; weight lifting with Swiss ball for 45 minutes and Qigong for 30 minutes

1/week: hike 4 miles with full pack on

1/month: hike 6-8 miles with full pack on

3 backpacking trips Lake Maria: a beginner's backpacking park Jay Cooke: more aggressive Superior Hiking Trail (SHT): voted # 2 through trail for scenic beauty by Backpacker magazine

Took a day off from program every other month

Resources used:

Below the Rim:

Bright Angel Trail Hiking Map and Guide, from Earthwalk press: the one that went along with us into the Canyon, due to it's detail and information

The N. Kaibab and Bright Angel Trail Guides from the Grand Canyon Association. Useful info for reading in camp or on the trail.

Pocket Naturalist Field Guide to the Grand Canyon

At home:

Hiking Grand Canyon by John Annerino

Hiking the Grand Canyon: the Corridor Trails; video by Ken McNamara. I highly recommend this video for several reasons:

It gives an excellent idea of what you're getting into assists in planning it's wonderful for learning the geology of the Canyon (even though I didn't try) to actually see the spots in the Canyon we'd seen on the tape helped us locate where we were

Web sites:

(an Incredible site, one of the best of ANY kind on the Web: this kind of site is what the Web is for)

On the Trail

Favorite section of trail: Redwall on N. Kaibab

Favorite Spot: Immediately after coming out of the Supai Tunnel, the view down Roaring Springs Canyon. For sheer excitement, beauty... and the wonderful prospect of this spot being JUST THE start of our desert Canyon experience, meaning many more days in the Canyon, this spot can't be beat.

Intimidating Spot: The Box was intimidating: Alternated between being scared of it and enthralled by its beauty and variety

Most Poignant/ bittersweet spot: The last look behind at the Silver Bridge and Black Bridge from the River Trail, heading to Indian Garden

Fun activities, other than simply being in the Canyon: Rehydrate when get to camp after hike: Do cool down stretches and drink at least 1-2 qts water BEFORE set up camp. Friday afternoon, 3:00 pm at Indian Garden, sitting on bench by Pump House Station: Watching day hikers heading up and out of Canyon, 4.5 miles away- probably 4- 5 hours out for most people. Could all of them be well equipped with food, water and flashlights? I doubt it

The Park itself: Poor or no signs for hikers to assist getting around on Rim or, even, from the campground to Rim. Seems to be mainly geared for drivers.

Each day had its wonders

Day 1: N. Kaibab: pink leaves & sand, above the Coconino Coming through Supai tunnel The Redwall Ability to tell rock layers (totally unexpected)

"My God, it's full of stars..." from 2001 the AZ very, very black sky, see the stars from our tent at night

Seeing lights at Grand Canyon Lodge on N. Rim from our tent at Cottonwood. We found out the next day that they'd had a closing-down-the-facilities party for the staff at the N. Rim that lasted into the wee hours of the morning.

Day 2: Roaring Springs: moment of Victory was not the moment of overwhelming Success I'd thought it would be: was simply: yes, of course, this is part of creating my reality, managing my agreements and trusting the Process. Wonderful paradise spot.

Day 3: Ribbon Falls, the Box. .. Thought of while in the Box and it's heat. (I'd been looking for a domain name for my new Web site. it came to me in the Box-as in "outside the box thinking"... there IS no box.)

Day 4: River Trail, especially close to the bridges-last view of bridges-bittersweet/ poignant; Tapeats, Plateau Point; the entire Indian Garden basin area: Redwall surrounded

Day 5: quite a bit easier than expected until the last mile; pictographs; family of long horn sheep

We did it! No longer in front of me- behind me now.. It is done. No more wondering if we can do it. We did it and thrived.


Dryness: Cracked, dry lips: thought our lips would fall off. Bring the Carmex and use often. Temps: hotter than expected: 92 in shade; low 60's at night Very Clear blue skies. Not a drop of rain. Smoke from fire-wasn't a problem. Would smell a trace of just occasionally. The Sun is so bright and it sucks, not just the moisture out of you, but the life.


very minor Purple Toenail on right long toe: will probably lose Section from Roaring Springs turn off to 1st footbridge (by Bruce's house) is brutal downhill/ in sun. this is where I noticed my long toe on right foot taking a pounding Developed dry blisters on back of left heel: no fluid whatsoever; tore/ popped on own: no pain at all.. not even aware of them until taking my boots off Wore brace on each knee during all hikes Little bit of abrasion on top of left foot, at bony point


It's Not the silence that I noticed first, but the emptiness:

Palpable feel that there "should" be something there to fill all that space. you can feel the emptiness/ space. as if it's tangible.. And that absence is "heard" as silence, coming up from what isn't there.

The Grand Canyon is a different level of consciousness/ awareness, one that is extraordinarily elevated, extraordinarily demanding and extraordinarily rewarding. AND it's also a dry, parched desert

Awareness of walking in a narrow envelop of safety-and reveling in that envelop

Feeling at start of trail: We're in the Grand Canyon: Here's where we use all the training we've done, including mental attitude. Took my watch OFF.

The thought that it's 30 degrees hotter in the shade in the Summer than when we were there..... Yikes!

Constantly bathed/ suffused with the Canyon's radiation of well being, timelessness, ever- changing beauty, grandeur... and the edge of danger

Like viewing a Van Gogh painting from inside it.


Big horn sheep family at top of BA trail (must hang out there a lot-Bob Ribokas saw a week later) Cicadas--- VERY loud. I thought was rattlesnake: walked past very quickly, minding my own business In the Box On way to IGcg

Two mice Cottonwood cg & Plateau Point Squirrels condor lots of Southern Plateau lizards

Connections/ Companions met on the journey:

Man connected to his wife by yellow cord: he was "afraid of heights", but with his wife's support (and the yellow cord) was on his way out on the N. Kaibab: that's courage and love.

GCFI trip that adopted us and pointed out areas of interest on the trail, since we had same routing.

Clear that some "got it": the environment and others didn't: Man on mule train: dropping cigarette ash

Wonderful camaraderie on shuttle van (if you take the Trans Canyon Shuttle, don;t sit in the very back of the van) and at Cottonwood.

Mileage & times: (we started on the trail by 7:00 am each day)

It was light enough to move around camp without lights 30 minutes before sunrise; we'd be out of direct sunlight 1 full hour before sunset.

7 hours from the N Rim to Cottonwood 6.9 miles

7 1/2 hours from Cottonwood to Bright Angel (including an 1 1/2 hr, 1 mile diversion to Ribbon Falls) 8.3 miles

4 1/4 hrs to Indian Gardens 4.7 miles (easy, lots of shade, except Devil's Corkscrew: hard)

2 1/4 hour to Plateau Point and back 3 miles (includes sunset gawking time)

5 hrs out via BA trail 4.6 miles

2 ½ hrs from Cottonwood to Roaring Springs: 2.2 miles

1 ½ hrs Roaring Springs to Cottonwood: 2.2 miles spent 1 1/2 hrs at Roaring Springs

met young NPS man at Roaring Springs-- there on horse named Chile Dog, to clean the bathrooms (no mules that day, so could use horse)

Total mileage: 24.5 under pack 7.4 w/o pack

My difficulty ratings:

  • North Kaibab trailhead to Cottonwood Camp Ground: 7.5 (downhill pounding on toes, noticed especially from Roaring Springs turnoff to footbridge);
  • Cottonwood Campground to Bright Angel Campground: 9 (due to heat in the Box)
  • Bright Angel Campground to Indian Garden Campground 5 ½- 6 ½ (Devil's Corkscrew is the only part that's hard) IGcg> out 8 ½ (due to last mile and altitude effect on breathing)

Over all, other than the last mile out, it felt less strenuous than our SHT hike.


Comment from veteran on trail: "like running through an art museum" My wife wondered: do they do this to avoid being humbled by the experience, the Canyon? amazed at how many of them! If live close to the Canyon, they can do when see the weather/ temps are good. They pay for our services-they're only in the Park for short time, we' re there for several days

"Wilderness experience"

Hah! in Corridor, especially in Phantom Ranch area Jarring to go from relative seclusion of N. Kaibab trail to Phantom Ranch area

Best was on N. Kaibab between Cottonwood & Phantom Ranch. and between Cottonwood and Roaring Springs. We saw only 4 people here- the NPS kid on horse, a hiker who came into and left RS while we were there and Bruce Aiken and his wife, from a distance (the footbridge over Bright Angel Creek)-they were sunning themselves on heliport, I waved my hiking poles.

Phantom Ranch

Odd, out of place, carnival/ circus atmosphere Lady who thought it was a good idea to have headlamp flashlight (obviously not a hiker). Stew dinner was OK-way over priced. Man doing photo shoot of Phantom for magazine: "Pre-Disney theme park"

Lotsa people in campground talking loud-like people talking in church (not appropriate)

Phantom: NOT a place to come to be alone

Wilderness only by virtue of how hard to get to

Flush toilets and running water at Bright Angel Camp Ground (unexpected signs of civilization)

Squalor: Man on mule who dropped cigarette ash Party people/ drunks at next site in Indian Gardens. Garbage bag at Ranger station Cottonwood Looked like an animal had gotten into it

Lovely spots: Little waterfall in Bright Angel Creek by cool rocks in shade behind Ranger station at Cottonwood Washed shirt here. Ribbon Falls: Odd combination of OLD wisdom and delicate beauty


Entry weight, everything, including water: 74 lbs. At Exit weight: 50 lbs. no water left whatsoever

The last mile: several times, my legs felt like lead weights-I quickly switched my focus off them. I deliberately breathed very fast to get more O2: may have been better to take long, deep breaths and do Qigong.

Other than that, it was clear that our training really kicked in on the hike out the last day.... we felt fine, with little or no pain or strain, other than being short of breath. We not only survived, we thrived.

From Bright Angel Campground to Indian Garden Campground, we used 3 ½ liters of H2O between us. From Indian Garden Campground to the rim, we used 6 1/2 liters.

32 degrees on S. Rim was fine for camping with our 20 degree bags:

Crush near the top of trail:

Looking at long horn sheep: unsafe bunching on narrow trail

Waiting for a few moments in crowd congestion just at top by Kolb studio, with our packs on seemed incongruous, momentarily stalled, almost comical.

Steak dinner at Arizona Room; night at Maswik. Left the next am... hardly even looked at the rim: we both knew we'd be back. Afterall,

"When once you have tasted below the rim, you will forever walk the earth with your mind turned there... for there you have been, and there you will always long to return." --- paraphrase of Leonardo DaVinci's comment on flight

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