HAYDUKE BONUS :: Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim
May 14, 2019
HIKING DISTANCE: 42 Miles
VERTICAL: +/- 10,700'
TIME: 13 Hours 8 Minutes
The Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim was always part of the plan, but after finishing with blisters, tendinitis, metatarsalgia, and swollen feet, I was wondering whether I'd be able to do it. After a week of laziness and glutinous eating, I'd recovered enough to entertain the possibility. I was still battling a hint of tendinitis, but all of the other injuries had fully healed, so that was good enough for me. I left Monday afternoon ready to tackle the ambitious project, but my car started acting up about 15 miles short of the trailhead. A handful of dash lights came on, and it started jerking violently and losing power all of the sudden. I had to get it towed all the way back to Flagstaff to get it looked at.
By the time the tow truck got out to me and shuttled my rig to the dealership in Flag, they were closed. Luckily they got me in first thing in the morning, replaced a do-hicky, and sent me on my way. I got about five miles down the road before the same thing happened again - jerking, power loss, a plethora of dash lights. I took it right back and was told that it was either an oil change or a new engine. Same-same? I opted to try the oil change first, obviously. And that solved it, which only makes me wonder whether that was the problem all along. If it was, then I spent $500 on a do-hickey that I didn't even need. Seems obvious to me that we should've started with the simplest, cheapest possible fix and worked our way up. But then, that wouldn't be very lucrative. I was understandably annoyed, but at least the problem was fixed, and I could put the whole thing behind me. Thankfully she drove like a champ all the way to the trailhead.
After being totally derailed by car trouble, I had hoped to start by 1630 to take advantage of the cooler overnight temperatures down in the canyon and still have time to finish the steep final climb before the heat of the day. Instead the return trip to the dealership delayed my start by a few more hours. I finally hit the trail a few minutes before 1900.
Within the hour, the sun had set and the moon had risen. I was cruising right along under the faint moonlight when I heard an all too familiar and bone-chilling rattle errupt in the darkness just ahead. I was within a few steps and could see the shadowy figure coil into a striking posture. I knew exactly what it was and nearly tripped over myself trying to reverse my momentum. I turned my headlamp on to discover that my new friend was nearing three feet in length and filled with energy by the lingering warmth of the evening. Thank God he rattled early enough that I still had time to stop, or I woulda been in deep shit. Yet another very cool experience that very nearly wasn't. I went on to see a gray fox and a ringtail during my overnight venture. Cooler wildlife this one night than all of the Hayduke combined, which is counter-intuitive when you think about the sheer hiker traffic.
With the aid of relatively cool night temperatures, accessible drinking water, and my fresh kicks, I reached the North Rim just six hours fifteen minutes after starting at the south. I took a 15 minute break to layer up (it was cold up there!), fill my water, eat a snack, and stretch for the return trip. Besides periodically filling water, this was the only break I took during the entire hike. In an effort to stay loose, I didn't sit down until I finished six hours later. I felt surprisingly good at the mid-point, better than I remember feeling on either of my prior two R2R2R hikes. I was halfway and already heading back just six and a half hours into the challenge. I couldn't believe my pace, but I also recognized that the crux of the route is the steep climb from the river back to the South Kaibab trailhead. I adjusted my goal from 15 hours to 14 hours and giddily bounded back down the North Kaibab trail.
But it turns out I'm not invincible. (Who knew?) My knee started acting up immediately as I started the descent. Not a hint of pain until then, but it came on like a hurricane. I swear if it's not one thing, it's the other. At least my tendinitis was only a mild nuisance throughout. I popped some Ibuprofen and carried on back down toward the river. It took a slow, painful half hour for the meds to kick in, but when they finally did, I re-gained my previous pace with only a faint suggestion of the previously debilitating pain.
Dawn broke as I neared Phantom Ranch. I'd made up some time and was at ten hours forty minutes as I crossed the Colorado swing bridge and began the daunting final climb. It might have felt like forever but for the intermittent goals along the way. I reached the Tipoff after a few miles, then Skeleton Point about a mile and a half later, then Cedar Ridge after another mile and a half, then finally the South Rim a mile and a half distant from there. I found the endeavor to be surprisingly manageable and reached the rim just a few short minutes after 0800, having averaged 3.2 mph since leaving it thirteen hours earlier. I was high on life! And sore, though not so much as I had expected. With only the beginnings of chafe and blisters, a wee suggestion of shin splints and muscle cramps, and an overwhelming sense of pride and exhaustion - I feel pretty dang good overall. Another wicked challenge hike in the books!