The Rockhopper 60K women showed up in a big way at Pedernales Falls this past weekend taking 3 of the top 4 spots‼! Other notable performances included the Assassin (Matt Smith) winning the 60K and getting some redemption after the Bighorn DNF. Tempo Tom was 1st Masters and Stefan was 2d in the 30K. Petra Gerber, who is brand new to the list was 3d in the 30K. Not to brag but I think it is notable that I completed the race in an old beat up pair of Nike Frees after forgetting my trail shoes. And no I will not be wearing them at Bandera anytime soon. My feet are still a little sore.
As always want to thank Rich and Jeannie for setting up Rockhopper Central. Sometimes we take it for granted but it is very much appreciated and enjoyed. The changing tent is a stroke of genius.
Overall I thought Brad did a good job with the race. Well marked and except for one A/S there was plenty of ice. Personally I’m not a fan of the new trails and prefer the old course but I know several folks liked the new course. But the new course is much slower than the old one.
Here are the full results (if I overlooked anyone then speak up):
Matt 5:39 (1st Male The Assassin is back!)
Anabel 6:49 (Tied for 1st female despite falling 10 times and not taking gels)
Ed Brown 7:03:45 (always impresses)
Julie 7:18 (3d female and cheeriest runner out there. Seriously Julie had a great race and even split it again)
Kate 7:44 (4th female and newer Rockhopper. We need to get her signed up for USATF).
Tom 8:08 (Another 1st Masters trophy)
Orlando 10:20 (good start to his Cactus 100 training)
Elizabeth 11:18 (She did a great job keeping Rich company)
Rich 11:18 (I was worried about him after the first loop…the humidity was really affecting him but he got it done!)
We also had a few runners that decided they had 60K worth of fun after 30K so elected not to go back out there for a 2d loop. Their 30K times were:
Legend 3:48 (He was crowing about his old and crippled body beating my 30K time by 4 minutes but he had 15 more minutes of daylight to work in and I was wearing my Nike Frees
Jean 4:53 (Both MJ and Jean sure seemed happy not to go back out for another long humid loop. Jean was curled up under a blanket with a very happy look on her face).
Stefan 2:32 (2d Male…the king of the 30K series returns.)
Cory T 3:20 (Great effort from a new father)
Thor 3:22 (Another solid result and well positioned to finish high in sub ultra trail series)
Petra 3:35 (3d female and brand new to the list. We need to sign her up for USATF)
Rick S. 3:42 (This man is Mr Consistency. I forgot to see where he placed among Masters).
Chris R. 3:52 (Finished in top 30% overall…sounds better than saying 42d place)
Mariana 4:35 (It was weird to see her finish without either Rich or Sugar Bear there with her).
Alicia 4:36 (Solid result considering this was her longest run in a long time)
Kay 5:09 (I somehow missed getting to see Kay finished…this may have been her first night race but not sure).
Dakota – 1:22 (A 10 minute “medical” stop derailed her a bit)
Claudia Torkelson – (I didn’t write down her time but I think this was only her 2d trail race ever. Pretty good after just having a baby).
Here are the HH results courtesy of Chris and Observations by Scott.
Renzo 7:25 – 2d Overall and 6th fastest 50M time in HH history
Stephanie Bleich – 11:10 5th Female
Bear – 11:56
Alex – DNF due to mid race Acupuncture treatement
Matt 3:57 – 1st overall
Melanie 4:22 – 1st Female and 2d overall
Stefan 4:40 – 3d Male
Lalo – 5:19
Tom – 5:24 1st Masters
Cara – 5:28 3d Female
Rolando – 5:40
Aash – 6:08
MJ – 6:32
Delaine – 7:07
Alex2 – 7:32
Rick Smith – 2:20 3d Masters
Tanya – 2:29 4th Female
Tony – 2:30
John McAllen – 2:31
Chris R. – 2:35
Mike E. – 2:35
Amanda A. – 2:36
Sandy – 2:37
Rich (Sandy’s Hubby) – 2:42
Cindy – 2:50
Jason – 2:50
Rich M – 2:52
Brian – 2:53
Martha – 3:01
Michele G. – 3:05 2d Masters
Kelly McAllen – 3:29
Helena – 1:56
Kid’s 1 mile
Cardmon Fryar (Mel’s son) – 10:35 (and dug deep to avoid getting chick’d!)
Lessons and Observations:
> 1. Stefan Grater – “never do 10 hippie hill repeats the day before a race.”
> 2. Brian Ricketts – “never do 28 hippie hill repeats the day before a race.”
> 3. Alex Garrett – “never flop and roll on a cactus during an ultra race. And if you do, make sure it’s right next to the finish line and not 6 miles away.”
> 4. The fear on Chris Russell’s face trying to climb the wall with cramping oversized calves knowing Sandy was right behind him…… PRICELESS!!!!!
> 5. Watching Chris Russell flying down the last hill “digging deep” passing people like they were standing still was quite impressive.
> 6. 10k Tony is pretty fast.
> 7. April 4th is Wrong Way Bowling’s birthday.
> 8. The Renzo bromance has evolved and doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon.
> 9. Jason Spleen Espalin was 17 seconds away from his worst possible nightmare.
> 10. Jason 1, Tanya 1, can’t wait for the grudge match. However, one of the two will need to undergo some significant training.
> 11. Cindy Ricketts 1, Brian Ricketts 0
> 12. It was nice seeing Lalo and Amanda at a trail race. It’s been awhile for me.
> 13. Dang, that Matt Smith guy is fast.
> 14. I think the Rockhopper ladies are tougher than the Rockhopper guys.
> 15. It was weird not seeing Rich, Jean & Jessica not running together.
> 16. At the end of the day I looked over at rockhopper central and it was broken down and packed up on the ground in boxes and such. I was thinking “I hope Rich has a 20 foot trailer for all this stuff. Five minutes later I went to go help and they had it almost all put up in the back of their Suburban. It was amazing, but that’s just how they roll. U got to Love ’em.
> 17. Rockhoppers are Bad Ass!!!!
The first quarter of this year has brought many great Rockhopper run experiences. Experiences that will undoubtedly lead to fun end of year awards. USATF points for the Rockhoppers are accumulating also .
We have a competitive spirit but we all agree our group training runs where we share our friendly banter are the most fun.
Here then is a recap of this weekends group runs at Leon Creek, Hill Country State Natural Area, Mc Allister Park, and Boerne Stage road, hosted by various Rockhoppers.
Lisa Came out! As did Alex2,Mariana,Daniel,Orlando and Elda. The trail Gods showed us they still rule as Mariana took a tumble in the first quarter mile. This after joking in the parking lot about Trailrunners falling on smooth surfaces. I looked. No rock, stump, or branch. Sorry Marianna :-(. Besides a little bleeding and swelling, Marianna says she’ll survive.
We had a good group also. We had Rachel (so good to see her), Liza, Liza’s MdS pack, Splèens, Sheila, MJ, Robert, Caroline ( a gal visiting from Canada), Aash and Aash’s dog.
It was a gorgeous morning and the sun was a ball of fire when it rose. The pace was very relaxed. Liza (and her pack), Rachel and Caroline peeled off after a hour to run the hills. Not sure how many they did. On trail 7 Tanya blew past me and sending a not so subtle message on what to expect at HH 25k. Lisa and Robert headed back to the cars after 8 miles and the Spleens headed back at 12 miles. Sheila, MJ, Aash (and dog) and I finished out the 15 miles. Incidentally Aash’s name is pronounced Ash (as in the Evil Dead character…which is cool).
Great time on the trails and beautiful weather with a fun group of folks.
Mc ALLISTER PARK
McA Mafia/Rockhoppers met at 7:30am. A couple had come at 7am and got a head start on the group.
Our “Sweet Chris” reaches his 500 mile goal at the Cactus Rose 100 on October 26. A quest that began in 2008.
” I have often said over the years that while a 100 can be very empowering, paradoxically, it is very humbling because of how physically and mentally exhausted one can be. I would never have been able to accomplish it without all my friends that have trained with me, supported me, paced me, filled up my camelback or get me supplies. This race would have been a disaster without the ice bandana Rich and Don gave me or the poles that Brian loaned me. The Rockhoppers had a 71 percent finish rate for the 100. Everyone else was 40 % (when you back the Rockhoppers out of final standings). It isn’t because we are tougher than the others (heck I have a couple of Cactus DNFs to my name) but I think the support we give each other on the trail and during the race really contributes to a high percentage finishing. I know it did for me.” –Chris Russell
Congratulations to ALL the Rockhoppers who completed the 100 and 50 mile races at Cactus Rose this year.
A success once again. Thanks Rich and Jeanie for all your hard work and dedication to YOUR, and OUR group of Trailrunners. We love you! Thanks to all who came out for the fun!
Appertif – peak season jessica pike seasoned with waddling quads ($26)
Best wishes to all!
The 3d part of any trilogy is always exciting. I remember standing in line in 1983 to see Return of the Jedi. Who can forget the epic grandeur that was Return of the King? As exciting as those classic part 3s were….the excitement over part 3 of the R2R2R trilogy has built to a fever pitch (well not really….although I did get a text from a Rockhopper asking me if he had somehow missed it). So sit back, relax and enjoy the triumphant conclusion which I refer to as Return to the South Rim!!! (insert your own favorite epic cinematic musical score).
Quick review – Part 2 concluded with us arriving at Phantom Ranch on the return trip back and left the reader with these cliffhanger questions:
1. What sign almost caused mutiny against the trail guide (me)?
2. Why the park really needs to change the name of the 3 mile and 1.5 mile rest house?
3. What unique R2R2R checklist item did only Derek Moore think to bring?
4. The circumstances behind Jason having the longest A/S stop in R2R2R known history?
Phantom Ranch to Indian Gardens (5.1miles, 1400 ft gain)
– As we prepared to go on the hike up Bright Angel trail, I had mixed feelings about the last remaining 9.9 miles. On the one hand I was excited that in a few more hours I would be able to take a shower but a part of me couldn’t but help have a sense of dread as I remembered my climb out last time I did R2R2R.
– When I did R2R2R in Jun 07 the climb out was a huge struggle and one of the hardest things I have done. The heat in the inner canyon had absolutely cooked me and I didn’t have a lot of energy. My entire body ached. My hiking was very slow and the water was lukewarm and tasted horrible. Plus I was really tired. I remember on one of the upslopes I almost fell backwards because of exhaustion. My dad was waiting for me at the top and said he had never seen me look so bad. It seem to unnerve him quite a bit and he still mentions it. While I was in a lot better physical shape starting the climb out this time around…it was hard not to worry a bit in the back of my mind.
– Furthermore the hike up Bright Angel is a slog. The first half is actually quite scenic. The first 2 miles are along the river and then the next 3 miles to Indian Gardens are a climb out the inner canyon. Much of it is along a creek and can be quite pretty. However, it would be dark when we would be doing this. Once past Indian Gardens the trail becomes an endless series of switchbacks up a side canyon and there really isn’t much to see. So the combination of not much in the way of scenery and being tired can make for a long, slog out. The good news was at least this time I would be hiking out with some good friends.
– We left Phantom Ranch somewhere around 7:35p. Myself, Edward and Jason quickly walked the .3 mile to the Bright Angel trail junction. There we waited and waited and waited for Tanya and Michelle who apparently were on some casual stroll. When they finally arrived I told Edward that it would be more like 5.5 hours to hike out if they kept moving at that pace. Tanya laughed and said she got the hint.
– Shortly we had to use the silver bridge to cross the river. This was my least favorite part of the whole adventure. Unlike the black bridge (we used to cross over from the South Kaibab trail that morning) the silver bridge crosses a wider part of the river and the bottom is thin metal grates that one can see through. Plus it shakes. Doesn’t feel near as sturdy as the black bridge.
– Crossing the silver bridge gave me vertigo and made me feel like I could plunge through the bottom and into the river. The shakiness of it didn’t help. I was clutching the side railing. I breathed a sigh of relief when I got to solid land on the other side. I wasn’t the only one. Tanya, in the best line of the day, said, “That made my butt cheeks shake”.
– Ironically, Michelle, who earlier was hugging the North Kaibab cliff walls and wouldn’t run down parts of the trail as a result, was totally fine on the silver bridge, pausing and taking pics in the fading light.
– After crossing the bridge we would walk the next 1.5 miles along the Co River; although, the trail itself would usually range 100 to 200 feet above the river level.
– While the sunset had already passed there was enough fading light that allowed us to walk almost all of the river section without using our headlamp.
– There wasn’t any running going on at this point. One, we were tired. Two, the trail along this section had beach like sand sections.
– Additionally, the heat of the day was now radiating off the inner canyon walls and it even felt a little humid. We were going through our water a bit faster than expected.
– One of the cool things about this section of trail was we saw some river rafters camping across the river on a beach. Looked like they were having fun and we wished we could have joined them. Definitely want to do a rafting trip someday.
– Along this trail I heard a noise. I turned on my light and saw a really big deer on a nearby slope. However, in hindsight that deer looked like some elk (without the rack) that I saw on the South Rim the next day. Still I didn’t think elk would be down in the inner canyon.
– After hiking west along the river we then headed south into an inner side canyon that we would climb out of. The humidity definitely picked up in this area. The heat was still radiating along the walls but there was more vegetation due to a nearby creek and zero air circulation. Definitely started to sweat more.
– This trail featured quite a few short, shallow water crossings. However, I did find myself thinking, “Boy I hope Tanya doesn’t get her socks wet again”.
– Because of the water and vegetation down here there was quite the symphony of frogs (which I would not have expected).
– After a bit the trail started to climb steeply upward a series of switchbacks called Devil’s Corkscrew. The section of trail would take us out of the inner canyon.
– This was the first real climb we had done since leaving the North Rim about 17 miles ago. Took a little while to get the climbing rhythm going again.
– Poor Jason was at the back of our train and we were kicking up a lot of dust. He later said this was the worse section of the hike for him. It was warm, humid and he was choking on dust.
– Frogs weren’t the only wildlife out there. Michelle spotted a baby rattler on this section of trail. Jean later said their group came across 6 snakes including 2 rattlers. Larry K. saw a mountain lion.
– After climbing Devil’s Corckscrew the trail flattens out (but still steadily up) until Indian Gardens. Edward was low on calories so we stopped to rest a bit. I was also getting peppered with questions on how much farther it was to Indian Gardens. One reason people were concerned was I told folks back at Phantom Ranch that it was 4.5 miles to Indian Gardens. Turns out it was around 5. Combine that with heat, humidity and the climbing caused folks to start getting low on water.
– Normally once I climb Devil’s Corckscrew I always think that I am almost to Indian Gardens and that it is just “around the corner”. In reality we still had at least another 1.5 miles but I told folks, “Not that much further, should be around the corner”. Famous last words.
– Well we hiked around the corner, still no sign of Indian Gardens and we hiked and hiked and hiked (around several more corners). I could hear Garden Creek raging pretty good on my right and by this time everyone is out of water. Edward said something about wanting to plunge down into the creek.
– I kept thinking to myself, “I don’t remember Indian Gardens being this far”, I kept looking for the Tonto Trail junction sign that I knew we would hit shortly before Indian Gardens. I could sense everyone’s frustration that we hadn’t gotten there yet and that as de facto trail guide that frustration was being quietly directed toward me (lesson learned: never underestimate the distance as trail guide).
– Finally we come to the Tonto Trail junction sign. I said, “ok we are really almost there”. Michelle, who is behind me looks at the sign and says, “Indian Gardens 3 miles!” I hadn’t paid that close attention to the sign but I knew it couldn’t be 3 miles so I blurted out, “that has to be .3 miles”. Immediately Edward, Michelle, and Spleens all shine their lights on the sign. I hear someone say, “Yep it’s .3”. Whew!! If that had really been 3 miles there may have been a new murder story to add to the Death in the Grand Canyon book.
Indian Gardens to South Rim (4.8 miles 3000 ft gain)
– After narrowly avoiding being another Death in the Grand Canyon statistic, I was very relieved when we soon arrived at Indian Gardens. We ran into Larry K and Elizabeth! Julie and Chris C had gone on ahead so Larry and Elizabeth were hiking out together. They were leaving just as soon as we arrived.
– We took our time refueling at Indian Gardens. We were feeling pretty tired and the lights at the top of the South Rim looked so far away. I knew from previous experiences that the lights at South Rim never really seem to get closer until you are almost there. So I resolved not to look up at them anymore during the hike out.
– Indian Gardens has several long benches and Tanya wasted no time stretching all the way out and resting her eyelids.
– After my “miscalculation” on the distance from Phantom Ranch to Indian Gardens (thus causing some people to run out of water). Jason quizzed me extensively about distances to the water stops up to the South Rim. This resulted in an Abbott and Costello “Who’s on first” routine between Jason and I as I tried to explain it was 1.5 miles to the 3 mile rest house and 3 miles to the 1.5 mile rest house. Clear as mud.
– Turns out that wasn’t the only confusion the 3 mile resthouse caused. First a bit of background. The 3 mile resthouse is on a 50 yard side trail. There is a sign at the junction that says “Water. 3 mile Rest House”. Later in the night when Rich’s group came to that sign, someone said, “hey look…we can get some water”. Rich emphatically replied, “I am not going 3 miles to get water!”
– The water at Indian Gardens actually tasted quite good. My experience has been the water at the 3 and 1.5 mile rest house can be rather lukewarm and stale tasting so I encouraged folks to go ahead and fill up on water at Indian Gardens.
– After finally getting ourselves psyched up we began the long 4.5 mile, 3000 foot climb to the South Rim. To me this is one of the things that makes R2R2R a unique challenge. Most ultras finish the last few miles on flat or a downhill (especially mountain ultras); however, R2R2R finishes with almost a 5000 foot climb from Phantom Ranch to the South Rim. Aside from Badwater I can’t think of another ultra that does that.
– There really isn’t a lot to say about the hike out. It was steady forward progress with switchback after switchback. No one really felt like talking. The 3 mile rest house seem to come relatively quickly. However, the stretch from the 3 mile rest house and 1.5 mile rest house seem to drag a bit longer.
– At the 1.5 mile rest house my blood sugar plummeted and I quickly fell well behind the others. I had made the same mistake I made going up North Kaibab and hadn’t taken in enough calories. I had taken in calories at Indian Gardens but hadn’t taken much since then (close to 1.5 hours) and it caught up to me.
– Edward noticed I had fallen behind, waited for me and offered a cookie. I had taken a couple of gels but they hadn’t kicked in yet and that cookie looked good so I took him up on it.
– The cookie hit the spot and in a few minutes I started to feel much better and was hiking at a more normal pace.
– It was during this part of the trail that we came across quite a few R2R2R runners starting down the Bright Angel trail (Close to midnight). As I mentioned before…this didn’t make a lot of sense to me since they would miss seeing the dramatic descent in the dark. Plus they would be coming back up Bright Angel in the heat of the day.
– Many of them were flying down and they weren’t doing much yielding to the uphill hikers. I sure wasn’t moving aside (I was too tired to anyway) so they were forced to go around me.
– A couple of them had an external speaker blaring music. I thought this was a little much in a place like the Grand Canyon.
– Before we knew it Edward and I were on the final switchback…Michelle and the Spleens were up ahead finishing. When we crossed under the tunnel I heard Elizabeth up ahead yell out, “Chris is this the right way?”. Turns out we had caught up to her and Larry. At first it confused me that she would ask if she was going the right way? There were no major trails that connected to Bright Angel up here. Then I remember that about 40 yards from the trailhead is a side path on the left that leads up to some of the Grand Canyon stores but it really isn’t considered to be part of the Bright Angel trail. Anyway I could see that Elizabeth was heading straight up Bright Angel and didn’t make the turn to the left and yelled out to here that she was going the right way. Little did I realize the immense controversy this side path would cause later.
– Edward and I soon made it to the top and there we celebrated with Michelle, Spleens, Elizabeth, and Larry. Julie and Chris C. were there as well (they had finished a long time ago). Everyone felt really happy and satisfied with the accomplishment. It really is something that should be on every runner’s bucket list.
– We finished around 1215-1220a so it did take us around 4.5 hours to climb out from Phantom Ranch.
– The next day (Saturday) ended up being fairly eventful so thought I would share a few highlights from that day and share some of the stories that I heard from others about their R2R2R adventures.
– I found out the that Rich, Rick, Jean, Jessica, Louie and Moores all finished together sometime after 3a. Derek and Louie kept everyone awake with their conversation.
– The Moores were very entertaining with their stories. The best one was when they got to the top of the North Rim they had a conversation that went something like this:
Derek: “I can’t find my beanie”
Jennifer: “Big deal. We will buy you another one”
Derek: “No. You don’t understand. I think I left my bribe money in there”
Jennifer: “Bribe money?”
Derek: “Yes. Bribe money. I had brought (insert large figure) in bribe money. Just in case I get stuck down there and need to get a helicopter or mule ride out or pay someone to let me crash in their place at Phantom Ranch or pay someone to give me a ride from North Rim to South Rim etc”
– Anyway their conversation was a lot more substantial than that but you get the idea. Fortunately Derek did find his bribe money and he never had to use it. Still you have to commend him for being prepared. I guess I should adjust my checklist to say: “Food, Water, First Aid, jacket, bribe money etc.
– The Moores also met a couple of interesting guys at Phantom Ranch. Apparently they were ultra runners themselves but they seems a little bit on the “high” side if you know what I mean. They said after the Grand Canyon they were going to go to Sedona, score some peyote and hang out in the energy vortexes.
– We did spend Saturday going on the West Rim Shuttle tour. The trailview stop was really cool because it gave a great bird’s eye view of the Bright Angel trail. It was all laid out before us. Since it was night time when we climbed it, we hadn’t really been able to see it. It was quite impressive getting to look at in the day time and hard to imagine we had climbed up it the previous night. It looked very imposing.
– One of the things that stoop out on the West Rim tour was how hot it was!! There was zero cloud cover and the sun was intense!!! We lucked out doing it the day before.
– Saturday night we had dinner at El Tovar which had a great atmosphere. Rick had made R2R2R medals for us which they gave out. But this would lead to a great controversy.
– One of the details that had emerged from the previous night was Jason had decided to take the side path (that Elizabeth had asked me about) to the rim rather than the last 40 yards on the official Bright Angel trail.
– I correctly pointed out to Jason that he shouldn’t take credit for an official R2R2R since he didn’t finish it on the official agreed upon route. Jason, tried to counter that with the weak argument that he did the same distance if not more. I brilliantly made the point that in all of Joe’s races you have to do it on the official course. If you go 5 miles off course, you still have to go back and do the part of the trail you missed.
– Despite my superior arguments and suggestions that Jason go back and do the 40 yards he missed…he stubbornly refused to cave in.
– I also found out during the day that Rick and Jean had also started up the side path on their climb out but once they realized that they were no longer on the Bright Angel trail they turned around, rejoined the trail and finished up on the official Bright Angel trail
– So when Rick and Rich were passing out the finisher medals I decided to Jason a favor. I knew he would regret it for the rest of his life if he didn’t properly finish R2R2R and that it would haunt him forever. Because I care about Jason I took his medal from him and refused to give it back to him until he finished the last 40 yards. I could see his gratitude written all over his face.
– At this point Jason had no choice but to go back and do it properly. We gathered everyone together at the Bright Angel trailhead so we could cheer Jason on as he ran down the side path and then went up the Bright Angel trail.
– Jason started running on my signal and he was flying! He flew down the side path and then sprinted up Bright Angel to a big crowd of cheering Rockhoppers (and some very confused onlookers). What a finish! I proudly put the medal over Jason’s head and he raised in arms in triumph. Thus after a 19 hour Aid Station stop of shower, sleeping, breakfast, west rim tour, nap, and dinner Jason officially finished his R2R2R adventure in 38 hours and 19 min.
– Last time I did R2R2R solo. This time I did it with a great group and travelled the whole way with my terrific friends….Michelle, Edward, and the Spleens. They made it so much more fun than when I did it solo and it was great to share it with them. Afterwards I immediately thought I will never do another R2R2R again. But after a few weeks have gone by I know I’ll be back.
North Rim to Cottonwood (6.8 miles 4200 foot descent)
– It was about 130p when we headed back down the North Kaibab trail. Most of us alternated between hiking and running down to the Supai Tunnel rest stop (1.7 miles down).
– Ran into several Rockhoppers on this stretch as they were finishing their climb to the North Rim. First was Jean and Jessica. They both looked really fresh. They would wait for Rick, Louie and Brittney at the rest stops to make sure they were ok and then they would get ahead until the next rest stop.
– Not too long after seeing Jean and Jessica we saw Rick, Louie and Brittney. Brittney looked a bit tired from the long climb up North Kaibab but she was very happy about getting close to completing R2R. I also believe it was the longest distance on foot she had ever covered.
– Next we ran into the Moores. Now before I describe my encounter with the Moores I need to provide a bit of background. During the most recent R2R2R preparation meeting we had I described the route to everyone. When I was describing the trail from Phantom Ranch to Cottonwood, I made the comment that it was the flattest section on the route (especially compared to the other sections we would be doing). While I said it was the flattest section, I did not necessarily mean it was McA flat (after all one did gain 1,500 feet over 7 miles). Well Jennifer thought I meant the trail was flat and boy did I ever hear about it! The first words out of her mouth were, “that @#$%$#@ trail was not @&^%@*& flat! I kept telling Derek that Chris said it was flat and we could run it but we had to hike most of it. It kept going up and up. I don’t knowing why you told us it was @#$#*$# flat!” There was A LOT more to her comments than just that. But I think you get the idea. It did teach me a valuable lesson about being a trail guide. If the information the guide provides (distances, elevation gain etc) does not match up with the reality then the guide better be ready to take the brunt of it. The whole thing was pretty funny.
– The Moores told us about their very long and extensive encounter with Mary Poppins. She asked them if someone had organized the trip and was charging us money (as in making a profit). She also asked about the experience level of the group. Apparently Jason’s Tejas 300 didn’t fully impress Mary Poppins so Derek gave her all the ultras everyone in the group had done and may have thrown in a few extra more for good measure.
– When we reached Supai Tunnel we saw Rich and Doise there. Doise had been having a rough go of it. She had been getting sick and was having to stop a lot. In fact she had to spend 30 minutes in the creek by the Pumphouse. To help Doise get to the top, Rich had been carrying Doise’s pack most of the way up North Kaibab. After Rich refueled and put on his pack, he asked us to hand him Doise’s pack. It was heavy! Doise was prepared to bivouacked a week in the Canyon. I had no idea what she had in there! It made Jason’s pack look small. Doise definitely won the “pack weight” to “body weight” ratio. Anyway we put Doise’s back on top of Rich’s pack and watch him start to climb the remaining 1,400 feet with easily over 30 lbs of pack weight. Remember these are not backpacks with solid support and hip belts. This is 30 plus lbs of weight hanging off Rich’s shoulders with little support. The thing is Rich had a great attitude about it and was very supportive of getting Doise to the top. Some call him Wimpy, others call him the Terminator or Mighty Mihalik, but after witnessing that all I can say is Rich is a BAD, BAD man‼
– But there is more to the Rich story. When the Moores got to the North Rim they had a lively discussion on a variety of topics (which will be expounded upon later). One of those topics was whether they were going to do R2R (Derek would pay someone to drive them back) or R2R2R. Derek was for R2R while Jennifer was for R2R2R since the whole R2R2R adventure was Derek’s idea and on his bucket list. While they were “discussing” it, they see Rich and Doise get to the top of the North Rim with Rich carrying both packs. They watch 60 year old Rich drop Doise’s pack, quickly refuel, and then immediately head back down the trail at a high rate of speed to catch up with Rick, Louie, Jean and Jessica. After watching this, Derek said, “I guess we are heading back down the trail”. Did I mention Rich is a BAD, BAD man?
– We also ran into Mary Poppins at Supai Tunnel and she was a lot more friendlier. She was even interested in Hokas. I think once she realized she knew what we were doing she relaxed. Additionally, the cloud cover seemed to ease her mind as well.
– The cloud cover was odd. It wasn’t a full block of the sun but a thin cloud cover where one could still see the sun shining through. But it definitely reduce the intensity of the sun.
– We got spread out a bit on North Kaibab. Edward was having a blast running down the trail and I wasn’t too terribly far behind. Jason followed me and he was followed by cliff wall huggers (Michelle and Tanya).
– About a mile after Supai tunnel I ran into this odd Japanese tourist. Reason I say tourist is he sure didn’t look like a hiker. He was wearing normal clothes (jeans etc), carrying no water (that I could see) and carrying a huge camera with a big telephoto lens. He stopped me and asked if I was with Edward and commented on how fast Edward was running. He then asked if I could take a photo of him with his camera. I said okay and he told me to stand still while he position himself in front of a rock. The problem was he was still very close to me and with his telephoto lens (that I had no idea how to adjust) all I could get was a close up of his nose. I took the pic.
– After taking a pic of his nose, he tried to engage in more small talk. I mumbled that I need to catch up with his Edward and took off. After about 30 seconds I look behind me and I see him stopping the Spleens and Michelle. I chuckled to myself and continued running.
– We rendezvoused at the Pumphouse, refueled and then ran the remaining 1.5 miles to Cottonwood. This was some very enjoyable running. Scenic trail that was slightly downhill. We still had the benefit of cloud cover so while it was hot, it wasn’t miserably oppressively hot.
– On the run down to Cottonwood we ran into one of the park rangers. She asked where we were headed and expecting a lecture I said South Rim. She said “ok have fun”. I think she was just checking campground permits.
– The interesting thing about the ranger is she was dressed like a terrorist. She had a bandanna covering the entire lower part of her face and was wearing sun glasses. The only exposed part of her was her forehead. I had no idea what she actually looked like. I’m sure this was to protect herself from the sun and dust. I asked her about it and she jokingly said she didn’t want all her fans recognizing her when she was up at the South Rim in normal clothes.
Cottonwood to Phantom Ranch (8 miles (with Falls detour) 1500 foot descent)
– I was excited about getting back to Cottonwood. My feet were dusty and sore and I was ready to soak them in the icy cool waters of Bright Angel Creek. Last time (on the way up) it was only Edward and I but this time the Spleens and Jason decided to join in the fun as well.
– At first we were just soaking our feet until Jason decided he wanted to soak his calves. So Jason got out into the middle of the creek to soak his calves. Michelle saw this and decided to soak up to her quads. Fortunately Michelle doesn’t have to find very deep water to stand in to soak her quads. Tanya observed this and wanted to soak her quads as well but she is taller than Michelle so she decided to sit in the icy cold creek. Well the guys couldn’t let the gals outdo us, so we decided to sit in the creek as well. Except Jason did them one better. He took off his shirt and laid his whole body in the creek. Yes there are topless photos of Jason frolicking in the creek floating around somewhere.
– Anyway the whole soaking in the creek thing was a lot of fun and a great morale boost. As I have said before…the best thing about trail running is how it makes one appreciate the simple things in life.
– After soaking in the creek, we dried off and went back to the Cottonwood day use area to refuel. Jason was also sporting a pretty good blister. I had some blister pads so I attempted to put it on his blister. I don’t know if his foot hadn’t fully dried from the creek but the blister pad wouldn’t stick. Consequently, I then took some athletic tape to tape over the blister pad. Except the tape wasn’t sticking real good either. I countered that with breaking out my secret weapon…tincture of benzoin. I rubbed that on his foot and then added some more tape. The tape finally stuck (sorta) but he now had enough tape on his foot to cover a blister about 3 times bigger than what the blister really was. Edward got a big laugh out of watching me. Needless to say I won’t be providing medical at any of Joe’s races anytime soon.
– However, Jason was the only one of us smart enough (and with enough room in his pack) to bring an extra pair of fresh, clean socks. We all looked with extraordinary envy as he put those on his feet.
– After leaving Cottonwood our next stop was Ribbon Falls where we had to make a half mile detour. I could tell a couple of people in our group weren’t real excited about making a detour with 30 miles already on the legs but it is a “must see” sight.
– The falls were beautiful, as always. It is quite the oasis seeing the water (which is more like a veil rather than a ribbon) cascade down the moss covered rock. It is also in an area that is almost always shaded and very cool.
– One of the cool things about Ribbon Falls is there is a trail that climbs up behind the falls. And if one positions themselves in the right place you can lean under and take a real good shower underneath the falls.
– We all took turns taking a Ribbon Falls shower (well…except Michelle…I think she just stuck her hands under it…see pic) and it was one of the most refreshing showers I have had. Again it was one of those simple things in life that is a lot of fun. Once again our spirits were high as we left Ribbon Falls.
– There are two routes to and from Ribbon Falls. The primary route involves going over a bridge to cross Bright Angel Creek. This was the route we took to the Falls. An alternative route involves crossing Bright Angel Creek via rocks. Upon leaving Ribbon Falls we decided to take the alternative route since it would drop us off farther down the North Kaibab trail and cut out a steep hill that we would have to climb up and over if we took the primary route.
– The trail for the alternate route is fairly easy to follow until it comes time to cross the creek. The most defined spot seemed to involve a rather long crossing of the creek over some wet rocks. Some of us were wondering if there was a better spot to cross elsewhere but Jason (who was leading us on the alternate route) thought that the long rock crossing was the best spot and we could see the trail continuing on the other side.
– Jason was the first one across and impressively decided not to use his poles for balance. He almost lost it on one occasion as he was balancing precariously on one leg with the other one way up in the air but somehow he saved it and scampered across without his feet getting wet. It was an impressive display of trail running performance.
– The rest of us were chickens who used our poles to balance ourselves as we made our way across. My feet got wet but at least I didn’t fall (see pic).
– Tanya wasn’t as fortunate. While she didn’t fall in (thanks to the poles), her whole foot slipped on her first step and her foot plunged into the water.
– When she made it across…she unhappily said, “Jason my socks are wet!”
– Now my socks are wet during half of my Tx summer runs so I didn’t see the big deal but when I looked at Jason’s face I saw a look of terror!!! Turns out that Tanya’s feet are prone to heavy blistering with wet socks. A Tanya with blistered feet is NOT a happy Tanya. Especially when she has 30 plus miles on the legs and lack of sleep with another 15-16 miles to go. Plus it didn’t help that Jason didn’t have the common decency to at least get his feet wet in sympathy.
– Jason, to his credit, offered Tanya his old, dirty (but dry) socks that he had just changed out of. Now the cynical among us may wonder why Jason didn’t offer Tanya his fresh, new socks that he had just changed into but Jason was the one who had been carrying them the last 30 miles.
– Okay, I am having a bit of fun at Jason’s and Tanya’s expense (big shock I know). Fortunately the Canyon is low humidity so Tanya’s socks sorta dried out and she held it together really well and kept a great attitude (i.e. no Meltdown‼!).
– We were back on the North Kaibab trail with about 6 miles to go until Phantom Ranch with most of it being the Box section.
– Despite the fact this section was slightly downhill and very runnable I was not looking forward to it for a variety of reasons. First, it can get very hot. When I did this section on my R2R2R in Jun of 2007, I had major heat issues. It was 110 and the heat radiates off the black rock walls in the Box. I ran out of water and had to take a detour down to the creek to refill (giardia be darned). While the cloud cover helped I knew heat would still be radiating off the rocks. In fact, at Cottonwood, I had ran into some hikers who had just finished the Box. They said before the cloud cover it was brutal. The second issue with the box is all the turns look the same after awhile and it feels like Groundhog Day. It can seem endless.
– Edward took off ahead of us and it was Michelle, myself, Jason, and Tanya in a train. Michelle set a good steady pace throughout this section.
– While it was warm in the Box, it definitely was better than in 2007. Having said that….every time we got up against a black rock wall the temp seem to jump 10 degrees. Jason likened it to being in a hair dryer.
– I purposely didn’t say anything to the others about it seemingly lasting forever. I was curious to see how long it would take before the complaining would begin.
– One of my markers for the Box are the bridges. There are 4 bridge crossings. The last bridge is about a mile away from Phantom Ranch. I was expecting the complaining to start before the 3d bridge. I have to give my group credit. It didn’t start until right after the last bridge when Michelle said, “Dang how much longer is this going to take?‼”. Ten seconds later, Jason (who was behind me and didn’t hear Michelle) said, “Dang, how much longer is this going to take?”
– About a 1/4 mile ahead we see Ed by a sign (Phantom Ranch – 3/4 mile) waiting for us. He immediately exclaimed, “I thought that section was never going to end!”
– A few minutes later we arrived at the Phantom Ranch Canteen. It was around 7p.
– Immediately we were tortured by the delicious smells coming from the Dining Room. Unfortunately it was by reservations only and the snack bar (with the ice cold lemonade) had long since closed.
– Michelle looked through the dining room window using her best “lost puppy dog” look. She was hoping someone would have pity on us and throw out some scraps. No scraps were forthcoming.
– If someone could open an all night snack bar down there with cold drinks and warm food (or deli sandwhiches) they would make a killing with R2R2R folks. Seriously I would have paid at least $10 (probably $20) for a big glass of lemonade (with ice) right then. I was getting tired of drinking water and eating my snacks.
– One saving grace was up at the North Rim, the Spleens had manage to score a Deli sandwich (with all the trimmings). Jason had somehow conned Tanya into carrying that sandwich all the way down North Kaibab (this “conning” was a frequent point of discussion at every stop). The Spleens broke out the sandwich and were kind enough to share some of it. That was the best tasting sandwich I ever ate‼ Small pleasures. They also broke out the apple they had been hauling (and dropped a couple of times–5 second rule) the entire time as well. Real food is a definite must on a R2R2R adventure.
– After almost 30 minutes of relaxing and with the sun setting it was time to hit the trail. From Phantom Ranch we would be hiking out the Bright Angel trail. It would be about 9.5 miles and climb 4,400 feet. A couple of folks asked why we didn’t hike out South Kaibab because it was 2 miles shorter. South Kaibab is quite a bit steeper (the trailhead is 400 feet higher than Bright Angel) but most importantly there is no water on the trail. Plus when one finishes they still have a 2 mile hike to the lodge unless they have arranged for a shuttle.
– As we were about to leave Phantom Ranch, Edward asked me how long would it take to climb out? I said given our fatigue and counting stops it would be at least 4 hours and likely closer to 4.5 hours. Edward said, “4.5 hours? I was not expecting that! I was hoping for only 2-3 hours!” He looked despondent.
– On that cheery note we began our long slog up to the South Rim.
This concludes part 2. Stay tuned for part 3 and the exciting conclusion of the Rimhoppers R2R2R adventure where you will learn:
– What sign almost caused mutiny against the trail guide (me)?
– Why the park really needs to change the name of the 3 mile and 1.5 mile rest house?
– What unique R2R2R checklist item did only Derek Moore think to bring?
– The circumstances behind Jason having the longest A/S stop in R2R2R known history?