Friday June 2, 19.7mi/31.7km
Cottonwood Campground (649.1/4060ft) to North Rim near Milk Creek (662.3/8280ft) (AZ) +4.8mi Old BA Trail alternate, +1.7mi General Store
I left my little campsite just after 7am, it was a nice spot, and the only one I’ve had (on this trail) with a picnic table. The first mile was easy, hiking on the North Kaibab Trail.
At the Manzanita rest area, I left the Kaibab Trail and turned onto the Old Bright Angel trail. The Kaibab Trail was closed for construction, and there weren’t many other ways to get to the North rim. I could see the ranger station below me along with the helicopter landing area.
It’s an old trail that hasn’t been maintained in years, but it still was reasonably easy to follow if you were paying attention.
This was a unique view that almost nobody else will ever see, since nobody takes this old trail.
I contoured above the Bright Angel creek for a half mile.
And then I came to the crossing of the creek itself. It was running very strongly with all the snowmelt, and it took me quite a while to find an optimal spot to cross it.
The crossing spot I chose was just flowing quickly, but the depth was just below my knees so it was manageable. Once I was on the other side, I took a nice long snack break in the sun and dried out my shoes. Of course, less than a mile later, but had another creek crossing. I could hear in the distance and see the little waterfall nearby.
It was a very easy crossing, only ankle deep, but I still had wet feet.
I had hiked in the Grand Canyon a few times in the past, but never had this unique view before. Looking back behind me, down the canyon:
Occasionally the trail was a little brushy and overgrown with manzanita bushes and scrub oak.
The trail slowly climbed higher and higher, and pretty soon I was at the layer of rock known as redwall.
I was getting close to the top of the climb, I could see the layer of white rock which meant I was almost on the north rim.
The last mile was extremely brushy and overgrown, and it took 45 minutes to push through all the thorny scratchy bushes. I stubbornly kept hiking in my shorts and managed to only give a little blood by the time I was done. I was very happy to see the trail junction!
From the junction, I had about an hour of hiking on the Ken Patrick Trail to reconnect to the original Hayduke route at the North Kaibab Trailhead. It was a nice little trail through a ponderosa pine forest.
At the Trailhead, I met a ranger who was stationed there to enforce the trail closure that I had just detoured around.
I like that they are doing more to acknowledge the ancestral lands of the native people. Signs like this were extremely common in Australia and New Zealand, and I’m just beginning to see them here in the US.
From the North Kaibab Trailhead, It was a short walk to the ranger station.
I asked the backcountry ranger about the upcoming section, specifically the Tapeats Creek. She said she was certain it would still be in flood stage and to avoid it. So I’ll be hiking a detour around that in a couple of days. Next, I walked the 10 minutes down to the general store and got myself some snacks.
Today was opening day for the North rim, and the general store was still getting organized. I talked with the store manager who was very friendly, and whom I may have met previously on the PCT, when she was managing the store in the little town of Stehekin WA. Small world! After I finished my microwave pizza, ice cream, and chocolate milk, it was time to hike on a few more miles. The next 30 miles of the Hayduke are on old dirt roads, nice easy hiking.
At one point the forest opened up into a prairie, it was such unexpected scenery for the North rim.
I was very surprised to see a herd of bison. I had heard that they lived up here but that they were very difficult to encounter.
I hiked on for another hour and then set up camp at a random spot in the forest. It gets cold in the evenings up here at 8,000 ft elevation so I got in my tent pretty quickly after dinner. What a tiring day.