his elbow only days before the trip. The suspense built all summer as his arm healed and we pushed the trip into early fall. The area sits at about 7,500 feet of elevation, so it’s covered in snow from mid-October through May. We chose to go at the end of September as the leaves were starting to turn and the temperatures cooled off. Instead of the station wagon of the old days, we loaded up my Tundra with enough food, water, fuel and camping gear to spend four days out there. It’s remote.
As you are leaving the last town and the roads are turning to dirt, cell reception starts to fizzle out as well, which is perfect for helping parents check out from the real world and really focus their time and energy on the kids and the real, real world. We had to stop multiple times on the maze of dirt roads to pull out paper maps and make sure we were on track. The trip involves a maze of roads on the Kaibab Plateau that have been put in over the years for both access and fire/forest management. As soon as I would get out of the truck and start looking at my map, I was immediately swarmed by yellow-jacket bees. Somehow, I avoided getting stung, but it was an unnerving start to be sure! We later found out that even the closest visitor center had been closed due to unusually high numbers of the black and yellow flying needles. It seems that the previous snowy winter had created the perfect conditions for them to overpopulate. That, combined with a dry fall, left them agitated and searching for moisture, so anywhere wooded was packed with them.
We were about seven hours into the drive as we neared the canyon edge and our camping zone, and the kids were cooked! As parents, we had grown tired of the “Are we there yet?” questions, and we were all ready to see the big ditch! All of a sudden, the tree coverage started thinning, and looking out the left side of the truck we could finally see openness. We knew we were close. We pulled up to an open area, and the truck went quiet for a minute. It’s really a breathtaking view to see the Grand Canyon in all of its glory for the first time. Sure, we’ve all seen it in photos, but when you are standing on the edge looking miles and miles out and a full mile straight down to the Colorado River, it’s really something else. Everything suddenly felt right in the world. All of the stress of planning and child management on the drive melted away. We knew we were home for the next few days.
There’s something special about being self-sufficient in the woods, away from any other humans, on the edge of one of the earth’s most spectacular features. As we started to set up camp, the kids immediately began building a fort out of sticks and rocks. We knew we had made a series of great decisions to bring our family here. The first thing I did was set up a hammock on the rim between two trees and lay down to just take it all in. Camping has a special way of slowing down time, taking away everything that doesn’t matter and putting basic needs on the front burner. At this point, life is simple. Shelter, food and fun are pretty much all that’s needed.
The trail is currently 22.6 miles of mostly hand-built singletrack, snaking through the trees with unreal views as it briefly pops out to viewpoints along the way. The landscape is a series of ridges with valleys in between that drain into the canyon. The trail follows these contours out to the edge and then back into the valleys, so you spend the majority of your time in widely spaced pine trees.
It’s a blue-level trail that suits the ability of most riders with a few years of singletrack under their belt. It has more climbs than you would expect, some of which…