A Grand Canyon adventure

Kennedy hikes the Grand Canyon, rim to rim, and packs his diary with him
By: Jack Kennedy Special to the Journal
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Editor’s note: The following are excerpts from blog entries by Cool’s Jack Kennedy, who hiked the Grand Canyon earlier this year with his son Tom. The conclusion of Kennedy’s story will run Friday, Aug. 1. We flew into Phoenix and arrived almost at the identical moment. Tom’s pack did not arrive – poor start! U.S. Air said they “thought” it would arrive on the next flight… three hours later. We picked up the rental car and Tom drove us away to the market and the hardware store. We needed white gas and two gallon water containers and Tom’s food for lunch and breakfast. We parked the car illegally at the airport and Tom raced in to see if his pack had arrived. Tom came hustling out with his beautiful pack on his back. The pack was thrown into the vehicle ad away we flew to the hotel four hours away, near the lip of the Grand Canyon. We organized packs for the next day’s hike toward the campsite called, “Indian Gardens.” Day 1 Indian Gardens was 4.5 miles down with a drop in elevation of 3,300 feet. It took us about five and a half hours to descend the 4.5 miles. The reason? We were taking pictures like crazy. It was gorgeous! When Tom first saw the Grand Canyon he couldn’t speak. A lady came beside Tom and her hands flew to cover her mouth. They looked and were filled with shock and awe. It was a marvelous scene. Going down the “Bright Angel Trail” was a surprise to me. It turned out to be a tough and rutted trail – mule damage. We were really happy to arrive at Indian Gardens. Unfortunately, even though I had pre-tested my cook stove prior to the trip, it malfunctioned. So, what to do. We had three options: We could abort the trip, gut out that night and climb out the next day. I could continue the trek and eat cold Top Ramen noodles and crispy rice for dinner and cold hot chocolate, coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. Or we could steal the functioning stove from our fellow campers. Tom convinced me that theft did not meet the Kennedy ethics. We could not abort after all the planning we had done and we were Kennedys — therefore we could and would eat the soft, cold repasts for the next five nights. I agreed. We couldn’t wait to eat the cold Top Ramen as the reader can readily understand. And so we did, for a total of six days. The next day we were to hike to Bright Angel Campground. Day 2 We broke camp late as we were a little sore and were to hike another 4.5 miles and lose about 1,800 feet of elevation. The weather warmed up considerably. Tom was thrilled when he spotted the Colorado River — a sight to see! Many pictures were taken as we continued along the River Trail. In the distance we could see the Silver Bridge, which crosses the river. We were almost there and nearly all the campsites were taken. This was our last late departure time. We camped in campsite No. 1. Strange things came upon us in this lousy site. First off, my chair collapsed when I rested my wear bones — so much for pleasure for me. Tom graciously offered his chair to me for the rest of the trip. I declined because it didn’t seem right. He insisted. I agreed under great pressure and sat in the chair for the rest of the trip. Day 3 We left Bright Angel Campground around 10 a.m. and hiked toward Cottonwood Camp (7.2 miles). We were in the shade for about four miles because we were in the inner gorge of the canyon. The exposed rock was 1.8 billion years old. This area is a little spooky, yet beautiful. We were close to the sidewalls of the canyon for quite a while. On the trail were huge hunks of rock, which had tumbled down from above. It was a little intimidating. We burst out of the abyss into the sun. It suddenly warmed up as the trail got steeper. After three miles we could see the welcoming cottonwood trees. We were at Cottonwood Camp. We had barely set up camp when Tom let out a very loud yell: “Dad, there’s a rattlesnake almost in our camp and it is red in color!” Sure enough, it was so. I told Tom to be very careful. I also told him I would find a large rock and bust the snake on its head. Tom took control. He said, “No, don’t do that. I have watched the crocodile guy on TV pick up and snake and move it.” Tom picked up a stick and adroitly picked up the snake. He also announced that the name of the snake would be Ronald the Red Rattler. Ronald escaped from Tom’s stick and was making a break for its freedom. I moved away from the action. Tom instantly got Ronald again and was moving him away from our camp. He escaped about seven our eight times, but Tom was on his game. He deftly would scoop Ronald up and the snake dance continued with me relegated to the role of camp photographer. I took about 10 pictures of the dance before crocodile Tom released Ronald for good. It was over. We went back to our campsite and Tom began his victory march back and fourth like a warrior does around the fire. The air was filled with Tom’s victory scream. We calmed down and ate our delicious cold meal and went to bed. We had to hike up and back from the North Rim the next day (14 miles with an altitude gain of 5,000 feet). Day 4 We got up at 6 a.m. and were walking with a rucksack, water and some food to carry for the next 14 miles. We were to gain 5,000 feet this long day and drop down the same 5,000 for our return. The cold oatmeal and coffee (Tom) and tea (me) were delicious. Because Tom has been doing ultra runs, he suggested we stash water along the trail. Halfway to the north rim, Tom stashed a gallon of water. Boy, did that come in handy eight hours later. And Tom didn’t have to carry it the whole way! We came upon an abandoned home about two miles into the trip. A family used to live there. The father was a painter (artist) and he and his wife had two kids. The kids went to school on the north side of the canyon and he was in charge of the pump house maintenance. Oddly enough, the entire water supply for the South Rim is water that originates on the North Rim and through gravity flow, plus booster pumps, the transfer is achieved. Pretty neat. The North Rim is 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim. About four miles up the trail, we sat under a rock ledge with a little shade and took a break. Moments into our rest there was a loud sound of a rock falling nearby. I yelled at Tom to see if he had heard it. He yelled back to see if I saw it. Whoa! Saw what? Tom said a rock went flying down right over our heads. We were protected by the overhang, but that really got our attention. We quickly finished our food and got out of there. The trail was in poor condition. As we switch-backed above where we ate, we could see the trail worsened. We gingerly kept climbing. I am sure Tom was thinking what I was thinking — the return trip. We labored on and on and on. Only about 1,000 more feet to climb. We started to run into some patches of snow. And then, bingo! We were at the top. You can’t see the canyon from that part of the North Rim. But we didn’t care. We knew the next seven miles were downhill. We goofed off for 10 minutes and started down. We had been on the trail for eight hours so far. Four hours later we wandered triumphantly into Cottonwood Camp. We were both very tired. We ate our delicious cold dinner and went to bed. My dinner that night was two peanut butter crackers. I slept like a baby.