Rim shot: Father-son duo cap Grand Canyon venture in style

By: “Yukon” Jack Kennedy Special to the Journal
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Editor’s note: The following are the second in a two-part series of excerpts from blog entries by Cool’s “Yukon” Jack Kennedy, who hiked the Grand Canyon earlier this year with his son Tom, of Laguna Niguel. Day 5 The trail is all moderately downhill for the next 7.2 miles. We slept in late. “Ronald the Red Rattler” did not return that night. Hooray! I left about an hour before Tom. He wanted to check out the area to see if he could introduce himself to any of “Ronald’s” relatives. He was also going to check out Ribbon Falls. The temperature was much warmer than the day before. But it was all downhill so… no problem. After about four miles I took a break and put some moleskin on my right heel — first blister in 25 years. It seemed like I would never get to Bright Angel campground. I was walking nearly two miles per hour, yet I wasn’t getting there soon enough. It was now hot. I stopped and splashed some water on my head, hat, shirt and pants. Ah… nice! Finally I arrived a Phantom Ranch. Twenty minutes later, I was in Bright Angel camp. I wandered back to Phantom Ranch to wait for Tom the explorer. I waited some more. Where was he? Just to be safe I contacted a ranger and told her of my concern. She didn’t seem too interested in my situation. She was preparing to speak to about 30 people at the Phantom Ranch. I tagged along with her. She had spoken for about 30 minutes when I saw the explorer ambling along his way near us. “Tom!” I called. I called again, only much louder. The ranger was not pleased as I burst from my seat and hurried off between her and the audience, but I didn’t care. That was my lost son… in person! I gave him a big hug and a wet kiss. We went to the campground to relax for a few minutes. I had scored two tickets for steak dinners at the Phantom Ranch. We had 10 minutes to get there. We just made it and had one of the best steak dinners in my life — and it was served hot. Plus we had baked potatoes, delicious salad, corn, peas, a huge piece of chocolate cake and a glass of red wine. Paradise. Day 6 We only had four and a half miles to go to Indian Gardens. Elevation gain was only about 1,500 feet. We left around 9 a.m. and it was the easiest hike day of the trip. We took our time and said goodbye to the Colorado River. After about four hours we arrived in the oasis of Indian Gardens. That evening we finished our last carefully measured Yukon Jack and sat down and enjoyed our last cold feast. We slept like babies. Day 7 The physical challenge of this day weighed heavily on my mind. The distance was 4.5 miles — the same as yesterday — but the climb was twice as steep. We were on the trail by 6 a.m. It was fun to see the canyon backwards from the way it looked going down. However, we mostly just watched the trail. I was concentrating on a slow, but steady walk. It was surprising how soon we reached our first water break. Off went the packs, down went the water and off our feet to rest. There were not many hikers coming down yet from the South Rim (this would change). We also ate almost all of our remaining snacks. We saddled up and began the second third of our hike. This portion was more rigorous than the first. The sun was out and the trail was much rougher. There were lots of small rocks on the trail and the beginning of the 10-inch horizontal logs placed on the trail to minimize erosion — and irritate me. Lo and behold the second rest stop appeared. Off went the packs, etc. There were lots of hikers now. Just looking at them made me conclude there were going to be some serious issues with some of these folks. I’m sure they had no idea what they were getting into, especially as the temperature continued to rise. Off we went. Now was the hardest and steepest segment of the trail. I was able to continue with my regular slow, but not stopping to rest pace. We could see the South Rim more clearly. The trees still looked rather small. An old man was hiking down the trail with a pack. He was one of us and he was old, hooray! Tom took a picture of the old guys. We showed mutual admiration for each other and parted ways (I could have taken him two out of three takedowns). We went on. Back and forth, back and forth, we went through “The Tunnel” and shortly I cold see the Bright Angel Lodge. We were almost to the top. Tom pushed me ahead and said I could have the honor of reaching the summit first. I didn’t argue. I bounded up the trail for the last 10 yards. Tom began calling out to the tourists, “Hey, this is my father and he is 76 years old and he just finished hiking the Rim to Rim to Rim hike.” Surprisingly, people started moving toward me. One guy gave me a high-five. I threw my arms to the sky in pure joy. Tom was filming all of this. We made it! We had hiked seven straight days and hit six campsites. We didn’t mess around. We got in the rental car and drove to Phoenix. It was a very pleasant four-hour drive. And did we ever smell.