Day 39 & 40 The Grand Canyon
I woke early, ready to see the Grand Canyon! I packed up quickly, knowing this was my last quiet night in the tent. My goal was to get to Mather Campground and squeeze into the site that is set aside for thru-hikers, and I had a feeling it would be a busy night at the campground. Twenty miles to go!
The temperatures dropped a little so I was back in pants. The winds definitely had picked up, the weather was showing a storm to the north. While I wouldn’t be rained on, I was certainly feeling the blustery effects. The trail was flat and quiet but the tourist helicopters were in full force, it felt like they were constantly passing over me.
I reached an area that was very dusty, the wind picked the dirt up and swirled it around. I kept my sunglasses on and head down. This area also had just undergone a planned burn so the scent of scorched earth filled my nostrils for miles. The wind even picked up and scattered some ash around me, I was ready for this section to end.
Finally I made it out and entered the trail near the town of Tusayan. Tusayan mostly exists for GCNP overflow. Since I am within 8 miles of the park I skipped the town and pushed to my destination. There is such high tourist traffic so they made a paved bike/ walking path that heads straight from the town to the park. The AZT links up with this stretch, my time on the dirt paths of the AZT is done.
An hour later I was missing those soft dirt trails. The harsh pavement was killing my tired feet. While making my way, a group of 4 hikers passed me. They were clearly AZT hikers that had stopped in town. I started to get nervous about space. A call to Eric took my mind off the painful pavement. He was excited for me to finish this journey and offered to treat me to a room at one of the lodges in the park (there was a room still available). I demurred at first but not for long after thinking about a soft bed and a hot shower, so the room was booked and I happily made my way over.
I got off trail just shy of the Grand Canyon and decided to officially finish my hike into the Grand Canyon the next morning when it wasn’t as crowded or windy. I checked into my room and let out a sigh of relief. My AZT hike was basically over and the miles tomorrow were just to officially “finish.” Even though I would be seeing the Grand Canyon tomorrow, I just couldn’t wait to see this amazing natural wonder. I left my bag and made a quick trip over to one of the viewpoints near the visitor center. The view is just stunning! It will never stop being awe-inspiring. I didn’t stay long since the wind was a bit unpleasant and I had a soft bed waiting. I was so thankful for Eric’s treat and had a quiet comfortable night.
I woke early to sounds of movement in the hallway, I realized it was guests up early to see the sunrise at the Grand Canyon. I knew I wouldn’t make it in time so I didn’t rush. I was very grateful to have this hotel room as the temperature outside was 27 degrees. I grabbed my jacket and a bottle of water and set out to complete my last few miles.
I walked the AZT and saw some furry friends enjoying their breakfast.
I easily made my way to Yaki point and headed down the South Kaibab trail. Several other hikers were making their way down but the cold and early hour scared away most people. I felt as if I had this beautiful place all to myself. I made my way down the switchbacks and glanced up at the beautiful natural walls around me. I stopped at Ooh Ah Point and sat down to enjoy the silence and of course take a million photos.
A few people passed me, heading farther down into the canyon. I was enjoying my spot in the sun and felt that I had gone far enough. I could continue the next half mile further into the canyon but was happy with where I was and felt this beautiful spot would be the perfect official end to my AZT hike.
Eventually, I made my way back up to the rim. I will say I was very happy to not have my bag with me. I took the long way back to my hotel room, following the south rim trail (a paved trail running along the south rim with constant views of the GC) as long as I could.
I grabbed my bag and left my hotel room. I walked over to the market to get a sandwich for lunch. I ran into Blaze, whom I hadn’t seen for the last couple hundred miles. He said the hiker campsite was very full and a bit rowdy. Unsurprisingly everyone seemed to be finishing their hike at the southern rim. I was relieved not to have to fight for tent space (thank you Eric)! Blaze was trying to make his way to Utah and hike south to the northern rim of the Grand Canyon where the trail is closed. I wished him luck and returned to the southern rim trail to walk the rest of it and then catch my shuttle back to Flagstaff, where I would spend a couple days before flying back home.
It’s been an amazing 40 days and 702 miles. I can’t believe how much I have enjoyed my time on the Arizona Trail. The trail itself was so much fun and the views have just been stunning. I was able to hike through 2 national parks and see the most beautiful wildflowers along the way. I cannot wait to do a complete thru-hike to Utah with Eric at some point. I highly recommend this trail to anyone who loves backpacking. The AZT will always have a special place in my heart!
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