So far in the last week and a half I’d hiked barefoot in Zion (8.4 miles, 5.4 miles, and 5.4 miles) and in the Grand Canyon (1.1 miles on the rim, 6.3 on the way down, and 3.7 north of Bright Angel Campground). I wasn’t particularly footsore.
But now it was time to head up the Bright Angel Trail: 9.5 miles horizontally and 1 mile vertically.
Shortly after leaving the campground it’s time to cross the Colorado River again. To go up the Bright Angel Trail, you use the Silver Bridge. Here I am with the bridge and the river in the background.
I’m holding a copy of the travel section of our local Columbus Dispatch. On Sundays they feature folks on their trips holding up the section. I thought I’d see if barefooting through the Grand Canyon was interesting enough for them to include. [Apparently it was. Last week they featured a family on the rim, so I doubt they'll do another Grand Canyon picture any time soon, even if it is at the bottom . . . and barefoot.]
(In my submission I also included a bit of a snide remark about how the floors of the Columbus Metro Library might be too dangerous for bare feet, but the trails in the Grand Canyon sure weren’t.)
The Silver Bridge has a metal deck.
I’ve seen those before. They’re really not that hard to cross barefoot. You just make sure your foot lines up longitudinally and that spreads the weight quite nicely.
Here’s the other side of the bridge, looking back at the people who were crossing after us.
After crossing the bridge, the trail follows the Colorado River for about 1¼ miles. Here’s Ian with the Colorado River behind him (and you can barely make out the Silver Bridge way in the back).
This part of the trail is mainly deep sand, and, unsurprisingly, no trouble for bare feet at all. We’re approaching the River Resthouse
Here’s a scenery shot, below Indian Garden.
And here’s one of the views looking back while climbing up.
Approaching the 3-mile Resthouse are a bunch of switchbacks, with the usual wonderful views off to the side.
One nice thing about heading up on the Bright Angel Trail is that there is water available much of the way up. The water for the Grand Canyon National Park (both north and south sides) comes from the North Rim, and Roaring Springs. There is a pipe that runs down Bright Angel Creek (on the north side) to Phantom Ranch and the Bright Angel Campground, then up the Bright Angel Trail (with a pumping stating at Indian Garden). So there is clean water at Bright Angel Campground, Indian Garden, and then at two more locations on the way up: 3-mile Resthouse (3 miles from the top) and the 1½-mile Resthouse (guess where it is located).
[Actually, they are at 1.6 and 3.1 miles.]
When we were at the 3-mile Resthouse, an inevitable mule train came by (with the absolutely loudest leader you’ve ever heard). No picture essay of the Grand Canyon would be complete without a picture of a mule train.
(You can see mules going both directions because they are at a switchback.)
Here I am getting really close to the top.
Yes, I did the whole thing barefooted. Of course, a lot of people saw me and were incredulous. But, hey, that’s good publicity for going barefooted.
My feet held up just fine. But as I told those who asked,
My feet are fine. It’s my legs and lungs that are really feeling it.
Even then, my son was doing a lot of the work. He carried the tent; I carried the food. By the end of the trip there, most of the food was gone. Sneaky me.
Let me end with a shot of my feet from partway up.
Walking through all the dust colored them differently depending on the color of the rock layer I was walking through. Here they are with a greenish, limestone tint just after I had entered a new layer with reddish sandstone.
Anyways, that was our (Ian’s and my) backpacking trip into the Grand Canyon. I did 18.3 miles of the 31.6 mile trip completely barefoot. The remainder (13.3) I did wearing thin-soled moccasins (and that was more for speed than anything else). I did this wearing a 33-pound pack (well, 33 pounds at the beginning).
To use another of the phrases I often used when folks commented to me on the trail about how brave I was or how I must have strong feet: “It looks more impressive than it really is.”
Seriously, if a 58-year-old man can do it, it can’t really be all that hard, can it?