I think I’ll move on to Oh! Two Feet.
[If you don’t see the pun progression, look harder.]
It was now time to leave Cottonwood Campground, halfway up the north side of the Grand Canyon, and head back down to Bright Angel Campground near Phantom Ranch alongide the Colorado River.
I mentioned that I put on moccasins after about a mile up The Box, and showed this picture of the trail.
It’s not that I couldn’t have continued to do it barefoot; it’s just that I would have been abysmally slow. The rockier the terrain, the more carefully you have to place your feet, and the more time you have to take stepping down, to allow your feet to adjust to what they are stepping on.
I’ve also discussed in the past the issue of getting older—feet (and any other part of the body) just don’t recover the way they used to. However, I also remember that 10-15 years ago (when I was a mere child), I used to say that I could handle about 2-3 miles of gravel, but that was my limit. Well, this was the equivalent of twice that.
There was the additionally the issue of my heat exhaustion. Going slow enough to go barefoot would have exposed me to the later heat of the day.
Providence prefers that I go barefoot; it doesn’t require that I endanger myself or be stupid about it.
So, I wore my moccasins on the way back through The Box down to Bright Angel Campground.
We’d passed right by Ribbon Falls on our way up. However, on the way back down, it was a perfect stopping place. Here’s Ian with the falls in the background.
There are two approaches to Ribbon Falls. The standard one entails climbing up an intervening ridge, then back down, and then to a bridge over Bright Angel Creek. If heading north, you then backtrack about 1/3 of a mile. The other approach is the result of work that did on the bridge a few years back. They created an alternative trail that fords Bright Angel Creek (and connects south of the falls). That trail is still there, and means that instead of having to do an up-and-back to Ribbon Falls (something we didn’t grok on our way up), you can use the two paths as a complete alternate route.
So, after seeing Ribbon Falls, we used the alternative to cross Bright Angel Creek.
That was a perfect place to take off the moccasins for a bit.
As we headed down-canyon (yes, that’s what they all call it), I rather liked this view of Ian (well in advance of me) with the agave blooming alongside.
You can also see that the trail is still pretty gravelly.
It’s really rather amazing what the moccasins can do. Yeah, they take away the direct contact with the earth, but just that 1.3mm of pliable leather meant that I could walk fairly quickly on gravel that, barefoot, I would have gone three times as slowly.
I think it also provided stimulation for building callus. I felt the rough gravelly texture, just not painfully. And all the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in my feet kept getting their exercise. And, interestingly, I got quite a few comments just on the moccasins. People are so used to thinking that they need “support” and heavy boots that even moccasins are a novelty. (And they don’t look goofy like Vibrams do—my own personal opinion. If you like them, that’s fine by me.)
You can see the moccasins here.
Behind me, on my right (your left) you can see a slow seep with some green mosses hanging on for dear life.
Here’s another shot showing the scenery of The Box, and just how narrow the trail is going through it.
The trail was still pretty rough there, too. (And even though any particular spot had a nice surface, the rough patches way outweighed the nice stuff, and it wasn’t worth constantly stopping and switching between bare feet and moccasins.)
About half way down I wore a hole in one of my moccasins.
Those were my oldest and favorite moccasins, too. Shows you just how rough the trail was, though, I guess.
About a mile outside the Bright Angel Campground I took them off. It was the trail I’d headed up the day before and I knew it would not present any unusual challenges to bare feet. So I headed into camp barefooted and we selected our campsite.
Here is the sunset from it.
So, the next morning was when we were heading up out of the Grand Canyon, up the Bright Angel Trail. I wasn’t particularly footsore (much better this year than last).
So I had high hopes that I’d be able to do it all barefoot.