By Tyler Roebuck
Churubusco – At the end of May 2017, Kathy Cramer and her husband, Dave, completed a rim to rim hike of the Grand Canyon. The 24-mile hike took the couple four days and three nights to finish.
“Preparing for a rim to rim hike at the Grand Canyon is a daunting task,” Cramer wrote in a letter to the Churubusco News. “There are so many things to decide. How long should we allow for the trip? Where should we stay? What do we need to take with us? Can we make this hike on our own or should we join a guided group? How will my body react to the higher elevation? How far in advance do I need to start training?”
The Grand Canyon in Arizona has two different rims; a higher elevation North Rim and more popular South Rim, at which the visitor’s center is located. A rim to rim hike is difficult a task that many people do annually. Although the National Parks Service advises against it, some of these hikers do the nearly 11-hour hike in one day.
Due to the extreme difference in elevation between the north and south rims, the north is only open from May 15- Oct 15 so that hikers are not there while everything is frozen. An interesting problem unique to a rim to rim hike is deciding on which rim to start.
“We elected to go with the majority of hikers and start our hike from the North Rim on the North Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch and the Bright Angel Campground which is located at the Colorado River,” Kathy Cramer said.
In order to stay in the Bright Angel Campground, which is tent camping, the couple needed to secure a Backcountry permit. “The National Park Service utilizes a lottery system to issue the backcountry permits due to the high demand” Kathy Cramer said.
“Hikers can submit their applications four months prior to the start of their hike. For instance, to request campground permits for a hike in May, ensure your request is received between Dec 20 and Jan 1.”
After requesting permits for three consecutive nights between May 15-31, the Cramers “received notification on Jan. 6 that we were lucky enough to be granted a permit as requested beginning on Friday, May 26.”
So began the immense planning for travel logistics, packing, and training to be ready for their arrival at the North Rim on May 25. Even though the Cramers are experienced hikers, they were unprepared for that their trip had in store. “We had never done any overnight tent camping on our hikes. We needed everything,” Kathy Cramer said.
The unique climate differences presented a challenge in what to pack, as they had to be prepared for snow and potential 120 degree days within the same trip. For the first half of their hike, they realized they had over-packed as Dave Cramer’s hips and knees had started aching.
Thankfully, they had seen the last of the cold, so after arriving at Phantom Ranch, they sent 19lbs worth of their cold-weather gear via donkey to the South rim to retrieve it later.
Phantom Ranch is the last operating mail-by-donkey facility in the nation.
After Dave Cramer began aching, the couple took their trip at a slower pace. They did not want to be one of the many people rescued by the National Parks Service each year. “One sign indicated that there are 250 people rescued from the depths of the Grand Canyon each year. A surprising majority of those rescued are males between the ages of 18 and 40.”
The rest of their hike was uneventful, but full of memories from their previous two trips to the Grand Canyon in 2011 and 2013. Accompanied by breathtaking views and a nice gentleman from New Jersey, the Cramers completed their rim to rim hike in the morning of their fourth day and traveled back by shuttle to their van, which was parked on the North Rim.
“Would we do some things differently if we had to do it again? Yes, certainly but all in all, I am very glad we made the hike,” said Kathy Cramer.