near mile 712, North Rim Campground

A bit of catching up to do before I head down into the Canyon.

On Sunday I got up before dawn and hustled the 8 miles down the trail to the Park entrance. I had sent a resupply box to the store and lodge 5 miles up the road, and was hoping to get there in time for second breakfast.

Hitching a few miles to a resupply point is usually not too much of a problem on long hikes. I’ve rarely had to wait more than 15 minutes for a ride.

What I’d forgotten when planning this resupply is that it is always locals, not tourists, that give rides. They know about the PCT or AZT, and know that the grimy looking hitchhiker with the backpack is a hiker and not a hobo.

There are no locals on the North Rim of the GC. I mean, there are, but they all work and live in the park. They don’t commute between the towns they can afford and the towns where they work.

It took a good hour and a half before a young Australian woman touring the West in a minivan gave me a ride. She had been to Zion and was hoping for some advice on next places to go (Death Valley and Redwoods NP were my suggestions).

The lodge was rustic but packed — I got the last cabin. The lady at the desk told me that one of her housekeepers wants to hike the AZT and gave her a call and we made a breakfast date to talk about hiking long trails.

Joanne had never done a long trail or all that much backpacking so my first piece of advice was to pick a different trail, like the PCT.

3000 people a year hike the PCT vs 100 for the AZT. There is a very well developed infrastructure of support for PCT hikers, the trail is well marked and maintained, there are many trail angels and a whole community of hikers that look out for each other. It’s much easier to stay out of trouble on the PCT. It’s unofficial motto is “the trail will provide” and this is mostly true.

The unofficial motto of the AZT is “harder than you think”, and I have found this to be fitting as well.

Joanne offered to buy my breakfast but I asked for a ride back to the park entrance which was a much better bargain in my view.

Once back on the trail I hopped the 10 miles to the campground and the backcountry rangers office to get a walk up camping permit for the Canyon. These usually are snapped up months in advance, but it’s not really practical for long distance hikers to specify the precise date at which we will arrive.

I told him that I was hiking the AZT, and he could not have been nicer or more helpful. He gave me a permit for the group camp at Bright Angel, and I was on my way in minutes.

There is a hiker ghetto at the North Rim CG, but it is the best deal ever — $6 to camp right on the Rim. Other than a trio of Russian bikers, I had the place to myself, and enjoyed another evening of sitting on the Rim and watching the sunset over the Canyon.

Now it is onward and downward.