Climbing Cotopaxi

Laurie had wanted to visit her friend Emily in Ecuador for a while, but she preferred not to go alone.

It didn’t take much convincing for Andy to join her. “We can climb a 20,000 ft volcano,” Laurie excitedly told him one night.

“I’m in,” Andy replied.

And just like that we were going to Ecuador. We booked flights and would be staying with Emily and her husband Paúl in Quito – the capital city. With Laurie changing jobs and Andy working retail during the holidays, that was the extent of our planning for this trip.

Thankfully our local tour guides Emily and Paúl helped a ton! They mapped out a few training hikes and put us in touch with a local guide.

Unfortunately the guide didn’t get back to us in a timely manner, so a week before our departure Andy found a tour operator that arranged for us to climb Cotopaxi.

Once in Ecuador we hiked everyday for the first 4 days, starting with a local park in Quito, then a crater similar to Crater Lake although smaller, followed by Fuya Fuya and Rucu Pichincha. With each hike we increased our elevation, topping out at just over 15,000 feet!

City park in Quito

Hiking around Laguna Cuicocha

Fuya Fuya in the distance

Rucu Pichincha

Hiking in Quito and the surrounding areas was wonderful. We loved being outside, even though the weather didn’t always play ball. We knew we should be able to see Cotopaxi from Quito, but with the rain and constant cloud cover, we were starting to think that the mountain didn’t exist.

Moreover, we weren’t entirely confident we’d have fair weather for our date with the volcano.

The day before our climb, under partly cloudy skies, Luis picked us up in a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado (if you don’t remember from our Switzerland blog posts, Andy LOVES foreign cars, particularly 4×4’s not offered in the U.S.) and shuttled us to their tour office in Quito, where we picked up ice axes, mountaineering boots and extra layers.

Just before we left Laurie realized we had not gotten our crampons. The owner of the company grabbed some crampons, put them in the car and we were on our way to Cotopaxi National Park.

Our guide Fausto had summited that very morning,  so a friend of the tour operator drove us (now in a Model 80 Land Cruiser) out of town to a gas station where Fausto met us and drove the remaining 90 minutes to the national park entrance.

Cotopaxi clouded over

We ate lunch at a small restaurant at the park entrance, with both of us enjoying the quinoa soup and sampling their version of “aji” or hot sauce.

Getting excited for Cotopaxi!

After lunch we traveled down a smoothly paved road, which eventually turned to dirt. The higher we went, the worse the road became. Eventually we turned a corner where most sedans and 2 wheel drive cars stop and their occupants walk the rest of the way.

But local tour buses shuttling cyclists to the parking lot to bike down the road had no problems. Biking down that road might look tempting on a tour company’s website but we both think it would be miserable given the amount of traffic, sharp turns, dust and overall condition of the road.

Around 2 pm we arrived at the parking lot and loaded up our backpacks. We felt like real mountaineers with helmets, crampons and harnesses draping off our packs.

We began our ascent to the hut. It was a short trek and we opted for the most direct option – up the sandy path. It wasn’t quite 2 steps up, 1 step down but at 15,000 feet it was slow going.

Getting closer to the hut

Two groups of hikers – about 10 Swiss and 8 from back east – had started out just before us. Halfway through the uphill, our guide looked at them, then looked at us and told us to continue hiking at our pace while he went ahead to reserve two beds. We weren’t sure if we should interpret this as we were going too slowly or if he trusted us to make it the half mile to the hut without supervision.

We arrived 30 minutes later at the Refugio Cotopaxi Jose Ribas with no Fausto in sight. Exploring the dorms we found two bunk beds with his hat and vest on them, unloaded our belongings and went down to the common area for tea.

Laurie making herself at home on her bunk

Shortly after, Fausto joined us as we drank té de coca (coca leaves are known to help reduce altitude sickness). We asked questions about his climbing history and aspirations as well as sharing our experiences. Laurie had fun practicing her Spanish and both of us were impressed with the sentences she put together.

Before dinner Fausto met us in our dorm to look over our gear. Everything looked ok except for the crampons. It seemed the tour company had given us crampons too small to fit Andy’s boots.

Fausto was not pleased.

He fiddled with the crampons, then switched Laurie’s crampons with Andy’s and they just barely fit. Whew!

We were all relieved.

Dinnertime at the hut

Laurie and Fausto enjoying quinoa soup

During dinner we discussed plans for the ascent that evening. Fausto recommended we wake up at midnight and start walking by 1 am – a true alpine start. Typically people leave the hut between 12-1 but Fausto sounded confident 1 am would be okay for us. He said we were fast getting to the hut. Laurie turned to Andy and said with a smile, “Ha! I knew it was a test!”

We were in bed by 7pm but sleep was hard to come by. People kept opening and closing the door to the dorm and rummaging in their packs. The guides were having a grand ol’ time downstairs and their laughter drifted up the stairs and into our dorm like a cold wind through an open window. We both wore ear plugs hoping to drown out some of the noise.

But the noise wasn’t the only thing keeping us awake. Andy tossed and turned all night due to something not sitting right in his belly. He wasn’t sure if it was lunch or dinner but he felt bloated and was super gassy. He desperately wanted to sleep but wasn’t able to.

Laurie drifted off to sleep soonafter getting in her bunk but woke up around 10 with a very distended belly. Despite multiple attempts to fart out the discomfort, the pressure remained.

Eventually she coaxed herself out of bed, reaching for her headlamp and trying to make little noise as she stepped over our boots, ice axes and backpacks placed between our bunks. Immediately upon standing a warm sensation overcame her body.

She stumbled through the door and out to the staircase, grasping for the handrail to descend the 10 steps to the bathroom. When Laurie came to she was sitting on one of the steps, back resting against the step above.

She was soaked in sweat but more alert than a few moments prior. She made it to the bathroom, released some pressure and returned to bed for another 30 minute nap before the lights were turned on and people started getting ready. As it turned out everyone else was leaving either at midnight or half past twelve.

The frustrating thing about being the last to leave the hut was that we didn’t really get more sleep. We spent more time in bed but sleep was impossible with people walking in and out with heavy mountaineering boots on a wooden floor.

We met Fausto downstairs and had a cup of tea before leaving the warmth of the hut a little before 1am. Neither one of us felt ready – with no sleep, upset stomachs and fainting earlier. Nevertheless, we shouldered our packs and went for it.

We wore many layers and quickly warmed as our route was a continuous uphill schlep.

The path consisted of loose volcanic rock and dirt. After about 30 minutes we reached snow line and stopped to put on crampons and rope in. From here it was slow and steady. One step at a time we made our way up and up.

We farted as we walked, both of us feeling better releasing pressure and moving.

At times we went straight up the mountain, climbing sideways with one foot stepping over the other. At other times we switchbacked up the mountain, stopping momentarily to switch our ice axes into our uphill hand.

Occasionally we stopped to catch our breath and could see the trail of headlights above us. Slowly but surely, we were getting closer to those that departed earlier.

Around 3am we were about halfway into our climb. We felt tired but were both doing well with the altitude. Laurie started taking Diamox 2 days before our summit attempt after getting a bad headache when at 15,000 feet. Andy elected not to, wanting to see how his body would handle the altitude. He had done just fine in Nepal at 17,500 feet and wanted to know if he could withstand 19,000 feet.

If he couldn’t do it, he would be ok with turning around. But Laurie would have a hard time with this because she is competitive and turning around, even if it is the right decision, feels like a failure.  Laurie’s potential disappointment wasn’t enough to keep Andy from trying to summit without Diamox.

The altitude and possible disappointment weren’t Andy’s real fears. The steepness of the mountain and constant exposure was making him think about the descent. Andy doesn’t feel as comfortable on snow as Laurie. He was feeling scared about the way down. He felt that he shouldn’t keep going because he would only get himself into more trouble on the return.

Almost the entire way up the mountain there are 4,000+ foot drop offs to the left or the right, and behind as well. One wrong step and you’re going down. But since we were roped in, he feared he’d take Laurie and Fausto with him.

During one of our short breaks Andy attempted to calm himself down by reassuring himself that he did in fact belong on the mountain and that he could do this. He took deep breaths (not easy with the cold and thin oxygen) and eventually steadied himself enough to continue.

We climbed on, moving slowly, with the sound of the snow crunching underfoot. On  one particular switchback, as we slowly gained elevation, the moon came into view. It was beautiful, as were the stars. As usual Andy was the one to spot the moon. Even here he constantly looked up and afar, gazing at the stars and the city lights many miles in the distance.

Around 4am a woman passed us hiking downhill very quickly with her guide in tow. We’re not sure who she was or why she had turned around, but she was clearly headed back to the hut.

Every 30 minutes or so, when the mountain leveled out after a steep climb, we took a short 1 minute break to catch our breath and add layers. Andy was so tired that during a few of those breaks he almost fell sleep standing up.

Eventually the sky started to get brighter. The darkness was giving way to light. And as time crept closer to sunrise and we got higher in altitude the air got colder.  Around 5am it was so cold our checks were frozen making it hard to talk. We tried minimizing breaks during these cold times because Andy’s hands would freeze immediately if he took his gloves off to layer up or grab a snack.

Around 6 am we caught up with some of the other hikers. They didn’t look great but they didn’t look like they were giving up. In fact, they were having a tea break.

Throughout our climb Fausto had not given us any clues as to where we were on the mountain. With sunrise around the corner we didn’t know how close we were to the top. Inevitably Laurie got impatient and again asked him about our status, to which he responded, “Twenty more minutes and we’ll be at the top.”

We thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t.

At 6:30am, just as the sun crested the horizon, we arrived at “el cumbre” or the summit.

Sunrise at Cotopaxi

We had done it!


We had climbed Volcan Cotopaxi.

The views of the surrounding peaks were spectacular as we, and they, were above a blanket of clouds. For the first time on our trip we could see all of the beautiful volcanoes in this region of Ecuador – including the daddy – Chimborazo.


The smell of sulfur was overwhelming as the smoke from the crater wafted our way, unfortunately obscuring the view of the full crater . Periodically we got a glimpse as the wind shifted.

Even with the lack of views  of the crater, we were excited to be at 19,347 feet together! Laurie had previously climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro which was 7 feet lower in elevation.

Andy got emotional at the top and shed a few tears. This was a hard climb for him emotionally and he felt very proud to be up there.

Laurie scampered around the 20 square foot peak, taking pictures of the shadow cast by the volcano and basking in the endorphine rush that accompanies a successful summit.

Unlike Kilimanjaro, there were no rules about limiting time at the summit. Perhaps the Ecuadorians are not concerned about oxygen starved foreigners.

Jumping with crampons is not easy

We took a few celebratory pictures and were ready to head down after about 30 minutes. At least Andy was. Having taken off his gloves for a few moments, his hands were freezing again so he waved his arms every which way to pump blood into them.

Celebratory shot with Fausto

Around 7am we roped in again and began our descent. Andy, being less sure footed than Laurie, was in the middle. We took it slow, stabilizing with our ice axes and letting our crampons bite into the snow with each step.

The last of the climbers nearing the summit. Also, notice how steep it is!

Neither of us wanted to look down at the drop offs but it was hard not to. We did our best to focus on our feet as we made our way down the narrow strip of flattened snow, packed down by consecutive days of climbers.

We stopped periodically to rest our tired legs as going down felt much more taxing on our muscles than the uphill.

On our descent we were able to appreciate the uniqueness and texture of Cotopaxi. Fausto wanted to get off the mountain as quickly as possible – who could blame him as he had summited this mountain two days in a row(!!), but Laurie wanted to capture the experience through photos. Andy turned to Fausto and thanked him for his patience. Fausto gave him a displeased look but he eventually accepted that we were in no hurry to get down.

Can you see the thousands of feet below?

We had both left the hut with 2 liters of water and Andy encouraged us to drink as much as possible on the way down. It wasn’t easy as the water was icy and neither of us enjoy drinking cold water.

There are many crevasses on Cotopaxi

As we slowly made our way down, we wondered how it would be to glissade here. We both knew better but the thought of going down thousands of feet in only a few minutes was very tempting!

Climbers descending Cotopaxi

As we reached the tip of the glacier Fausto removed the rope and told us to go on without him. His stomach was acting up too and he needed a break.

We still had over 1,500 feet to descent before getting to the hut and Andy could feel blisters on his big toes. His mountaineering boots were very comfy (and roomy in the toebox) on the ascent but probably one size too big for the descent. His feet were sliding inside the boots and the friction was creating blisters.

No matter though. Andy has dealt with blisters and kept going slowly. Eventually, after what felt like hours, we made it to the hut at 9:30am.

Other guides congratulated us as did some of the folks from back east. Everyone was tired but in good spirits. We enjoyed hot chocolates and a tamale breakfast while waiting for Emily and Paúl to join us. Emily was going to bring a California flag for us to sign and leave on the wall of the hut.

Around 10am there was still no sign of our friends.  We decided to hike down to the parking lot as Fausto had to get back to Quito, drop off our rental equipment and take a well deserved day off.

Eventually we found Emily and Paúl on the road and parted with Fausto.

Climbing Cotopaxi was a special experience and we are grateful we got to share it together. We enjoy cheering for each other and celebrating moments like these.

The day after our climb we finally got to see Cotopaxi!

We’re not sure what’s next but Andy now wants to find a 20,000 foot mountain to climb!

Stay tuned 🙂


Rim2Rim2Rim; Grand Canyon Day 2

Saturday, October 21, 2017

From: North Rim Campground
To: Bright Angel Trailhead (Maswik Lodge parking lot)
Miles: 26.92
Elevation gain/loss: +4,671 ft; -6,182 ft
Total miles: 53.77

Thankfully the forest was still green and the campfires were out in the morning. We hiked out of the hiker/biker campsite at 5:45am, taking our time to avoid descending into the canyon in complete darkness.

We arrived at the busy North Kaibab Trailhead around 6:15am, where at least a dozen other headlamps were already bobbing down the trail. Everyone looked fresh and sounded cheery.

A few switchbacks before the Supai Tunnel we ran into 3 hikers doing the Rim2Rim2rim in one day. They had started at the South Rim at 8:45pm and were almost halfway done! One of the guys looked so tired he could barely keep his eyes open. How he would make it back to the South Rim 25 miles later was beyond us. We felt grateful for our wise decision to make this a 2 day adventure rather than 24 hour gig.

Initially our bodies were stiff but as we continued to descend our muscles warmed up and accepted the punishment. We played leap frog with other couples doing the Rim 2 Rim. Mr. Thai, who Andy nicknamed based on his Thai branded tank top, and his partner passed us frequently. Andy introduced himself to another couple saying that we may as well be on a first name basis since we would be seeing one another for the next 12 hours. Jake and Sally, a couple in their 50s, smiled.

The weather was cool and we made great time hiking down into the canyon. Unlike the South Kaibab Trail, the North Kaibab trail has many undulations and crosses the canyon a few times. We both found it more interesting to hike on this trail, but it certainly wasn’t as dramatic and open as the South Kaibab Trail.

While everyone we were hiking with stopped for water at Manzanita, we kept going and enjoyed quite a few miles of trail all to ourselves. We learned on the PCT that watering holes in the desert attract many hikers, so we took a bit more water at Supai Tunnel to bypass this one. It worked out beautifully!

We stopped briefly at Cottonwood Campground for water before taking the detour to Ribbon Falls. The bridge is ‘closed’ because it needs repair but it wasn’t blocked off, so we crossed it anyway. Andy later mentioned that a volunteer ranger told him it would be ok as long as we stayed along the edges. He neglected to pass on that information until after we had completed our hike. Incidentally we both walked straight down the middle of the bridge; it squeaked and moved a little but didn’t give way.

The sketchy bridge crossing was certainly worth it because Ribbon Falls was stunning! Given the time of year, it had decent flow and the drops of water cascaded down to a green mossy mound. The green in contrast to the red rocks was quite spectacular. Andy got very excited and ran up the trail that traversed behind the falls.

Laurie followed at a much slower speed. We followed the trail to the opposite side of the falls and along an exposed cliff. “Don’t think about it, just keep going. Don’t think about it.” Laurie said out loud a few times. She was willing herself along more than anything because thinking too long would have allowed fear to creep in.

As we entered more stable ground we passed a sign facing the opposite direction warning hikers not to go any further. Oops.

We returned to our dropped packs and took a shoes off snack break.   We chuckled every time someone popped their head out of the bushes looking lost. We offered directions and encouragement as we had the same perplexed looks on our faces only 30 minutes prior.

Breaks always go by so fast. Before we knew it 30 minutes had passed, so we gathered our warm socks and shoes (they were drying on a rock in the sunshine), put away our snacks and kept going.

Instead of backtracking to the bridge and trail, we went downstream and forded the river. It looked easy enough yesterday and we don’t like backtracking so it was an easy decision.

Getting to the river was somewhat tricky because of the many use trails in the that area. The river was wider than Andy thought it would be but there were enough exposed rocks to hop across without getting wet feet.

We cruised through the canyon, aided by the gentle downhill and tailwind. There was very little effort on our part, it felt like our legs were propelling themselves. Because of our late start and the longer miles in this section, we had more sun through the canyon than yesterday but a lot more shade than we expected.

We reached Bright Angel Campground at 1230pm and went to Boat Beach for lunch and to soak our feet and knees in the mighty Colorado.

Once more, our break took longer than expected. But hey, what’s the rush?

We watched a mule train and tourists on horseback cross the Kaibab Bridge. It was cool to watch but even more fun to listen to the snap, crackle and pop as the mules hooves made contact with the wooden planks. It almost sounded like rocks falling!

Laurie was tempted to swim in the Colorado River but was dissuaded by the signs and warnings of being swept away by the current.  She waded in to her thighs to offer her legs an “ice bath.”

Andy was content putting his feet into the beautiful green water. He was shocked at how cold the water was! With our feet in the cold water, we snacked and enjoyed watching the eddies form and disappear.

After Andy collected water for himself from the Colorado River, we were back on trail. Unfortunately we were once again stuck behind a large high school group from Sedona. Somehow even with our long break, they were right there with us. We hoped they’d be miles ahead.

Eventually we passed them all, but because the front runners and their leader were fast we didn’t really enjoy the beautiful River Trail. We were hiking as fast as we could to lose the boisterous bunch but they stayed on our tail.

Instead of becoming frustrated, Andy started a conversation with Scott, the leader of their group. While we were no longer consumed with negative thoughts about the group, we still were not enjoying our hike.

Later we discussed we should have listened to our guts, slowed down, let them pass and enjoyed this beautiful section.

The students stayed behind to get water at the junction while we kept truckin’ along. We couldn’t believe how much water there is in the Grand Canyon. We followed Pipe Creek for a mile or so before ascending through another canyon.

The views along the gently graded trail were spectacular. We were really enjoying ourselves and were in a nice groove. We hiked uphill at a steady 2.5 miles per hour, Laurie with her head down and Andy looking everywhere except in front of his feet.

At Indian Garden Campground we collected water. Actually, only Laurie collected water because Andy had gotten water from Garden Creek a half mile north of the campground.

With neither of us needing a break we continued on, staring at the cliffs around us wondering where the trail would take us.

By now the shadows were growing longer and longer and the heat was escaping the canyon. The temperature was perfect for hiking uphill.

“I see 3 carrots” Andy said to Laurie. As expected, Laurie spotted her targets, locked them in her sights and picked up her speed. Andy gets a real kick out of this because Laurie doesn’t even realize she hikes faster with people in sight.

The trail meandered about, gently switchbacking up, up, up. We passed 3 Mile Resthouse, then 1.5 Mile Resthouse. By this time there were lots of people on the trail. Some were Rim2Rimmers getting close to finishing their hike, while many others were day hikers who had hiked down a few miles.

Our bodies felt like machines. We kept hiking at our strong and steady pace. Just past 1.5 Mile Resthouse we passed Mr. Thai and his partner. He looked to be struggling but still, he put one foot in front of the other. Andy hopes to hike like him in his 60’s.

Finally, at 5:40pm, we rounded the final switchback and reached the top! We did it. A bucket list hike completed.

We were tired and ready to take off our shoes. But first we had to walk back to our car about a half mile from the Bright Angel Trailhead. Enroute to our rental car we saw an elk.

It was a great ending to a memorable hike.

We are very proud of ourselves and thankful to have made the time to do this hike. It was one we constantly put off for all kinds of reasons, but now, we are Rim2Rim2Rimmers!

We got to our car, took off our shoes, popped Laurie’s epic 2nd blister inside her left big toe and headed into the Maswik Lodge to wash our faces. With water in our bottles, we left the Lodge and the Canyon in search of real food.

After enjoying pizza in the town of Tusayan, we drove 10 minutes to a national forest campground , where we pitched our tent and collapsed onto our sleeping pads.

The air was fresh, our bodies were ready to rest and our hearts were happy.

Tonight we are grateful for gluten free pizza in small towns and our National Parks.

hiking back into the land of cacti

beautiful golden morning light

solitude on a very busy trail

Ribbon Falls

Crossing Bright Angel Creek

Nearing Bright Angel Campground

Laurie about to enjoy an ice bath in the Colorado River

Such an incredible trail!

The wall past Indian Garden Campground

Looking back toward the North Rim


Rim2Rim2Rim: Grand Canyon Day 1

Friday, October 20, 2017

From: Mather Campground, South Rim
To: North Rim Campground
Miles: 26.85
Elevation gain/loss: +6,170 ft, -4,937 ft

Laurie’s watch beeped and the fluorescent green light flashed in the corner of the dark tent. It was 5 am. Andy didn’t move. Laurie waited for the 2nd watch to go off before gentle tapping him awake. Neither of us were enthusiastic about getting out of our sleeping bags but at least it wasn’t cold out.

We were walking out of the campground by 5:40am.

Laurie’s back was hurting earlier in the week and we weren’t sure we would be able to make it to the North Rim so we got a permit for Cottonwood Campground as our “$26 insurance policy.” Thankfully Laurie’s back was feeling better and she is stubborn so we were hopeful we’d make it all the way.

Our plan was to hike to the North Rim in one day, spend the night at the campground there and walk back to the South Rim the following day.

Walking out of the campground Andy noticed sets of glowing eyes. Eight deer were lying down in our path and their eyes reflected the light of our headlights. They slowly got up as we approached while Laurie apologized for disturbing their sleep and reassured them we were just passing through and wouldn’t harm them.

We hiked through the still, cool morning air for about 2.5 miles before reaching the South Kaibab Trailhead.  Our headlights illuminated 3 feet in front of us and we walked in little light bubbles.

By 6:25am the darkness had given way to daylight and we started our descent.

The golden light of early dawn propelled us down the trail reinforced by log steps. Sections of the trail were sandy and slippery.  Laurie, usually the sure footed one, stubbed her toes numerous times, twisted her ankle twice and fell on her left knee once for good measure.

We hiked with one hand on our hats to keep them from blowing away, which didn’t help matters. The gusty winds continued for many miles and made the downhill that much more challenging.

About 3 miles from the trailhead we pulled off the trail to let a mule train by. They were headed to Phantom Ranch to drop off food, drinks, supplies and souvenirs at the store.

The trail descended through many different kinds and colors of rock. Andy had a hard time focusing on the slippery trail with his bobble head constantly swerving left to right and up and down taking in the views. The trail color transitioned from white to orange to red as we descended closer to the Colorado River.

After many knee busting miles the mighty Colorado River came into view. As we continued our descent, the river became wider and wider. The green water and white rapids provided a nice contrast to the surrounding rocks.

The Kaibab Bridge (aka the Black Bridge) was closed for maintenance so we hiked on the River Trail for 1/4 mile and crossed over the Silver Bridge.

At 9:45am we took a shoes off snack break at Bright Angel Campground after hiking 9.6 miles. We could have totally hiked 10 before 10 (10 miles before 10am) but it was a good place to break.

For Laurie it was a luxury having flush toilets, running water in the sink, potable water from the spigot and a mirror. Not that she needed any of these things but it felt novel to hike for 10 miles and find such luxuries. None of this mattered much to Andy. He didn’t care for the taste of the treated water and prefers to dig a hole. He understands why the amenities exist and did used them.

Our bodies felt good but our feet were tender. As a precaution Andy duct taped his feet where he usually experiences hot spots while Laurie popped then taped a blister on the inside of her right big toe.

After 30 minutes, we laced up our shoes, shouldered our packs and continued along the North Kaibab Trail. After passing Phantom Ranch a few minutes later, we hiked through the meandering canyon in the shade, paralleling Bright Angel Creek.

We greatly appreciated the shade provided by the towering rocks. We paralleled the river for many miles, hiking on very gradual trail to Cottonwood Campground. We both anticipated a steeper trail but it never came.

At the campground we took a second shoes off break, this time for lunch, sharing a picnic site with three young guys hiking from the North Rim to the South Rim in 2 days.

While enjoying our lunch of plantain chips, jerky, cheese and trail mix, we both shared how grateful we were that Laurie’s back was doing well and that we could keep hiking all the way to the North Rim.

At the Manzanita Rest Area 1.7 miles north of Cottonwood Campground we filled up our bladders with 1 liter of water (Andy completely soaking his lower body in the process) and finally starting to climb.

Our toes were happy not to be jamming into the tips of our shoes and our downhill muscles were happy to take a break. We climbed steadily, with the trail getting more and more rocky.

If it weren’t for the tiny people way ahead of us on the trail, we wouldn’t have known which direction the trail went just by looking up and ahead. The canyon walls were so steep and jagged.

The uphill seemed to go on forever. We passed quite a few hikers and were passed by a a handful of runners. Most people looked weary, especially some of the day hikers.

After passing the really cool Supai Tunnel, we got water once more and made the final push to the top of the North Rim. But again, the meandering trail just went on and on and on.

We were ready to be done, but our bodies, and more importantly our minds, knew that we had to keep it together and just keep going. Finally, around 4:45pm we made it to the North Rim!

We took a few photos at the trailhead and kept moving. The temperature was dropping and the wind was picking up. We had about a mile to walk to the campground and it was getting chilly.

We found the hiker/biker camp, set up the tent in the gusting wind, got water, stretched and ate dinner, all while enjoying a beautiful sunset. We though we might make it to camp in the dark and were very proud to have made it with so much daylight to spare.

By 7pm we were cozy in our tent. The wind was raging, almost as intensely as the fires nearby campers had going. Andy was nervous about the size of their fires given the wind. After seeing a few embers fly 20+ feet in the air he turned away and couldn’t look anymore.

Once in our tent we stretched a bit more, Andy rubbed his feet (they were a little sore) and we organized our food for the following day.

Andy had seen someone on her phone earlier so we checked for service to call our parents. Laurie FaceTimed with her mom while Andy blogged. As Andy finished blogging, Laurie was already fast asleep – it was only 7:50pm.  Andy put in ear plugs to drown out the sound of the wind and quickly dozed off.

Tonight we are grateful for our resilient bodies and well engineered trails.

What a trail! How many hikers do you see?

Kaibab Bridge aka the Black Bridge (closed to hikers for repairs)

Still smiling after 26 miles 🙂

Beautiful sunset from the hiker/biker camp