May 5th-9th, 2021
Hiking up the North Kaibab trail was the most amazing stretch of the entire Arizona Trail. Engulfed by the magnitude of the canyon, it is the perfect place for a person to reset their perspective. Around every switchback we’d stare up at the seemingly impassable cliff walls, only to turn the corner and find the trail was heading a direction we never would have guessed. Sections of trail cut directly out of the canyon walls, with the most amazing views back towards the Colorado River. On the way up we ran into a trail maintenance worker. She worked contently moving five gallon buckets of rocks while she listened to music. The look on her face said it all. There was no place in the world she’d rather be than moving rocks in this magnificent place. Her joy for the canyon was contagious and added a whole nother level of excitement to our already heightened senses. The rest of the climb to the North Rim was unbelievable, and I loved every second of it!
Being that it was the first week of May the North Rim’s facilities weren’t technically open. The road and facilities would be opening the following weekend. As a part of the backcountry permit we’d received we were able to camp in the North Rim Campground. We walked into the enormous campground and stopped at a picnic table. We were starving after the climb out of the canyon. While we were enjoying ramen bombs the camp host pulled up and introduced himself. In a thick Mainer accent he offered us cold beers and pointed out the best sites for us to set up our tents. The sites we selected were right next to the rim of the canyon. Aside from the constant smoke blowing in from a nearby prescribed burn, the evening was idyllic. It felt like we had the entire canyon to ourselves. And we certainly had the entire campground. No car alarms going off, no generators running, no dogs barking, nobody asking how it was possible we got there without a car. Just 8 happy thru hikers enjoying the evening. It was fantastic!
Running a bit low on food we decided to do one final resupply at Jacob’s Lake. Jacobs lake is just 2.5 miles off trail where the trail crosses hwy 89A. Confident that we’d get a ride we started our road walk towards town. I’d developed a rather optimistic theory that because it was Mother’s Day weekend we were guaranteed to get a ride. I was sure someone would see us walking along the shoulder and think, I bet their mothers are worried about them. At which point they’d stop, give us a ride into town, and remind us to call our mothers. Unfortunately my optimism didn’t pay off and we had to hike the entire distance both ways, but it was totally worth it. Jacob’s Lake was exactly what we needed. We had a big lunch followed by cookies and several cold drinks. We relaxed at the picnic tables and enjoyed a nice afternoon siesta before heading back to the trail.
The original plan was to layup and camp 7 miles from the Utah border. Get one more night on the trail before meeting up with family the following morning at the terminus. In the middle of the afternoon we’d stopped to take a break when we saw two SOBOs coming our way. In a deep Georgia accent the first hiker looked at me and said, “are you B-Jorn”! I confirmed that in fact I was “B-Jorn”, and he then informed us that Katie had arrived at the terminus and was waiting for us there. With this new information we decided to skip one last night on the trail and head for the finish. With great excitement we glided over those last 7 miles at times jogging down the trail. Coming down the final hill with the terminus in sight was a very special moment. I’m not sure exactly how to label it; excitement, pride, accomplishment, relief, or perhaps all of those things. Either way it felt really really good!
Long distance hikes are never a solo endeavor. You might spend every day alone, but there is always a small army that helps you accomplish a long distance trip. From the random person that stops to give you water to friends and family that are willing to take on the responsibility of shipping you resupply boxes. To all of those that helped me along the way, here is a letter of thanks.
Whether you know it or not you’ve impacted my life. For some of you you’ve impacted my life so deeply that I’ll never be able to repay your generosity. Being on an adventure like this helps to put life in perspective. It has very little to do with the gear you carry on your back, and so much more to do with the people you carry in your heart. At the end of the day I love trips like this because of the mental challenges that arise, and the reminder that I’m not alone in this journey. Something as small as a bottle of water can change your entire outlook on the day. Thank you to everyone in my life that encourages me to pursue these types of adventures. Thank you to the Arizona Trail Association. And a huge thank you to all the people that I meet along the way.
See you on the trail!
“Happiness [is] only real when shared”
― Jon Krakauer