The Arizona Trail on Unicycle: Day 25, Unicycles Strapped to Our Backs


April 24, 2017

…Except Jamey, who opted to carry his unicycle on his shoulder! This was the day we had to figure out how to get our unicycles across the Grand Canyon without having them touch the ground. You are not allowed to push a bike (or uni) down and across.

We woke up a bit later in the morning with our complete gang: Ashley, Colin and Lexi planned to hike the trail with us and camp two nights down with us before having to hike back out. Originally they wanted to hike from the South rim to the North rim with us but we were about two weeks too early as the shuttle on the North rim would not start running until the middle of May. Instead, they would have to have a long 20 mile hike out of the bottom, while the unicyclists continued on.

Waking up late was fine; Jamey had mailed his resupply package to the post office and it didn’t open till 8:30AM. Us uni riders wanted to ride the whole way, so the three of us rode about 1/4 mile to the USPS while the hikers went and parked a car at the ending of their hike out spot, the Bright Angel Trailhead, and caught a shuttle over to the Kaibab Trailhead; the official Arizona Trail route through the canyon that we planned to hike down. Lexi had to also drop Eisley off at the kennel; apparently the canyon is no wheels and no dogs.

The trail from the post office to the start of Kaibab trail was a rough rarely ridden section. We discovered there was an alternate paved path and hopped on it for the last short bit to get some eye shots of the canyon. A couple saw us riding and looked shocked; I felt witty as I rolled by and told them our packs had parachutes and we were going to just ride off the edge. They said, oh, like of course that is what we were going to do!

Once at the trailhead it was disassembly time. Jamey just strapped his camp mat to his uni and had planned to carry it down on his shoulder. Rebekka and I thought it would be more comfortable to strap it to our backs. My initial attempt was to strap the uni on the backpack backside, but this proved to be too heavy and pulled me backwards way too much. So instead I opted to take the uni apart: I removed the wheel from the frame, the handlebar, the pedals, the seat with post, and the rear rack. I took my black rear stuff bag and filled it full with all my cloths, tent and sleeping bag. I shoved the stuff sack into the middle of my backpack, and put my stove, food and water around it. This worked pretty well for getting all my stuff inside my 75 liter backpack. The frame and handlebar I strapped to one side of the pack, and the rear rack I put on the other side. I experimented with the wheel on the rear of the pack; I felt like this still pulled me backwards too much, but Rebekka went with this approach. I instead strapped it to the top of my pack above my helmet. The helmet kept it just above my head, and having it on top the pack made the weight more central and closer to my body.

The fully loaded backpack with unicycle strapped on was heavy. Somewhere from 54-60 pounds depending on the amount of food and water.

Our three hiker friends showed up just as I was finishing my backpack setup. Once I was done we started heading down the Kaibab trail for a “short” seven mile hike to the Bright Angel Campground. Jamey had planned shorter hike days to allow us to enjoy the trail and have a more relaxed time. Still, with the heavy pack the trip down was difficult and strenuous on our legs — especially the calves. He did an awesome job in planning the shorter days; we really needed it.

The views in the Grand Canyon can’t compare to anything else in the world. The rocks have numerous distinct strata and look like a multi layered cake that was sliced in half with the curvy blade of a twisted knife. Deep reds, against tan rocks with some striking white deposits. All of it dusted with various greens; shrubs, some cactus and a few trees every now and then. This was the best part of the Arizona Trail.

At the start of the south rim we could see the destination directly across from us. The north rim was a whole layer higher than where we were starting, and about a thousand feet in elevation; we had a feeling it would be cold up there. The trail path that we would be taking up was also in our vision; a river flows down from the north rim and we would be following it back up, and we could see the ravine that it created in the far distance.

Nothing spectacular happened on the hike down except the amazing scenery. We did get passed by a mule train going up; the lead cowboy told me to step back and stay as far away as possible. He was worried that the mules would see the unicycle wheel and freak out a bit. Luckily they didn’t bat an eye and continued along the way without any incident.

The hike down was hard due to the weight, but we finally crossed the Colorado River on an amazing suspension bridge and hit the campsites. The group sites that we first approached looked awesome, but it was reserved for seven or more people and we were one shy at six people. Lexi and I were in the front about 30 minutes before the next hiker, so we had to choose a spot for us all. We dropped our bags down at the first place and walked up the trail to find the largest site that would accommodate us all. We eventually found one, and Lexi squatted there to reserve it while I went back and got both our backpacks. I was surprised how light hers was and at that point what was an extra 20 or 25 pounds for me to carry a short distance. Heck, I could even carry it in one arm, whereas my pack was a struggle to get on. I had to back up to some rocks just to get it around my shoulder.

We setup our tents in the early afternoon right as the rest of the gang showed up and did the same. The site was nice – it actually had running water and flush toilets, but was busy with a bunch of backpackers at what is one of the most popular places to camp. It is a good thing Jamey made reservations a long time in advance to get us a place to sleep; hiking another 14 miles out of the canyon would not be a pleasant option for us with the heavy weight.

After the setup we all immediately headed off for a short walk up the trail to Phantom Ranch. Lexi and Jamey knew that the store there sold beers, but closed promptly at 4pm, which was in about 45 minutes. They also didn’t allow any alcohol to be removed from the premises, so we all piled in and had a nice cold beer to relax by. I was surprised as they had some decent microbrew IPA in cans at $6 a piece. Yeah, that is pricey for 12 ounces of beer, but it was hauled in by mule and the can would also have to be hauled back out; luckily we didn’t have to take the can with us to the North rim!

The rest of the evening was just eating dinner and relaxing before going to bed. 



Today: 10.5 miles
Total: 570.1 miles  




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