Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Biking the Grand Canyon: The Hermit Road

 On our fall break trip, after our Cathedral Wash hike, we drove into the quickly descending darkness to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, where we stayed with my brother Ed. The next day our big plan was to go bike riding, as I figured the kids would like a change from hiking. The day dawned cloudy and cool (but Desert Girl still insisted on wearing shorts). Ed guided us to the start of the Hermit Road, a road that is open only to shuttle buses, bicyclists, and those who get special permits (like backpackers). You can find more about Grand Canyon's bicycling policies here. And there's a great guide to biking the road that provides lots more info here.

The first part of the road was uphill and entailed some tears. But eventually we got to the first pullout,  where we stopped briefly, then Maricopa Point, where we hiked to an overlook. We could see the Bright Angel trail descending through many switchbacks.

Desert Girl having some fun with her uncle.

We could see the rain clouds moving in. We didn't see any other bicyclists. We saw a few other people, primarily getting on and off the shuttle bus, and also a few walkers.

We stopped at every big pullover and read the interpretive signs. The last 2.5 miles has a greenway, where we could bike on a paved multi-use path. That was great.

The rain came and went, and fortunately towards the end of the ride stayed mostly away. The views were spectacular.

One of our games we played was spotting the Colorado River. It was very muddy looking, which I appreciated since that's why it was given its name. It was also very far away.

We also played a few other games.

The kids seemed to gain energy as they knew we were close to Hermit's Rest, the end of the road and our turnaround. They were especially happy when we said we would have snacks there.

Hermit's Rest was a welcome stop. It has no running water; all the water that is used there is brought in daily by a water truck.

Inside the gift shop we found a beautiful area and hot drinks! They were very nice and let us stay in the warmth to partake of our beverages. Then we walked to the Hermit trailhead and walked a few minutes down the trail. This used to be a very popular trail, in big competition with the Bright Angel Trail. Nowadays it's not used so much, which is part of its appeal.
Our plan now was to take the shuttle bus back 7.1 miles to the beginning of the Hermit Road. I was feeling restless so took off on my bike, with the plan to meet my brother and kids at the transfer station. My bike wasn't shifting correctly, so I was kind of slow (and a bit out of biking shape), so several buses passed me. I was hoping they weren't getting too bored waiting for me. But when I got to the transfer station, they weren't there. I figured maybe they had gone ahead for lunch at the Maswik Lodge, but they weren't there either. I wandered around awhile, and then I saw them biking down the road!

"What happened?" I asked my brother.

"My bike tires were too big and wouldn't fit in the bike carrier," he responded. "So we rode back. The kids were troopers, they hardly complained."

They were all drenched, Desert Boy's shirt was even wet under his coat.

"Why are you so wet?" I asked.

"We got caught in a hailstorm," Desert Boy responded. 

I was proud of all of them. Fourteen miles was Desert Girl's longest bike ride, and part of that was through a hailstorm. Yikes. We went and celebrated with pizza. 

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