One foot at a time | One sole at a time | One hell of a good time


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Barefooting the Grand Canyon

A big thank you to Jay Anderson, ultrarunner and RD of the Orange Curtain 100k and 50k races, and Tracy Bahr, a true ultrarunning champion, for allowing me to join in on a Grand Canyon adventure weekend.

If you ask the question, "Can one run down the Grand Canyon barefoot?", the answer would be yes. If you ask the question, "Should one run down the Grand Canyon barefoot?", the answer should be, "Hell no!"

Due to car troubles, we started 6 hours later than we had expected at around 11:30. Even though we didn't know it yet, it meant that we would not have time to do a rim to rim to rim run. Thanks to a nice couple from Tucson for giving us a lift to the trailhead. We crammed 6 people into a compact car. Nothing was going to stop us.

Running down the Bright Angel trail, barefoot, was certainly one of the most difficult things I have done barefoot. Going up the South Kaibab trail barefoot was fine. As I have said a thousand times, going up is always easier than going down on rocky terrain when barefoot.

Why was it so difficult? Well, it was not just that the trail was quite rocky and steep, two things that already made it difficult, but it was also filled with hikers, so I did not have the whole trail to select from when trying to find sweet spots to place my foot. Sometimes we would have to run off to the side of the trail to make room for hikers. That was hard.

I nearly made it to the bottom barefoot, but we came upon a mule train. At that point, I decided I had better put on my FiveFingers in order to help navigate around the mules, plus the trail was REALLY getting to me.

Less than a quarter mile after putting on my shoes, we reached a barefooters paradise: a river sand trail paralleling the river for another 1/4 mile until we got to a bridge to cross the river.

While running down the trail, all I could do was breath and focus. I had no time for anything else. Literally every step had to be thought out and executed consciously. There were a lot of opportunities for disaster. Is this zen?

When we finally got to Phantom Ranch, it was becoming clear to us that we would not have time to continue our journey to the North Rim, so we decided to return to the South Rim via the South Kaibab trail.

Coming down Bright Angel, I had not been drinking enough. I started up the South Kaibab feeling pretty damn good; however, I was sweating a lot, and since I was only wearing a singlet, the sweat was just pouring off me and not having time to cool me. When I sweat this much, I can get in trouble fast, especially if I have not been managing my electrolyte intake.

Sure enough, after feeling really good at the beginning of the uphill, I started feeling crampy. I was not peeing. So, I started drinking, but it was nearly too late. Lesson: manage your electrolytes and wear clothing that traps moisture and holds it so that it evaporates on the skin.

6 hours and 20 minutes later we were back at the top of the South Rim. It was cold and dark, and we were damn lucky to have made it in time for one of the last shuttles. In the van-shuttle bringing us to our hotel, we were comparing stories with other hikers. One guy said that he had seen a guy running down the trail barefoot. None of his companions believed him. I enjoyed egging him on a little. We had a good laugh when it was revealed that he had not been hallucinating.

As with most adventures, the location is just one part of the enjoyment, the other major part is being able to commune with other runners. Sharing and comparing life stories with travel companions is one of the most interesting things you can do. Each person represents a fascinating tale waiting to be told. When stories begin to intermingle, well, that just borders on miraculous.


PS. For the complete set of photos, click here.

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Blogger Thinnmann said...

Ted has done something I have dreamed of doing since 1995 - and he did it barefoot! In '95 I would have never dreamed that. And if I went to the Grand Canyon today, I would do it in shoes. I don't think I could handle the trail barefoot. Ted didn't really make his goal of a rim-to-rim run, but considering the problems his group had to overcome, getting rim to river and back barefoot is still awesome! Great photos too!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Blogger Barbara said...


You are one crazy bald man


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Blogger Vancouver Barefoot said...

Dude! Damn!!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude! What an awesome trek! Beautiful photos, too! Nothing like running in a huge rock quarry, huh?

Barefoot Rick

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Anonymous Barefoot Eli said...


You really challenge my concepts of what is possible.

You're my barefoot hero!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW Amazing...awesome PICS


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Blogger Crash test dougE said...

Sweet! Nice pic too.
Have done the rim to rim 4 times now, 7-8 runs in various GC trails.
May wear my Hauraches you are making for me (right now) on the Oct 17, 2009 rim to rim trip. Let's see how my feet and calves adjoust to BF running. Progress is slow a the moment.
Anytime you are heading back to the GC, give me a heads up, cause I am game and good to go.
South rim is 3.5 hours from my door... I drive fast ;-)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blogger Crash test dougE said...

Did the rim to rim run in my new huaraches that you mailed me a couple weeks ago. Despite training in Teva sandals, I was not prepared at all to run in Ramuri sandals. Moleskins over the heels and between the toes helped a little I am sure, but the 24 mile trek was hard on the feet. 8 miles into the downhill run, both feet were badly bruised and cut. Took me 2:40 minutes longer than a previous crossing to get to the South rim. 8hrs 48 minutes of running/hiking. The first hour was sheer bliss, the last 16 miles or 7 hrs 48 minutes were beautiful but very painful. Not quite as bad as a kidney stone but very close. In recovery mode now.
Pale face, gringo, tenderfoot, Doug

Monday, October 19, 2009


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