Finished the Arizona Trail Bikepacking Thru after 33 days. Now on to California and the Pacific Coast Highway!

Hi! I’m writing from Las Vegas, NV. With this post I’ll briefly catch you up on my last weeks on the Arizona Trail and my new plans for how to ride up to Canada.

Before I do that I want to tell you about my Patreon page. If you enjoy the photos, videos, and blogs from my trip and want to help out I would greatly appreciate you visiting this page: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=5796017

People often want to send me a resupply box but giving through Patreon makes receiving support on trail so much easier for both parties. So if you feel so inclined I would greatly appreciate it! I have the funds to cover the trip so please don’t feel any need, but a little bit of income from Patreon helps me to enjoy more little luxuries like burgers and showers without feeling guilty about spending too much money.

Carrying a Full Steel Bike through the Grand Canyon

The final boss of the Arizona Trail is the Grand Canyon. It’s 22 miles of unrelenting elevation change. The rules of the park state that bicycles must be fully disassembled and wheels must never touch the trail when traveling through the Canyon trails.

Most people will ride the AZT on a lighter bike for this reason. Some racers even go so far as to ride foldable bikes that are designed to be carried on your back.

I, on the other hand, decided to bring literally the heaviest bike possible through. The Surly ECR is a full steel bike, with gigantic 29″ wheels and 3″ tires. It weighs in at almost 40lbs. The bike added to my other gear plus food and water created a pack weight of 78.5lbs. I’m almost positive that my bike being an XL frame will be literally the heaviest bike that anyone carries through the Grand Canyon in decades.

I’ve carried some heavy packs in the Army but never for this many miles and never through such a tough descent and ascent. My plan was to hike 14 miles to the Cottonwood camp and then 8 more miles out of the rim the next day.

Hah! The first day I only made is 7 miles to Bright Angel campground. Luckily there were open campsites because my permit said I was supposed to be camped 7 miles further in. I was totally spent by the time I reached Bright Angel. My hips and shoulders were throbbing and my legs had nothing left. I averaged about 1 mile per hour during that descent into the canyon.

The next morning I felt surprisingly good… until I put my pack on. Each step was agony. I could only shuffle along slowly. I finally reached the Cottonwood camp after what seemed like an eternity in the baking heat(the bottom of the canyon is about 30 degrees warmer than the rims). When I arrived at the Cottonwood camp I again found free campsites. There was a little swimming hole at the creek besides the camp and that cold water was exactly what I needed. My mood improved 100% after taking a short swim.

At the Cottonwood camp I met a Marine Infantry Lieutenant who is currently stationed in Quantico training cadets. We bonded over our shared grunt history and WoW addiction. He still has an active WoW account and plays when he can find the time.

The milky way over the Grand Canyon at Cottonwood Camp, 14 miles along the Kaibab trail.

I woke up at 4am the next morning and headed out to the climb. The climb actually felt easier than the descent. I was still averaging about 1mph and needed to rest every couple hundred feet but the weight didn’t feel AS oppressive. I suppose my body was adapting.

There’s not much to say about the climb. It was slow. It was hard. It wasn’t too hot thankfully. The North Rim is fully 1,000 feet higher thant he South Rim. The last 2,000 feet I was further slowed down by the altitude. But by then the end was so close I didn’t mind the pain so much.

Along the way I was passed by a retired firefighter and his son, both from Austin, TX. The firefighter gave me a little gospel of John booklet with his e-mail on it. My first thought was “oh no, more weight” but I’ve actually been reading it. I think there’s wisdom to be gleaned from spiritual masters of all traditions. They all have the same basic message: love.

At the top of the North Rim I reassembled my bike. Everything still worked. I was somewhat surprised because I’d definitely banged my rear derailleur on the walls of the canyon multiple times in the last 3 day.

The sense of relief and joy of riding again after carrying that insane load for 3 days is indescribeable. I’m glad I made that journey. I never want to do it again haha.

New Route to Canada

I’ve been in Vegas for a day and have demolished two AYCE sushi bars. Today I plan to rent a car then hit a casino and buffet before heading into Death Valley National Park to take some photos of the sand dunes and camp for the evening.

Then in the morning I’ll drive to Santa Barbara where I’ll ride the Pacific Coast highway all the way up to Vancouver.

I’m opting for this route over the Sierra Cascades mainly due to time and energy constraints. The Sierra Cascades route travels through mountains and it sounds like it’s almost constant climbing. I think if I did that route I’d be pretty exhausted by the time I had to start the CDT.

So instead I’ll bike along the Pacific Ocean at a leisurely pace, swim in the ocean, meet other bikers(it’s a classic bike touring route), and eat great food. Live the dream, basically.

Daily Updates from Instagram

Rather than copying and pasting everything I’ll just link you over to my Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jackjoneshg

You can see many more photos there and read day by day accounts of the trip.

I have several new video blogs up on YouTube. Climbing the Mogollon rim, visiting Sedona. Definitely worth a watch. Check those out at http://www.couchtotrail.com/youtube

Thanks for reading and I love hearing from you so drop me a comment here or on Instagram or YouTube. Hope you have a great day! If you’re out in California or the PNW and want to meet up just shoot me a message on Instagram or e-mail from here!

Jack Jones

Jack Jones

Chief Explorer at Couch to Trail
Jack is on a quest to explore the world and find adventure. He is passionate about using his adventures to inspire others to follow their heart and step out of their comfort zone. He is a meditator, CrossFitter, and thru-hiker.
Jack Jones

Comments 3

  1. Daniel Jackson

    Great pix Jack!… I am a big fan of light painting!! hope all is going well on the trail!

    Dan Jackson

    1. Post
      Author
      Jack Jones

      Thanks Dan! Not too many starry nights along the coast. Hoping to get more night shots with light painting on the CDT.

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