If you want to INHALE mule PISS, STEP IN piles of mule POOP and puddles of mule PISS, INHALE DUST and get it IN YOUR EYES and be told to GET OUT OF THE WAY by a fake cowboy leading a long line of mules on a hoof destroyed WILDERNESS trail then you should come and hike IN the amazing GRAND CANYON!
I'm going to apologize ahead of time for my rant... here goes...
I now officially don't want mules in the Grand Canyon! I used to deal with them while disagreeing with their use but after the last few years of run ins and especially after yesterday I just don't want them there at all!
I know that they are in the canyon for a reason.
-to get mail, food, supplies and such too and from the private (not apart of Grand Canyon National Park) Phantom Ranch and it's visitors
-to move tourists in and out of the canyon that are staying at Phantom Ranch
-probably also used to get National Park gear moved through the canyon
But for all the gross piss and poop, dust and destroyed trails is it really worth it for a very small percentage of the Grand Canyon visitors that use Phantom Ranch? I mean...what ever happened to hiking stuff into remote places, the wilderness experience and being in good shape to travel to such a remote place as the bottom of the Grand Canyon!
I know there is a long history of mules in the Grand Canyon but that is no excuse for continuing to use them. In fact, I would be happy if Phantom Ranch wasn't even there. There is no need for it in the canyon. It is only there as a money making venture by a private company, not even run by the Grand Canyon. I say get rid of Phantom Ranch and the mules who support it!
So why am I ranting...
I have had many a negative run in with mule trains, definitely more negative ones than positive ones. Most times it is negative only because of the piles of poop and piss, dust and chewed up trails. Some times it is because the workers who travel with the mule trains can be grumpy and short as I near them, sometimes shouting at me from a couple switch backs away to stop where I'm at as if I'm going to run right through them and crawl right over their mules (note: I always stop and stand to the inside of the trail well before they get to me...every time!). Then there was yesterday...
Yesterday was all of the above by multiple mule trains clogging up the S. Kaibab. Then, on the way back out there was the final straw that made me go over the thresh hold of hate for mule trains.
Not only had I been dealing with the dust, excrement and now already getting chewed up S. Kaibab (remember that the Grand Canyon trail crews had just finished busting their asses with our tax dollars to fix this trail from all the years of mule trail abuse) but between Skeleton Point and Cedar Ridge I hit a long straight and flat section of trail where ahead of me I saw a mule train paused on the trail with lots of hikers passing. I ran quickly to try and catch them before they started again (they were going the same direction I was) as I could see that the next 1/2 to 3/4 miles would be difficult to pass them. I was in plain view of them the whole time I was running the flat section and then when I was less than 100 yard away and thinking they were going to wait the 30 seconds for me to pass they started moving again. WTF. They knew I was coming and deliberately started moving again. Now I was stuck walking at a snail pace behind them in their billowing dust for the next almost 3/4 miles. To make it worse they looked back many times and saw me walking behind them (they knew I was moving faster than them as I passed them on the way down too) and chose to ignore me. They had at least 6 or 7 spots with plenty of room to stop and let me pass but kept going to just below the Cedar Ridge outhouse. I almost went off trail a few times to scramble by them to pass and give them a piece of my mind but fought the urge knowing that it would just piss them off and make it worse for future runners and for myself. In all, I was behind them breathing in their dust for over 15 minutes when I could have been by them right at the start and not on their ass. Super frustrating.
I know that this may not be as big a deal to a hiker as hikers never catch up to mule trains from behind but to a runner this is really tough. I kept a good pace going the whole way into the canyon and busting my ass back out and then near the rim of the canyon and looking to PR on the trail by a wide margin I get the shaft by these mule train guys that want to make a point about runners in the canyon or something. Aarrrggg.
I did end up PRing by almost 10 minutes on the S. Kaibab of in and out in 2 hrs and 53 minutes but before I got stopped by the mule train I was on pace for finishing in about 2 hrs and 40 minutes. I was really excited about my improved time but also bummed about the mule situation in the canyon. They really just don't seem appropriate in a place like the Grand Canyon. Especially in their numbers. There are a lot of them!
I have really been excited about this last week with my prs on Elden Lookout Road and now two days later on the S. Kaibab as I know now that I am on the edge of being able to really run this stuff. Not just plod along slowly but really run.
I know I had some excessive complaining about the mules in this post but I am still really excited to run in the canyon. I love that place and every time I am in there I am extremely psyched!
Up with the Grand Canyon-Down with the mules!