Wild Drake Product Development and Testing at the Grand Canyon

This season’s Grand Canyon adventure began with an impressive no-sleep marathon that included waking at 1am and departing home at 3am, a ritual that’s worth its value in gold, intuitively avoiding the bustling morning traffic traveling through Phoenix via Interstate 10. I know, from experience, that if I can manage to reach Interstate 17 before the heavy traffic morning commute it’s clear sailing all the way to Flagstaff. Mission accomplished as we blasted through Phoenix reaching the land of plateaus, mesas and the Mogollon (pronounced: mug-ee-yun) Rim just as the sun began to rise. And what’s a vacation without a detour through the fabulous city of Sedona, a hot cup of coffee and a 360º view of Arizona’s stunning red rock country? Following our quick respite we continued on our journey from Sedona up through Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff. This was our first time traveling through Oak Creek Canyon (highway 89A) since the Slide Fire that began in Slide Rock State Park back in May and we were pleased that at least most of the canyon was spared of the 21,000+ acre (8500 ha) burn damage. Once in Flagstaff, we enjoyed a bit more downtime before heading up to the Grand Canyon. We arrived at Grand Canyon National Park at approximately 11am and went immediately to the El Tovar hotel restaurant to enjoy the canyon view and culinarily begin celebrating my (David) birthday with a quick lunch. Following our meal we made our way to Mather Campground to begin setting up camp where we excitedly spent the next 4 days of our lives.

Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park

At 3pm, now well awake for 14 hrs, we had our campsite set-up and decided a few minutes of rest were well earned. No more than a few moments later, Janice jumped up and suggested, “if we’re going to hike the canyon Rim to Rim to Rim (R2R2R) why don’t we begin now while your birthday is still relatively young”, also giving us an opportunity to test our nutritional products with less than adequate rest, expecting to hike for a straight 24 hrs. Always game for an adventure and an opportunity to test our products, I agreed. Thus, with little sleep and several hours earlier than our 11:30pm planned departure, we quickly consumed our Hike™ nutritional supplement, packed enough nutritional products to carry us the next 48 miles, and hit the Bright Angel Trailhead on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon at 5:30pm and began descending into the canyon. Before long, Janice and I, along with our nutritional therapy and the Black Diamond brand Icon headlamp (highly recommended) and its 200 lumen ferocity, purchased the day before, together were mercilessly guiding us down the trail towards the mighty Colorado River. We both felt like a million bucks! Along the way, Janice and I stopped many times to enjoy the scenery, replenish our water supply, ingest more Hike™, snap a few photos and tangentially enjoy a few quick canyon side riffs. By the time we arrived at the Colorado the Moon was high and bright enough to partially guide our way to Phantom Ranch.

Bright Angel Trail
Both Janice and I make an appearance in this photo
Bright Angel Trailhead
Bright Angel Trailhead
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail

Ten mi (16 km) into our R2R2R hike we reached the Phantom Ranch at approximately 11:30pm, quite a bit slower than our projected 2 mi/hr (3.3 km/hr) strategy. Janice suggested that my habit of tangentially exploring off-trail should be left for times when we didn’t have any time restraints. As we relaxed down at the Phantom Ranch, prepared more Hike™ and Hydraulic™, and replenished our water supply I looked up to notice that Janice fell fast asleep on the picnic table. Thinking to myself, not a bad idea and since we’ve been awake for a straight 22.5 hrs, I found a second picnic table. An hour and a half later and no longer my birthday, after waking I proposed continuing our night hike back out of the canyon since we were now never going to accomplish our goal of hiking R2R2R in 24 hrs. With both of us in agreement that our R2R2R hike should be attempted within a 24 hr time frame we decidedly ascended the canyon via the Bright Angel Trail arriving once again at the South Rim just before sunrise, stopping, resting and replenishing our nutritional products and water just once at Indian Garden.

Petroglyphs
Petroglyphs

Now, back on the South Rim and with just 90 mins of sleep in the past 29 hrs, we both felt absolutely wonderful, knowing our products and without a question the lack of ambient daytime heat, powered our way from the South Rim down to the Phantom Ranch and back, a total elevation change of approximately ~2 mi (~3.3 km), ~20 mi (~32 km) in length and in unfortunately more time than we hoped considering my meandering, but we had fun.

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon

For a period of time just greater than one year we’ve been developing and testing our many products, including and particular to this trip our premier natural hydration champion, Hydraulic™, and both our stimulant and recovery beverages, Hike™ in two different mediums. At camp, on the trail and at home, including our daily living, we’re always refining our many fabulous teas (introducing our newest tea, AZTea™), energy bars, Bru.Ja.Va™ coffee beverage(s), natural stimulants and healthy paleo meals and we believe we have quite a few winners ready for public introduction.

Grand Canyon, South Rim
Grand Canyon, South Rim
Janice
Janice

After returning to camp, without any further rest, we both ran over to the shower facilities, prepared breakfast then ran back out to the rim for canyon viewing, walking, photo opportunities and discussion. Conversation was actually Janice lecturing me that I need to focus and remain on the trail rather than wandering off on my little side excursions so that we can actually hike this hike within a 24-hour period. I agreed but it was in fact my birthday and I was fortuitously given a pass. We thus discussed when we figured we’ll make it back out to the Grand Canyon to complete this elusive 24-hour R2R2R hike and we’re hoping to do so this coming Spring, 2015.

Grand Canyon, South Rim
Grand Canyon, South Rim

Between September 10th (my birthday) and September 11th, we completed our ascension out of this immense canyon, must have been the longest day of our lives. After arriving back at camp, showering, eating and running back out to the rim, we realized that it had been only 12 noon when we both thought we were surely cozying up to at least 4pm, all still with only 90 mins of rest behind us and still feeling great. We spent the rest of our day walking the rim, talking and shopping. Finally, 9:30pm, following dinner, a roaring camp fire and product discussion, we crashed. What a fabulous day and a wonderful birthday!

Hang on
Hang on

We may not have accomplished our goal, this time, hiking the Grand Canyon R2R2R but we have something to look forward to for our next Grand Canyon journey. Unlike every other time I’ve hiked Bright Angel Trail to Phantom Ranch (this was my 5th time) we hiked the dark side of day. The temperatures were cooler and travel was slower. The nighttime experience was so pleasurable I would never hesitate to night hike again. Our only regret was missing out on the wonderful views the canyon has to offer. Although I’ve performed this hike many times prior, this was Janice’s first and she would have enjoyed the view. Considering a R2R2R hike entails all of 24-hours, covering close to ~48 mi (~77 km) of hiking and ~21,000 ft (~6400 m) of elevation change, she’ll get to see it soon enough, probably more knowing that I’ll never be able to resist my flanking curiosity and adventure.

David
David

Incidentally and/or to reiterate, the Grand Canyon R2R2R hike from Bright Angel Trail on the South Rim following through to the North Kaibab Trail heading up to the North Rim and back is approximately 48 mi (77 km) of hiking with approximately 21,000 ft (6400 m) of elevation change (sorry for the redundancy), and temperatures that may easily fluctuate from the low 40’s ºF (0 ºC) to much greater than 100 ºF (40 ºC) at the river and within the canyon walls during the hottest part of the day. In fact, within the canyons the temperature rises and varies quite a bit considering a combination of direct, reflective and radiant heat, making night hiking quite pleasant.

Bright Angel Trail / Rim Trail
Bright Angel Trail / Rim Trail
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail

Note to self: For your next R2R2R attempt, be sure to get enough sleep prior to hiking, try as hard as possible to deflect every urge to traipse off-trail (David) at every inviting possibility and walk as fast as possible (Janice) past the oh-so-inviting Phantom Ranch picnic tables.

Note: Because our canyon hike was predominantly during nighttime hours the majority of our posted photos were taken from the rim during our many rim walks.

Reach Your Summit!

The concept of capturing solar energy for charging electronic devices while hiking, in theory, is admirable. In practice, however, hiking and solar energy may not necessarily be a marriage made in trail heaven, yet.

The concept of capturing solar energy for charging electronic devices while hiking, in theory, is admirable. In practice, however, hiking and solar energy may not necessarily be a marriage made in trail heaven, yet.

The concept of capturing solar energy for charging electronic devices while hiking, in theory, is admirable. In practice, however, hiking and solar energy may not necessarily be a marriage made in trail heaven, yet.

As a quick note… I utilized the Goal Zero Guide 10/Nomad 7 Adventure kit back in April 2012. I’ve decided that my review, at this time, warrants enough value and relevance for objective consideration. My review, today, is spurred by a Goal Zero consumer display I very recently observed in a local warehouse store.

Auspiciously, the Goal Zero Guide 10/Nomad 7 concept rocks, however, my experience with this kit left me destitute. I first used it on a single night backpacking trip near Tucson, AZ, where the sun regularly shines at least 85% of the time during daylight hours. Therefore, my assumption of harnessing solar power while hiking, that is, capturing and storing solar energy for future use during the course of movement, with the solar panels strapped to the top of my backpack, in theory, is fully substantiated.

In practice, however, there is an entirely different story. Here’s the problem… unless you’re hiking due north all the time the solar rays will never strike your panels 100% of the time. Let us consider this for a moment… If you are hiking due north all the time, your solar panels would indeed capture and harness solar energy 100% of the time you are hiking. If you are hiking due east and/or west, while changing direction with your back always facing south, you’re likely to harness solar energy, conceivably, conservatively, close to 100% of the time, providing your panels are in direct sunlight. Heading south? Forget it. You’re likely, at best, to harvest 50% of the suns rays due to the nature of your bearing (unless your head is similar in size to Beetlejuice, or by uttering “Beetlejuice” three times you’re able to summon the full faith and credit of solar capacity beyond natural capability).

In all sensibility, will anyone ever really hike due north 100% of the time? Plausibly, no, unless you go your own way, off-trail, blazing heroically through the maze of morass, which, incidentally, is too much fun, heading in any direction, in Southern, AZ.

Thus, consider now, cloud cover, changing direction and encumbrances of any kind. In the event you’re not hiking due North 100% of the time, you’re likely to be hiking in any one of 359 (15 alternately possible points) alternatively possible directions. Cloud cover, changing direction, position of the Earth relative to the sun and consequently the time of day, hiking below tree canopy, cliff obscurity, etc., each presenting a serious problem. And, if any one of these particular dilemmas decide to hasten your solar collection activity, you’re essentially, laboriously, hauling equipment you would have been better off without.

This was my problem during my overnight backpacking trip in Southern, AZ where the sun shone for two whole days, and similarly for my day hike down into the Grand Canyon. There may not have been cloud cover but changing direction, position of the sun, tree and cliff cover had all presented a problem. And, considering our latitude I would expect better results than any position north of Arizona. Due, in part, to all of these obscurities I had been unable to achieve a good charge on either the battery pack or my camera, which, incidentally, was attached via USB. Considering all obscurities, my Goal Zero panels were in direct sunlight less than 50% of the time, and quite a bit less, in fact!

By simple law of solar dynamics and encumbrances, I’m making this part up, sort of, or by creating an unfamiliar, new physical natural law, it is essentially irresponsible to expect these solar panels, in this setting, to obtain a sufficient charge while in movement, considering all possible obscurities.

I, objectively, made this mistake and subjectively needed to express my results so that you may decide for yourself, with your set of circumstances, how solar panels may work for you, based on my experience. This, incidentally, is not a review against Goal Zero or solar energy as much as it is the application of using solar panels in the field while hiking.

In contrast, following my day hike in the Grand Canyon, I returned to camp on the rim and spent the next day in camp making every attempt to maintain direct sunlight on the Goal Zero. There were many trees in camp, thus, challenging me, approximately every 15 minutes, to find the best available direct sunlight. The result… I acquired a substantially greater charge, or for that matter a charge, than I did while hiking!

Conclusion… I do not recommend this product for expectations of charging the battery pack or electronic devices while in movement, hiking. If you’re going to carry the solar panel kit anyway, go ahead and strap it to the top of your pack but be prepared to be frustrated when needing to get into the top of your pack and the panels are impeding your progress. I admirably support solar energy and obtaining solar, albeit immobile, while at camp.

Thus, this review and rating of two stars is entirely based on my expectation of acquiring a solar charge while hiking. And, a rating greater than 1 star only because the potential does exist that the panels will obtain minimal charge while hiking, but not enough, in my experience, to obtain a useable amount of energy. This review is exclusive of all features associated with this unit!

Reach Your Summit!