Sink Into the Earth: Lael Wilcox Rides the Arizona Trail

The Radavist (May 24, 2022) by Lael Wilcox & Rugile Kaladyte

April 20, 2022 around 11pm at mile 745

I’m flat on my back, tucked behind the two-story pit toilets at the Manzanita Rest Area on the North Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon on the ninth night of my Arizona Trail time trial.

My bike is disassembled and strapped to a hydration pack and propped against the wall that’s protecting me from the wind. It’s been gusty for days.

It’s against the law to ride your bike through the Grand Canyon. The wheels can’t touch the ground. To complete the Arizona Trail by bike, you have to carry it through. It’s 24 miles– 4,700’ down from the South Rim, along the Colorado River and 5,700’ up to the North Rim.

I breathe methodically. My eyes are closed. I’m meditating.

“Sink into the earth. Rest your eyes and your body and your mind.”

I’m mentally and physically preparing for the finish. It’s so close– just another 5 ½ miles of hiking and 80 miles of singletrack.

I’ll climb another 4,500’ to the highest point of the route. It’s at least 30 degrees cooler up there with residual snow from the winter. I don’t know if I can make it through, but I have to be ready to try.

Set for an hour and a half, my alarm sounds before midnight. It’s time to move.

I put on my helmet, switch on my headlamp, down a bottle of water, hoist my bike onto my back and begin the ascent. It’s somewhere between a trudge and a march. The North Kaibab Trail is a staircase.

Carrying a bike on your back is a burden. I can feel the bruises on my shoulders and low back. The pressure has caused my hands to swell into paws. I can’t see any of the knuckle joints. I clench my fists to encourage blood flow. It’s a losing battle. I just have to get there and I’m making it.

To read the rest of the article, and watch the documentary film, click here.