Sunday, April 12, 2009

Grand Canyon Part I

Kevin and I hiked the Grand Canyon down to the Colorado River (the bottom, obviously) and out in one day in July 2007. Kevin is a natural athlete and avid hiker. He's hiked this hike several times, Mount Hood, and Humphrey's Peak to name a few, and he is the first person done with the hike because he hikes so fast due to the length of his legs. I had never done this hike before and though I had heard it was grueling, believed that I was up to the challenge and with a month to get ready, I set in motion what I felt I needed to do to get ready. I climbed the stairs at my work for about a half hour each morning before I worked, which was twice a week. I purchased my hiking boots the week of the hike, and I got a camelbak for the trip. Despite my husband telling me I needed to do more to get ready, I ignored his advice (which I do much too frequently, you THINK I would learn!) and felt I was ready to tackle this feat. Little did I know this was what I was facing: South Kaibab Trail going down is 7.1 miles, drop in elevation of 4780 feet, and an average grade of 21%, then to get out, we would take the Bright Angel Trail which is 9.7 miles, rise in elevation of 4263 feet, and an average grade of 14%. If that doesn't sound daunting enough, remember, we were going in the middle of JULY. Despite the fact that it is in Northern Arizona, the temperature at the bottom gets as hot as Phoenix does. It is no wonder that I had a lot of people telling me that I was going to hate it, it was going to be harder than I thought, or that I needed to make sure that I had money with me for a helicopter ride out. There was only one person who had great words of wisdom for me and that was our friend, Ed, who had done it several times before and is very lowkey. He said "You're going to have a great time." Never before had I appreciated words like that.

We drove up the day before the hike and spent the night in the hotel right in the edge of the canyon, El Tovar. It was so beautiful and huge. Grand is an understatement. We had a lovely dinner together and planned to get up the next morning around 4:30 in the morning to get on the trail by 6am, hopefully avoiding as much heat as possible. Going down was not terrible, but my toes felt numb about halfway through. Kevin kept telling me to drink water, which was annoying, but at least this time I listened to him. Unfortunately for him, this meant stopping at every bathroom.We got to Phantom Ranch in about three hours, had lunch, stayed there for about an hour, then set out to get out. By this time, it was very warm, okay hot (not HOT, that comes later). The hike didn't seem too terrible, but I was sweaty and thirsty. We hiked for probably a half hour and had to stop in the shade so we could eat. We kept having to do that and I was really frustrated with myself that I wasn't going faster. Then we got to Indian Gardens which is a halfway stopping point. We rested there for another hour, ate, used the bathroom and Kevin checked out the thermometer which they had there. He said he wanted to take my picture with it but I told him do not tell me what it says otherwise, I may not want to keep going. This is the picture:

You can't read the thermometer? It reads 114 degrees. That was halfway out, remember? Now from this point, again, it didn't seem too steep, but I could not figure out why I was not going any faster. We stopped a half hour after starting out and found some shade and I sat down and thought I was going to cry. Tears did well up, but I was not going to let Kevin know that I was feeling so bad. I was going to get out of the canyon! This part was definitely the most torturous of the trip because of the heat, exhaustion, steepness and just wanting to get out. Just to give you a picture of how hot it was, we came across a woman whose soles of her shoes had melted off and they had to duct tape them back on so she could get out. But remember, I was going to get out! I prayed for the clouds to cover the sun, and every time they did, even for a brief moment, my heart leapt for joy. Then Kevin told me that one of the reasons that I was having such a hard time was because I was going too fast. Now again, I don't usually listen to his advice, much to my detriment, but this time I did and let him lead us. Slow and steady did the trick and I was able to hike for longer without a break. This is me trying to get out: Notice the dirt and sweat. Lovely. But I was doing it! I have never ate so much, sweated so much, or drank so much in my entire life! It took us six hours to get out of the canyon and you have never seen a happier girl than me!

The fun was not over though. The result of me drinking 6 liters fo water/ Gatorade was that we had to stop four times for me to use the restroom on the way home, and five times during the night.

Does it sound like I had a terrible time? No, I loved it! Sure it was exhausting, grueling, taxing, whatever, but I learned so much from my husband like, take your time, be prepared, drink water. But he learned from me that I NEVER give up (he thought I might, so he brought a tent in case we had to spend the night). So, this all leads me to this upcoming weekend. We are hiking the Grand Canyon yet again. This time I have trained much more thoroughly, know what to expect, and have lost forty lbs so I am even lighter and quicker. I hiked it this past fall with a couple of my girlfriends and I kept proclaiming that it was 100% better than the first time, mostly because there was no heat and I had trained for that one, too. I am anticipating giving Kevin a run for his money and a challenge as I try to get out as fast as I can (hopefully under three hours max, given no extenuating circumstances). But most importantly, I am looking forward to the time I have to be with my dear husband...but really kick his tail! P.S. I lost ALL of my toenails from the hike down. I felt it was a badge of honor!


  1. Lost all your toenails, ew. What does that even look like? Sounds like you might make a good archaeologist. We hike a lot. I do know for a fact, that I would likely not make a good nurse, considering your lovely descriptions from the post below...the blood clot thingy is completely the grossest! I did think from the title at first I was gonna get some baby milk feeding tips;) The countdown is on, 10 weeks! Enjoy the GC this weekend. I miss southern Utah and Northern AZ a whole lot. The beauty that can be experienced there is just magnificent!