Sunday, April 19, 2009

Grand Canyon Part II or Another One Bites the Dust

I did it! That's all that needs to be said, but alas, I will elaborate. And as for the title of this post, it has several meanings. The first is that it was the last song that I put on my iPod before we left, secondly, there is a lot of dust that I ate, and last, I decided to keep a "trip count" in tribute to my cousin, Janae, who has been attacked by the disease, ALS, and was a runner until this nasty bad guy reared his head and has said in her blog that she hopes (these may not have been her actual words, but it is what I got out of it) that if people trip while they are running, she wants to hear about it, so I knew that there was going to be a very high probability of tripping, slipping, etc but I will get to the Grand total (no pun intended) later.

We had to "carb up" for the big event, and I am embarrassed to say all of the food that I ate, but I did not want to risk not having enough energy for the task at hand, so I forced myself to eat. My dear husband has no trouble with this. Kevin and I went on our GC hike at the best time of year. Although I was absolutely freezing when we got there. People were in winter jackets and hats and gloves. I don't have a lot of cold weather gear, so I had a sweater. Fortunately, Kevin had a ski hat in his truck. This I wore around the rim as we had dinner and looked over the edge, etc. There are a lot of foreigners there to see this natural wonder of the world, but they only walk to the edge. We had a lovely dinner at the Arizona Room with a beautiful view of the canyon, but again, I had to force myself to eat because I was not hungry at all since we had been snacking on the way up, which is a lovely four hour drive from Phoenix. Kevin made me get a to go box for the rest of my dinner so he could eat it later (where does he put all that food???). I told Kevin the most exciting part of the evening was going to be going to bed and not even the possibility of someone saying "Mo-om" once. Heaven. Not that I didn't miss them or call them three times on the phone on the way up or wish that my mom knew how to text message so I could remind her of one more thing, but just sitting down and not having to do something for anyone else, enjoyable. Oh, wait. I forgot. Kevin was with me.

We woke up and got ready for the 7 o'clock "Hikers Express" shuttle from Bright Angel Lodge, which we barely made. I had four layers of shirts, hat, gloves, hand warmers, and leggings on because of the chilly weather. It was 32 degrees when we left. That's freezing. I was not going to risk being cold, hence, all the layers, which were quickly stripped off about a mile into the hike. This is me with the layers still on:

I look more like a skier than a hiker at this point, but you will notice, I'm not dirty. Yet.

Trip #1 came around this point. But it wasn't me. It was a woman who we passed who was going down very cautiously, kind of hugging the side and using hiking poles. We took a break at the first bathroom stop I was to make ( I will not be giving a Grand total of that) and had just taken off our packs when Kevin goes running back up the trail. I look and the woman has completely done a face plant on the trail. She was laughing and her two sisters were by me, and they all were giggling at this. Kevin, of course, helped her up and made sure that she was okay. She was wearing white shorts, which dirt does not wear well. They kept on going while we removed some of our clothes and when we passed them the next time, Kevin asked them how they were enjoying the "fall" weather. That Kevin. This is me after I had removed a little bit more layers:
There are not a lot of pictures on this trip because the battery to the camera said it was charging, but it didn't, so there should be more Kevin pictures, but he is usually in charge of the camera so it's mostly me. Anyway, we made it down in two hours, which is the fastest that Kevin has ever done it, but he probably could have done it faster if he hadn't slowed down for me at times to catch up. He is much better, more sure footed than me on the descent. I only let out a couple of yelps as I slipped or lost my footing, never major, but I am a little dramatic. We got to Phantom Ranch, mailed the obligatory post cards to the children with the "Carried out by Mule" stamp on them and I mailed one to my college roommate, Jennifer, for her kindergarten class that she teaches and we were back on our way out. This is us at the bottom, new and less clothes for the both of us:

It's here that I believe I O.D.'d on Fritos. It is strongly recommended that one consumes salty snacks during a hike like this due to all of the fluid consumed and risk of hyponatremia (decreased salt in your system) which can be fatal, so the Frito consumption is a potential life saver. I may have over did it though as I will describe later. The weather was still beautiful, some people were down at the beach of the Colorado River, but not many, but then, after we had crossed the bridge to get to Bright Angel Trail, we saw a motorized raft coming down. Cheaters. This is me with the lazies.

After we had hiked all along the river and made the turn up Devil's Corkscrew, we came upon a lovely surprise, a new bathroom. Brand spanking new. There was a little line (two people) and of course, Kevin rolled his eyes when I told him that I wanted to stop and use it ( it was brand new, how could I resist?) and he said that he would keep going and that I could catch up. The facilities were lovely, but of course, minimalist inspired. I caught up to him and he told me to not wait up for him, because he knew that I really wanted to see how fast I could go and get out quickly, so I did cautiously, what if I fell off the edge, what if HE fell (yikes-I can't carry him) but he reassured me that the trail is heavily traveled and should anything happen, there would be someone to alert the authorities. This may have been a big mistake for Kevin because he missed it. I tripped. Not a little slip and catch my balance. I tripped on a little rock and fell down and caught myself with my hands. There was one witness to this. The poor guy behind me about twenty feet. I thought, man I'm lucky I wasn't at a rocky area or close to the edge. Yikes! I think I picked up the pace a little bit so the poor guy wasn't right behind me should that happen again, or maybe he slowed down. There were three gentlemen working on the trail. They were replacing stabilization logs on the trail, so I know I appreciate the work that they were doing. I got to Indian Garden and Kevin was a few minutes behind me. I rested and ate a snack, mmm more Fritos. Kevin refilled his camelbak then said that he was going to head out so he could get another head start. I finished my snack, used the ladies room, refilled my camelbak and water bottle, replaced the moleskin on my heels then headed out. I didn't check the temperature there, but it couldn't have been more than 70 degrees. I got caught behind a mule train and was the last mule in the pack for at least ten minutes until they stopped and allowed me to pass, which is very scary, because you have to pass behind them as all the mules are turned on the diagonal on the trail to allow the hiker to pass along the inside of the trail and who knows what a mule could do... pee, poop, kick. But it was nice to pass them because the pace that I was going was faster than them. But then, I got stuck behind another pack of mules. Enough of the snide remarks people! I was able to pass them after just a few minutes and the mule driver was explaining why mules are sterile. Very interesting. I should have asked him why they have the parts. For show? And being stuck behind them also adds to the title of this post because they kick up a lot of dust, and I don't think it's all canyon dust. I caught up to Kevin and he told me to keep going, which was great because it felt like I got my second wind and was doing a little better than twenty minute mile pace. I know, all you long distance runners are balking at that, but it was uphill with a pack. It was somewhere around this point that I began to notice the symptoms of Frito overdose. My hands were swollen and my fingers like little sausages. My fingers were almost white from the swelling. It could have been the pack cutting off my circulatory system, but I still blame the Fritos. You know you're getting close to the top (besides the three mile rest house, followed by the mile and a half rest house) when you see small children on the trail or out of shape people or a pack of young men in wife beater t-shirts. That's the hardest part. You know you're close and all of these other people have no clue the endurance challenge that you have been through and fail to yield to uphill hikers even though it says to in "The Guide" which everyone is given when they enter the park. Really. Just read The Guide. I did use the cardio suggestion given to me to motivate me to push harder. There was a slight incident about 1/4 mile from the trail head. I turned from one of the many swithcbacks and felt a rip in my left third toenail. I thought, no way could my toenail have just fallen off, I cut them all last night. I kept on keeping on. Nothing was going to stop me. I may lose a toe, but I was getting out. I got out and laid down on a flat rock that was in the parking lot because it was in the shade and I was a little warm. I did the whole thing in a little less than six hours, seven hours total with breaks at Phantom Ranch and Indian Garden. I felt great! Kevin was a few minutes behind me. Then his true prowess showed through. He got us home in a little over three hours. Truly a feat of master driving.

Now for the Grand total of trips. Eleven. Most of that was uphill which is better than going down because gravity does not help in that circumstance. No face plants from me. But, I must say, I did think of Janae, not because she's a tripper, but because how grateful I am that I do have a healthy body that allows me to achieve these kinds of feats and who knows how much longer I'll be able to do that. So I cherish this time that I had with my fantastic husband and I am so lucky to have him. Not many men would tell their wife to go ahead, but he knows how competitive I am and I really wanted this.

What's next? Rim to Rim. This canyon is addictive!


  1. Way to go Kimmie. You are stellar. Glad you didn't fall in the canyon. I heard it is deep.

  2. you. are. awesome.

    last time i hiked the grand canyon i had to get hellicoptered out...