Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Grandest Canyon

The hike down and into the Grand Canyon
was one of the most special adventures I've embarked on.
I feel really proud of the excursion; it tested my physical and mental abilities
in ways that I couldn't have anticipated.  
Our group was full of energy and excitement as we began our descent down the Kaibab Trail.
We made it down to the bottom of the Canyon in record time,
with only a few short stops along the way.
Phantom Ranch can really only be described as utopia.
It hosts guests that respect the rules of the National Park Service,
and all share the feeling of pride and relief that a select few us have made it down to the bottom.
We appreciated the smallest of pleasures: 
 hiker's stew, a flat rock by the river to rest our feet, cold beers and card games.
Looking up at the Canyon walls from the shade of a Cottonwood,
you really do feel so tiny underneath such a big, vast sky.
Our group took advantage of the ranger talks at 4pm and 7:30pm.
There is such a rich history, and endless stories to be heard about this Canyon.
The Canyon walls are an ever changing canvas,
 painted in hues of pink, red and purples at sunset,
and brighter oranges, browns and greys at sunrise.
Day two we explored the Canyon, heading out towards the North Rim to
set our eyes on the majestic Ribbon Falls.
It was a 13+ mile hike round trip, and for most of it we were
 exposed to blazing sun as we walked through the desert.
We all stood and let the cold mist of this hidden waterfall sprinkle our backs.
A dip in the water pools and some lunch, and then we had to head back to camp.
It was a long, hot hike back, and most of us had depleted our water supply.
Our muscles were starting to really feel the effects of our hike down the day before.
We woke up at 4:30am on Sunday to begin our hike up and out.
We hoped by leaving early enough, we'd beat most of the heat.
We were all a little nervous, and unsure how reliable our legs were.
We hiked up Bright Angel Trail, first through thick, soupy sand and then up
and around a section called "Devil's Corkscrew."
When we arrived at Indian Gardens for lunch, I was exhausted.
There was a huge mind over matter 'think' capacity that had to kick in for me,
and I tried to concentrate on being strong through positive thinking.
There was a long, flat stretch of trail where I was alone for a while.
I had part of my group ahead of me, and a few folks behind me,
so I knew I was safe and I really appreciated the alone time for self-reflection,
self-pace setting, and taking in the beauty of the other side of the canyon.
There were a lot of low hanging ferns and bubbling creeks and flat rock beds.
I thought there was a strong possibility of seeing a mountain lion stretched out on one of the rock beds.
The last 3 miles were brutal. I had to put all my concentration into physically lifting each leg,
and my whole body was moving in slow motion.
I was sucking air-my only relief was when a nice man I was hiking with
told me it was the altitude that was making it very difficult to breathe.
My friend and I made out the whistle of a train and I swear, I'd never heard a sound so sweet.
The hike up was a constant mind game. You think you're nearing the top,
only to encounter another series of switch-backs.
Sheer pride kept us from asking hikers making their way down,
how much longer until we reached the rim.
When I finally caved in to ask,
I knew I was at the point of total mind and body exhaustion.
But we made it.
The first half of our group waited for us tail-enders
at a perch about 5 minutes before you round the bend and reach the summit.
We all marched up to the top together.
We hugged and high-fived and were cheered on by park rangers and mingling tourists.
It felt...amazing.
Impossible to articulate, really.
I'd been riding a giddy high during the days that followed.
Shuffling around the city; smiling to myself, like I had a little secret.
It was an amazing journey,
although if you asked my legs, they'd probably beg to differ.
Happy Hiking, friends.
 *all photos are my own

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful and awesome. You will always have those memories to go to and visit in your mind. I'm so happy for you.