Published: August 24th 2012August 24th 2012
A quick stop for breakfast before we continued to Grand Canyon National Park
I hiked the Grand Canyon! "I MADE IT TO THE BOTTOM AND ALL THE WAY BACK UP!" I have to say it out loud in order to believe it! I did it and it's surreal.
I was going to give myself a blogging break this summer because I felt I was only going to Arizona. Yea it's my 25th visited state, but I didn't think it was as worthy as a foreign country. Boy... was I wrong! I think sometimes Americans take for granted the magnificence of their own backyard. I know I did! Hiking the Grand Canyon is definitely up there with Antigua, Guatemala; bar hopping in Victoria; horseback riding to Tipon; the Salvadorian zip line; and the Manuel Antonio Rainforest. Therefore, worthy of a blog entry. Ha...I hiked the Grand Canyon! Can you say that?
Over a drink a few years ago, my cousins and I had a conversation about places we wanted to travel to. The Grand Canyon was on all of our lists. Thirteen months ago, the trip was booked with Jason doing all the research and itinerary planning. Pretty much never saying "No" to new experiences, I forked over the money and reserved an
First View of Canyon
"I'm suppose to hike that?"
airline ticket. The idea of not worrying about arrangements was also quite appealing. Lucky for me, my cousin knew what he was doing and planned an incredible ten day experience.
After flying into Phoenix and a quick breakfast break in Sedona, we arrived to the South Rim Tuesday afternoon. As soon as the car parked, I quickly ran to snatch my first glimpse of the Canyon. It was then when the huge pit formed in my stomach and I began to question my vacation choice! I was to hike that?
Wednesday we left at 5am and started on South Kaibab trail. Seven thousand foot descent in six miles made for a very steep trail. I despise going down a trail. Down sucks! The loose gravel was tricky to walk on and my fear of heights played a large role on my sloth pace movement. It was a looooonnnng way down if you fell, plus a very unpleasant outcome if that did occur. Fortunately, I'm still here to tell the story. As we continued lower, the blazing heat killed us. It got to be 120 degrees in the sun. Balancing was getting difficult and all I could feel was
sharp pains in my knees and calves. Every time I stopped to catch a breath my legs trembled back and forth like a quivering child stepping out of a chilly pool. The bag on my back was getting unbearable and at points I contemplated how much I really needed that stuff! Should I ditch the bag? It definitely was a thought. After six hours, we all were very irritable and it became necessary for us not to talk to one another. Perhaps the only thing we could agree upon was our mutual envy for those traveling by mule.
We arrived safely to the Phantom Ranch -- our home for the next three days! Yes, I stayed at a ranch and those of you who know me well may find that quite amusing! Liz and I dormed with up to 8 other females, while Jason housed with the other male hikers. Communal living got old quickly especially when some roommates came in like wrecking balls in the wee morning hours. Liz and I had lots of different roomies throughout our stay, but appreciated the last group of individuals that bunked with us. They were a fun bunch of girls and
it was like we were in camp again.
We stayed at the bottom of the canyon and hiked a little (Actually a lot! We covered 31 miles in four days!), played games in the canteen, listened to ranger presentations, indulged in the famous beef stew dinner, and just sat in the creek to cool off! It was like our own personal jacuzzi for our sore muscles. Walking was quite painful and going down 4 steps or even a slight decline was an ordeal. Yes this was my vacation!!! What was I thinking? The scenery was breathtaking though! Can't you tell by the pictures?
Climbing back wasn't very pleasant. We left at 3:30 am and hiked the first two hours with headlamps. Creepy...but we had to beat the heat! Jason led the pack with one word commands: Step, Poop, Narrow, Rock, etc., and kept us safe. All along, we prayed not to have unfortunate meetings with scorpions, rattlesnakes, and mountain lions. We hugged the inner canyon walls hoping to avoid a quick plummet to our death. It took a grueling 7 and 1/2 hours to reach the top. It was ten miles of incessant uphill. Our lungs burned, our
What you see is only half way down to Phantom Ranch.
backs ached, our calves throbbed, and our bodies were drenched with sweat.The last mile and a half was especially brutal. The canyon seem to grow taller with each step and ascending to the rim felt unattainable. I contemplated jumping off the edge. Liz and Jason claimed to never have seen me so exhausted as words and breath seem to escape me. I think their actual words were "Dang! We have never seen Christina so quiet." The encouraging words of onlookers, "only a little bit more to go," seemed more patronizing than supportive. Only we could appreciate what we had been through that day and dodging tourists with the clean shoes and fresh outfits exacerbated my irritability. We walked the final stretch unified (Team Howard), a reversal from our disjointed descent. We shared a common dream of cheeseburgers, fries, avocado and milkshakes. As the top became visible, a final surge of energy hit me out of nowhere and the impossible finally became possible. We could do nothing but grin in satisfaction. We posed for a final photo to document our conquest just before collapsing onto the nearest bench. Finally, I could nurse the blisters and black toenails that tortured me along
the way. I have yet to put my hiking shoes back on.
The next leg of our trip rewarded us for our efforts. We literally had the best cabin on the North Rim. Our front porch hugged the edge of the canyon and we were the envy of the entire park. Our days were spent recovering on our front porch rocking chairs with limited physical activities planned. We did squeeze in a short mule ride and rafting trip on the Colorado, neither of which required sustained physical effort. We hunted for souvenirs, ate at the lodge, and drank cold beer. From our porch we stargazed, enjoyed sunsets, and watched lightning dance in the distance, fearing only the occasional erratic bat and rogue squirrel.
This was a vacation like no other. It tested our mental and physical will. The enormity and splendor of the canyon can only truly be appreciated by confronting the challenge and hiking it! I probably will never do it again, but I'm proud to say that I am part of the 1% of Grand Canyon tourists to go all the way!
What's next? Besides a manicure and pedicure? Well...a leave of absence from work
Highly Recommend! We stayed the first night before the hike.
and the purchasing of a one way ticket to South America.
(Continue to the next pages to see all pictures!)
There are more photos below