Grand Canyon Follies, Pt. 4

Bright Angel Going Up or…The Fellowship of the Climb

I set off on the Bright Angel trail with legs that were very fatigued and a bit wobbly but otherwise I was in pretty good shape. The trail down didn’t challenge my cardio at all. Of course all that was about to change.

Bright Angel starts off back from the Colorado River but follows along with it for a while. The trail is fairly smooth and not very steep at all. So I was making good time. My spirits were high and I was feeling much better.

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But all good things do come to an end now don’t they? Soon I was back to the steps leading up into switchback Gehenna with the sun bearing down on me as well. So much for making good time. 

The trail goes through quite a section of switchbacks and steps before running a river and becoming rocky. You pass through the river once or twice and then becomes quite green and pretty as it leads you into Indian Gardens. Below is a look back on where I’d been, and the approach to Indian Gardens.

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You can camp over night or day camp there. It’s a resting and watering point. I was glad to see it as I had run out of water in my camel-back and water bottle as well. I also couldn’t get the filter on the bottle working and was pretty thirsty by the time I got to the watering point.

I drank a lot, refilled everything and tried to eat but I couldn’t. I just wasn’t hungry in spite of all the energy I was burning up. In fact when I tried to eat I felt nauseated  and after a nice rest I staggered to my feet and slowly started up again.

Throughout all this there was one source of encouragement and that was the people along the way. You tended to pass people and chat briefly, rest and chat with them as they passed you by, etc. There was a group of four or five guys from China that I crossed paths with many times. We smiled and laughed and moved forward ever so slowly.

Stopping at nearly every turn in the switchbacks, leaning on my trekking poles just to support myself I wasn’t having fun that’s for sure. At least I made it to Three Mile Resthouse. Bathrooms and water are available there. As well as a small pack of fat, furry rats otherwise known as Grand Canyon Squirrels.. They are fearless and will steal anything they can get at. I had to laugh as one guy ran down hill to get to his pack that was being tugged at by one squirrel.

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Upward again talking and joking with the people I met. I talked to one group several times. They had a nicest lady in the group who kept encouraging me. I didn’t get a picture or a name but I really appreciated it. I made her laugh when I told her this was my graduation ceremony and that I had decided I was going to be awarded a Magna Cum Stupid degree!

Ever upward. At one stop I noticed a group of women below me moving up. They had dresses on that reached their ankles and head coverings as well. Muslims? I zoomed in and took the picture below. Mennonites I’m sure, though I never asked them. 

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They did catch me and we had several short talks as we went back and forth. I told them I was a Minister. They were on vacation and doing the canyon was part of their trip. After I reached the  top I came across them again and took this pic, as well as one with their camera for them.

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I began to worry about getting out before it got dark. I had passed Mile & a Half House and it was around 5:25 or 5:30 when this came into view. You can’t see it very well, but there’s a house in the picture below. Hope surged along with energy because I knew I was close!

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Then I saw this – and knew the tunnel was just shy of the top!

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Onward I went through the tunnel and was approaching the top when several people I hadn’t seen before invited me to sit with them. So I did and admired the beautiful view. the lady asked if she could take my picture and of course I said yes.

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I look so much better in these pictures than I felt. The reason I’ve got both trekking poles in both shots is because I really couldn’t stand still without being able to lean on them.

But I had made it, alive and exhausted but I had done it for sure. Drove for an hour back to Williams, ordered out from Pizza Hut, watched some TV and fell asleep.

Next time summing up how I feel about doing this and a brief review of some of my equipment.

Grand Canyon Follies, Pt. 4

Walk Against Drugs

Shirt

This morning I got to do two things at once. I did the long walk I like to do on Saturday mornings and took part in a walk against drugs & alcohol in our community.  This event was in memory of Cynthia Williams who died on March 9th this year.

Like just about everywhere in this country drugs and especially alcohol (it’s cheap) are a huge problem here on the River. I was happy to help raise our voices today. So I left home and walked to Walmart (just shy of 5 miles), then once we got organized we walked (strolled I would say) about a a mile to the Casino. After a while there I took off to walk back home.

A total of just over 11 miles. Not bad!

I was happy to see my friend and attender of CCR, Lisa Parten there. 

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Here’s a couple of more pics of the event.

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Banner group

 

 

Walk Against Drugs

Grand Canyon Follies, Pt. 3

OVER THE RIVER & LENDING A HELPING HAND

My one day hike into and out of the Grand Canyon wasn’t going too well. I knew I had missed the Tonto Trail turn off as I got closer to the Colorado River. More importantly I knew my legs were just about played out. How I was going to go all the way back up the 9 1/2 miles of the Bright Angel Trail I couldn’t imagine.

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But I kept on going because I had no choice and once I start something I feel obligated to finish it. Honestly I wanted this, saw no other option, so I kept going.

I came around another of the seemingly endless corners of the switchbacks as I was going down and came across a lady sitting down and not looking too good. Her name was Laura, and unfortunately I was so tired it never occurred to me to take a picture of her. If you read this Laura, sorry about that!

She had fell and cut her knee but that was bandaged up. The bigger problem was that she had badly twisted her ankle. She was going down to the river to take a 12 day boat trip that would end with her out of the Canyon. Unfortunately her ankle was hurting her bad and taking those steps down was really more than she could do.

So I offered her one of my trekking poles, rather reluctantly I admit. Even as I made the offer I was wondering how on earth I was going to manage with just one since I was barely getting by with two. She said, “Are you sure?” I said sure, and after we got the pole re-sized for her height, we started down.

This was one of the best things to happen to me through out that very long day. Not only did it get my mind off myself as I helped her take the big steps and watched her carefully on the others. It also provided me with more rest than I would have taken alone since about every three steps or so she needed to rest.

She kept apologizing for it and kept on telling her I needed it nearly as much as she did! True that.

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As she limped along we chatted. I told her I was a Pastor and she told me she had been “talking to God” a lot since her fall. I could believe that. She also told me that her Grandfather had carried some of the cables used on the bridges down into the canyon when he was young. To do that makes him a bonafide stud in my opinion.

We finally made it down to the tunnel which empties out directly on the first bridge that crosses the river. I had to slow down and do some talking since she had a fear of bridges, but we made it and slowly made it over and down to the beach were her ride awaited.

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Once I was sure she was okay, and turned down beer, coke and even money for helping her (offered by the company who runs the boat trips) I said so long and slowly made my way up to the trail and over to the other other bridge across the river and to where the Bright Angel Trail begins.

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I turned right and began my way up and into a whole new adventure in pain, fatigure and meeting interesting people. More next time.

 

 

Grand Canyon Follies, Pt. 3

Grand Canyon Follies, Pt. 2

South Kaibab Going Down

Part One Here.

It was cold and even though my stomach wasn’t cooperating very well I was determined to do this hike and hopefully to enjoy it. One out of two isn’t too bad is it?

After waiting to catch the shuttle to the South Kaibab trail head I started down at around (I didn’t look at my watch right away so I’m guessing) 6:35 AM. I was excited and started out trying to walk my usual brisk pace. It didn’t take long to realize that I was going to have to slow down. The trail wasn’t steep yet, but it was a bit rougher than I thought it would be.

That was a foreshadowing of my future as the trail would get a whole lot steeper and rougher shortly.

One of the first things I noticed was the amazing views that South Kaibab Trail gives you. Just like the literature said and the videos I had watched showed, it was breath taking. Kaibab is built mostly on ridges so you get amazing panoramic views of that canyon. Incredible!

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Things went along pretty well for a while but after a couple of hours I became painfully aware that the steepness of the trail and the height of the “steps” (the pictures don’t really reflect how high most of them were) was getting to me. By the time I reached the first stopping point for the Mules I knew my legs were pretty played out. Taking mile after mile of steps that varied from a foot to two and a half feet tall was wearing me out fast.

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I met a lady and her daughter who were taking some pictures and they very kindly took some shots of me. They also discussed with me their plan to take the Tonto Trail over to Bright Angel and avoiding going all the way down to the river. 

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That sounded smart but it really bothered me. So as I slowly made my down the trail and all those unending steps I had two things on my mind. One: I really didn’t know if I was capable of getting back out if I went all the way down as planned. Two: I felt like a loser and a quitter for taking a short cut.

That’s vintage Louie all the way folks! I kept going back and forth between the two and kept on feeling worse and worse. The only “good” thing about that was that my mind set matched the state of my leg muscles – really bad!

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It was somewhere during all this, but I don’t remember when, that I caught my first glimpse of the river. It shows just how far I had to go at that point.

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As things turned out I did all the worrying for nothing – because I missed the turn off to the Tonto Trail! I kept going down and seeing the river get closer and closer and guessed that I must have missed it. I was later told were it was, and I have no recollection of seeing another trial in that spot at all! 

What I didn’t know was all this angst about not going all the way to the bottom was actually good, because something was waiting for me around a few more bends in the trail that would make it all worth while.

I’ll cover in my next installment of the Grand Canyon Follies!

Grand Canyon Follies, Pt. 2

Grand Canyon Follies, Pt. 1

This is the first of several posts detailing my hiking into and out of the Grand Canyon in one day, and what a day it was, May 9th, 2016.

The genesis of this crazy idea began, appropriately enough, on the internet.  I was looking around on YouTube for hiking videos for the Camino De Santiago in Spain. Which I was hoping to hike the first half of in 2016 and still do.  In the process of doing that I stumbled across videos of people hiking the Grand Canyon.

Wow – I hadn’t even considered that before. Yet here they were hiking from the South Rim to the North Rim in one day and then back the next! Even more intriguing were the videos showing hiking down the South Kaibab Trail and then up Bright Angel Trail.

I was interested and did some more research. I found out its about 7 1/2 miles on South Kaibab and 9 1/2 miles up on Bright Angel. Kaibab is steeper than Bright Angel, but there are water stations and rest areas on Bright Angel. I watched more videos, looked at a lot of pictures, and thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was planning on getting into.

In the course of all that I learned that the Park services strongly discourages people from trying to go down and up in one day. Hence this sign that can be seen, strangely enough pretty far down in the canyon when it’s kinda too late to sound the alarm.

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So I knew this was officially a bad idea, I had more than a few people I know tell me it was a bad idea. So naturally and with my customary humility I decided to do it anyway! It was a decision I was to viscerally regret and appreciate later.

So I reserved a room for two nights in Williams which is an hour south of the park. I drove up on Sunday afternoon accompanied by wind, rain and winter storm warnings on I40 – in May no less!

I slept poorly that night. I was excited and had some stomach issues. Up at 4 AM I still wasn’t feeling good and didn’t eat much. I packed up and headed north in the dark towards the Canyon.

I got there and managed to find the right parking lot (or so I thought) and while waiting for the shuttle that would take me to the trail head for South Kaibab had a real attack of what my Father used to call the “Grumbly  Gut Wiz (I’ll leave you to figure that one out yourself!). Thankfully I found a place to relieve myself and the shuttle finally arrived.

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Finally at around 6:35 A.M. I stepped over the rim and into the most physically extreme 12 hours of my entire life so far. More in Part Two.

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Grand Canyon Follies, Pt. 1