Camino Countdown #1

As some of you know I decided late last year that I wanted to walk at least part of the Camino on my vacation this year. This series of posts will lead up to my actually doing as much of it as I can in just shy of two weeks.

What Is It?

The Camino is actually called the Camino Frances. It’s one of several routes that lead to Santiago in Spain. This tradition of walking from just about anywhere in Europe to Santiago goes back at least 1200 years.

It’s laden with tons of Catholic tradition and doctrine that I don’t believe in or agree with in the slightest. The reason people began trekking to Santiago is that there’s a tradition that Saint James ended up being buried there. The story is a stone boat showed up in Israel and his disciples put his body in it. Somehow the boat ended up off the coast of Spain and his body was taken ashore, buried and lost. Then, hundreds of years later, a man was given a vision and the resting place of St. James was  officially proclaimed by the Catholic Church.

Naturally I don’t buy any of that. But I do respect and honor those who made such a long and dangerous (in those days) pilgrimage. Whether or not you accept the tradition you have to admire their faith.

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How Long Is It?

The Camino Frances (which is the main Camino – there are many others) traditionally runs from St. Jean Pied-dd-Port across northern Spain to Santiago. That’s a distance of 800 Kilometers or about 500 miles. From there you can continue to the coast and Finisterra which is another 90 miles or so.

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Why Am I Doing This?

That’s a great question, and one that I’ll answer in my next Camino Countdown! Keep watching for it and as they say on the Camino, Buen Camino!

 

 

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Camino Countdown #1

Grand Canyon Follies Pt. 5 – Looking Back

Six days from now will mark one month since I hiked in and out of the Grand Canyon on the same day.  This will be my final post on this “grand” (sorry I couldn’t resist!) event in my life. I’ll share a few thoughts looking back and some comments on three pieces of gear that I used.

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Was it Worth It?

If you had asked me this on the day of the climb or the day after I would have said NO! Once I realized just how badly I had underestimated the difficultly of going down and up in one day, I was not happy with myself. In fact I spent most of my way down and up giving myself stern lectures on just how stupid I was.

But I did make it now didn’t I? As I thought about it I realized that yes, doing it wasn’t the most prudent thing I’d ever done. But I had done it, and had done pretty well all things considered. I only met one other person that day doing what I did and he passed me by fairly quickly.

He was a lot younger than I am, as were most of the people I met on the trails that day. Considering all that I think I did pretty darn well. I’m actually glad I did it – something I couldn’t have imagined feeling that day.  Of course I’m not going to do it again! Even I’m not that crazy!

But I’m glad I did it because it showed me just how far you can progress with a little big of work applied regularly over a period of time. Less than two years after starting to lose weight and get in shape I managed to hike down and back. Not to mention that I’m  63 years old!

So yes, it was very worth it to me. It’s one of those things that at the time is painful but when you look back on it you are glad you were there.

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Some Notes On My Gear

Three pieces of gear deserve mention here because without them I would have been in real trouble.

First of all my humble trekking poles. I bought them cheap at Walmart over a year ago and have used them quite a bit ever since. They are a bit beat up, and in fact I just replaced them with better ones. But thank God for them because without those poles I don’t think I could have made it.

My Osprey Manta 28. I really like this pack. It’s small but fits me very well. It has a nice camelbak so I had lots of water with me. It didn’t wear on me at all and was comfortable throughout my 12 hour journey.

However, as you can see below it has issues. I’ve owned it for less than 4 months and have had two parts break and one is missing. I’m in contact with Osprey about getting this fixed now. I hope they do because otherwise I spent a lot of money in vain and will have to go back to the drawing board to find the right pack for the my next journey.

Backpack issues

My boots. I wore Columbia Men’s Newton Ridge Plus II. They are water proof and leather, but broke in easily and worked very well. My feet stayed dry after going through the 4 or so streams you have to navigate on Bright Angel. The grips held me firm and even though I didn’t change my socks, which I knew I should do but just didn’t have the energy, I only ended up with 3 small blisters.

Not bad for a grueling 12 hour hike.

So there you go. In the fairly near future I hope to to put all my pictures up on my homepage (louiemarsh.com). I’ll notify everyone when I do.

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What a trip – now onto planning my next one. More info on that later!

Grand Canyon Follies Pt. 5 – Looking Back

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

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. 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

Graduation Day

I’m in Williams AZ, sitting in a cold room that’s only getting colder since the “heater” is blowing very cool air. But at least it’s warmer than the air outside – sort of.

The reason I’m doing this instead of being in my cozy little place in Parker is because tomorrow is what I’m calling “Graduation Day.” Not from any university mind you, but from a school of sorts to be sure, the School of Basic Hiking as I like to call it.

Tomorrow, weather allowing, I’m planning on hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back to the rim again, all in one day. Mind you that’s being a bit naughty since these type of signs are very visible at the Canyon.

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I don’t think this should be too big of a problem as I’ve worked very hard to get in shape and hike lots of lots of up hill. Right now I’m more worried about the weather then I am anything else. It was 30 degrees at the South Rim this morning – yikes!!

So I’ve got a light jacket and an old pair of winter sweats I bought in Kingman years ago. They are huge and I’ve been meaning to give them away but thankfully didn’t. Hopefully they’ll work till the hiking warms me up. I’m actually wearing both right now as I’m literally “chilling” in this room!

I had originally planned to go to Phantom Ranch but might not as it adds a round trip of two miles to the trip. I’ll make the final decision when I get there depending on how I’m feeling and what time it is.

So say a prayer for me if you will, and maybe one for the Canyon too! I’ll be posting my safe return on FaceBook and might post some pictures tomorrow depending on how I’m feeling once I get back here (it’s about an hour’s drive to and from the South Rim).

Hope to talk to all of you soon – keep on walking folks!

Graduation Day