Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Day Two -- Shaking Muscles

If Day One was all about fear and anticipation, Day Two was all about muscle exhaustion. Anyone who thinks it's easier to walk downhill than uphill has never done a seriously long downhill hike. It's a killer.

I already knew this but was kinda shocked all the same.

We went down the South Kaibab trail, which is reputed to be steeper, if a bit shorter, than the more normally hiked Bright Angel trail. It's about 8 miles from the trailhead to Phantom Ranch where we spent the night in hikers dorms, but it's also nearly 5000 feet down in elevation and it's the down that'll kill you.

At least if you're me.

I used walking sticks on this hike for the very first time and let me tell you, I'm never hiking anything with a change in elevation without them again. Can't tell you how helpful they were when descending steps that were at times up to 2 feet high. I suspect hiking those trails at the end of the season is a little rougher. The trail seemed pretty washed out and there were places where it was hard to get a reasonable step up or down.

But boy, the views. There are some sweeping views of the entire canyon from this trail that'll take your breath away. There's actually a point called "ooo aah point", but I never did figure out which point it was, because frankly I oooed and aahed just about every time I remembered to take my eyes off my feet for a moment to remind myself where I was.


The change in temperature over the course of the day into the canyon was pretty spectacular, too. I could've sworn it was below freezing when we started out, but I heard later that the low for that day had been 43 degrees F at the rim. Sure felt colder, but there was a wind...

By the time we reached the bottom it was so freakin hot. No idea the actual temperature. Let's just leave it at freakin hot.

I did okay that day until about the last 2-3 hours of what, for me, was about a 7 1/2 hour hike. The muscles in my very musclely legs were shaking so hard I could barely stand whenever I stopped to take a drink or snap a photo. I had a few scary moments when my left leg threatened to give out on me when I landed funny... but no disasters.

In fact, the only blisters I got on the descent were on my hands... More on that tomorrow.

After finally reaching the bottom, we spent the night at Phantom Ranch which really is pretty fabulous. They have dorms of 5 sets of bunkbeds in each, and each dorm has a SHOWER and TOILET and SINK. (and yes, they were welcome enough to deserve capital letters.) We had an amazing family style steak dinner and barely stayed up to hear the Ranger talk at 7:30 pm. Shouldn't have even stayed up that late, given our 4:30 wake-up call the next morning.... but more on that tomorrow.

This last photo is one of the first full views of the Colorado River during the descent. My thoughts while taking this? "After walking straight down for 5 hours I still have to get all the way down there? You've got to be kidding me!" The patch of green off to the right is Phantom Ranch.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Day One

Okay, so I'm back and still alive. (And I still have both lungs.) Yahoo!!!

I'm so glad I went, in spite of the pain. The good far outweighed the bad, which pretty much came during the last 2 hours of each day on the trail.

Since blogging from the trip wasn't possible, I'm going to blog the trip day-by-day this week.

Day one (Sunday) we met in Flagstaff and then took a van trip to the Grand Canyon. In contrast to my -it's-going-to-be-too-freaking-hot fears, it was freezing. Decided my best packing decision was the last minute inclusion of my heavy fleece (which I wore over a short sleeved t-shirt, a long sleeved t-shirt, and a light fleece -- basically everything in my suitcase.) I think it was around 40 degrees F, but with the wind it definitely felt below freezing.

After making quick lunches at the trail head and grabbing some snacks for the trail, we walked about 3-4 miles along the rim taking in the views and getting scared. My highlight of the day was discovering I wasn't the only one getting out of breath with the altitude. Yippee! I might not be the only slow one! (Does that make me a bad person?)

If you take a close look at the photo above, you can see a trail going out on a point almost exactly in the centre of the photo... well, that's at the half-way point in terms of going downhill in the Canyon. I often wonder how many people who go see the Grand Canyon think that's the bottom. Ha! Of course it's impossible to capture the 5000 foot depth of the canyon in a photo.

After checking into the hotel, and checking out the sunset views of the canyon, we had a nice dinner, got to know each other a little, and prepared for our 6:00 am breakfast the next day....

Friday, October 19, 2007

Grand Canyon Bound

Well, I'm off to the Grand Canyon. When I signed up for this trip last March, it sounded like a great idea and I had nearly 7 months to get ready. Plenty of time. Right?

Instead, what do I do? Nothing. Almost purposefully at times. I think sometime during the summer I wrote this trip off in my mind. I was considering taking a job that would prevent me going. I was considering some elective surgery that might conflict. I was considering the fact that I'd probably puke up a lung hiking a mile uphill at altitude.

But in my normal procrastination style, I kept putting off canceling, too. I didn't want to let down my good friend Gloria for one thing. I figure if I keep backing out on trips sooner or later she'll stop inviting me.

So, at the beginning of Oct I finally decided to commit. I booked a flight, paid the balance on the trip and started to go to the gym.

I leave early in the am. Driving to Buffalo, then flying to Charlotte NC, then to Phoenix, then to Flagstaff. Something like 17 hours of total travel time. Serves me right for leaving it so long to book the flight.

Wish me luck!

(I promise to post photos--of both the Canyon and my blisters.)
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