Ain’t it grand?

In our ongoing pursuit of friends in our new city, my SAT and I are worming our way into whatever interesting endeavors OTHER people are doing….a couple of weeks ago, we went on a group hike, during which we met a guy who organizes a Grand Canyon weekend each year.  This was the 21st year!  I’m impressed.  Charles knows the southwest really well and wrote a book describing the best 60 hikes in and around the Phoenix area.  He’s kind of a local celebrity, at least in the hiking community.  Well, since Charles was gracious enough to invite us to his Grand Canyon weekend (despite not knowing us well at all!), we graciously accepted.  I mean, what ELSE did we have planned that weekend?

Indeed, we had a “grand” time!  The focus of the weekend was to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and then back up (17 miles total).  A “down-up” hike, as I call it, is a sick psychological game, really: for the first half of the hike, you are merrily and confidently striding along the trail, reveling in how fit you feel and how easy everything is.  Alas, what goes down, must go up, at least in this hiking situation, and that is when reality sinks in: the mouth becomes dry, the legs become lead, and the backpack becomes a burden.  Before I get into too many details, let me share a few pretty pictures…

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(Photo 1: alone on the trail; Photo 2: looking out from “Ooh Aah” Point; Photo 3: the warning we happily ignored; Photo 4: we were up there!)

When I hiked in Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas, I normally brought a baby Coke on my hikes to enjoy at the peak.  Well, instead of a Coke, I had a lemonade at the BOTTOM!  There is a little cafe at the bottom of the canyon (Phantom Ranch), from which one can buy a lemonade, some lunch, or even a beer.  You can also mail a postcard from the cafe that is carried up to the top by mule power.

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(Photo 1: the South Kaibab trail bridge that crosses the Colorado River and marks the end of the trail; Photo 2: mule train ascending the South Kaibab trail; Photo 3: Phantom Ranch, the oasis on the canyon floor; Photo 4: our drinks at Phantom Ranch!)

We took the Bright Angel trail back up to the trailhead because there were 3 water stations along the way; there is no water on the South Kaibab trail.  The hike back up to the top was hard.  Much harder than I expected.  I used to be in prime hiking condition last year and could easily overtake anyone with whom I hiked, girl or guy.  Sadly, as the adage goes, if you don’t use it, you lose it and boy, have I lost it!  I am way out of hiking shape.  I still finished the hike with my various body parts intact and I was faster than most of the other people, but I was in pain.  My legs were cramping, shaking, and seizing up.  My pace became slower and slower until it got to the point where children and 80-year-olds were passing me.  Granted, those people were doing a MUCH shorter hike, as they were not going all the way to the bottom, but still, it was still a blow to my ego!  Thankfully, the weather wasn’t as hot as we all feared, for we had cloud cover for pretty much the entire hike back up to the trailhead.  Things would have been even more difficult if the sun had been directly on us.  I was still able to appreciate the beauty of the Bright Angel trail, but that appreciation was viewed through a hazy, painful filter.  Despite that, I managed to snag a few photos:

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(Photo 1: Indian Gardens, only 4.5 miles to the end!; Photo 2: more beautiful Indian Gardens; Photo 3: lovely blossoms and prickly pear at Indian Gardens; Photo 4: a really cool rainbow!)

I was SO INCREDIBLY HAPPY to reach the top.  ‘Twas a humbling experience all around: the awe-inspiring beauty of the Grand Canyon, the pleasure and privilege of being able to do this hike, the knowledge that I am out of shape….ah well, I got a few good pictures, met some really fun people, and ate some great food.

IMG_0308(The end of the hike.  Hooray!)

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