Grand Canyon Rim to Rim 2018

Today I am letting my husband guest write this blog.  Here is his story…in his own words and in the pictures he, my son and my daughter-in-law took.  Still so proud of them!

“The Physical punctuated by the Beautiful”

49 IMG_3800 copy copyI checked my watch. 5:15 am.  Not bad, only 15 minutes behind our scheduled start time.  We adjusted our headlamps and backpacks and then stood three abreast as my wife snapped a quick photo to record the start of the adventure.  Only moments before, we all had exited our cabin on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, looked skyward, and wondered at the incredible number of stars blanketing the dark pre-dawn sky.  At 8,200’ in elevation, this less-visited part of the park was the perfect place to stargaze, if only for a few moments.

The thermometer was just dipping below freezing at the North Kaibab trailhead, so we donned our hats and gloves and then said goodbye to my wife.  My youngest son, daughter-in-law and I would use the trail to cut across the canyon and my wife would drive the four hours around to the south rim to pick us up once we finished.  Our Rim-to-Rim journey would start in the dark, and we’d have to make swift progress to ensure we wouldn’t finish after sunset.

The three of us headed down the trail, my son in the lead with my daughter-in-law and I close behind, all of us armed with our trekking poles and backpacks.  We disappeared into the forest of tall pines, yellow aspens and red maples, each illuminated by our three headlamps.  We headed towards our first stop on the trail, the Supai tunnel.  As we descended 1,400’ over the next 1.7 miles, we could see the headlamps of hikers farther down the trail glowing like fireflies.  We stopped briefly and then passed through the tunnel and pressed on towards Roaring Springs. 

We crossed over Roaring Springs canyon using the Redwall footbridge and followed the narrow trail carved into the redwall limestone. 

05 waterfallA little ways down the trail, we could see and hear the water rushing out of the cliffside on its way down the canyon to form Bright Angel creek.  As we pressed on towards the Manzanita rest area, we enjoyed the first hints of sunrise as the very top of the canyon glowed bright in the day’s first light.  We arrived at Manzanita before 8 a.m., having descended 3,600’ and 5.4 miles of trail.  My son was setting a great pace, but I was starting to worry that the soreness I was already feeling in my feet might become an issue with over 19 miles to go.  We all shed a layer of clothing and I adjusted my hiking boots in the hopes of achieving some relief.

From Manzanita we headed towards the Cottonwood campground, crossing a footbridge over the Bright Angel creek.

As the trail tracked along creekside, we enjoyed a riparian environment of cottonwoods, reeds and willows.  We arrived at Cottonwood campground having traversed 6.8 miles and descended from 8,200’ to now 4,000’ in elevation.  We took a short rest and refilled our water.  It was now around 9 am.  We had a long, relatively level stretch of 6.8 miles to get to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. 

This would be the longest uninterrupted stretch of trail, as this section enters the inner gorge.  The trail winds through rock that has been dated at over one billion years old.  With massive cliffs and incredible beauty, the trail along the gorge was striking.  This stretch is also known to be unbearably hot during the summer months with temps well over 100 degrees, but on this October day we enjoyed sunny skies and only about 60 degrees.  We had a time goal to meet however, so we rested infrequently.  At one short stop, I was enjoying a quick snack (a Clif bar ironically) along with my son and daughter-in-law when suddenly we noticed several rocks splashing in the gravel just a few feet in front of us.  I made the mistake of looking up at the cliffside to see where they were coming from just in time to see gravity pulling another small stone straight at me.  With no time to move, I took the blow right on the forehead.  While keeping my sleeve pressed against the wound to stop the bleeding, we all quickly picked up our gear and moved away from the stony cliffside.  The kids helped clean the small gash on my head and we slapped a Band-Aid over it.  Wrong place, wrong time I thought.  Though I was glad it was only a minor injury.  I was also glad the stone had hit me and not my son or daughter-in-law.  This trip had been my idea from the start and the thought of either of them being injured along the way would have unacceptable to me.  The stone had my name on it, and I was OK with that.

07 phantom ranchWe passed over several more bridges across the creek before finally making it to Phantom Ranch.  At about 2,400’ in elevation, it is the lowest point on the trail. It was just before noon and the ranch was a warm 70 degrees. We quickly found an open picnic table and settled down for some lunch.  The kids grabbed a small snack from the tiny canteen and we rested and ate lunch.  We had covered almost 14 miles of trail.  After just under half an hour which included time to change into fresh socks, we packed up and prepared for the last 9 miles of trail.  Before leaving the ranch, I took time to read one of the historic signs on the way out.  In 1913, Theodore Roosevelt had stayed right here, back when it was known as Rust’s Camp.  So cool to think we were walking the same ground as TR.

We headed out of the ranch and past the Bright Angel campground.  Before long, we were at the Colorado river and the Silver bridge.  By far the largest bridge on the trail, it is only used by hikers.  Mule trains cross at the Kaibab bridge just upstream. 

We crossed the muddy Colorado (which is Spanish for “colored”) and start to parallel the river downstream on what is known as the River Trail.  Vertical walls of rock rose over 1,000’ on our left as we followed the muddy river, even passing through a small area of sandy dunes.  The trail led us to the River Resthouse where we took a short break before heading up the Bright Angel trail.  The trail here follows Pipe Creek.  The lush creekside environment and its tiny waterfalls made for a pleasant distraction as we started our slow climb towards the Bright Angel trailhead, still 7.7 miles and 4,400’ away.

My feet were no longer sore.  I really hadn’t noticed when they had stopped bothering me.  Instead sore shoulders and a sore lower back accompanied a slow fatigue.  But there was no stopping now, and ever since we crossed Silver bridge I knew that we were going to finish.  I just didn’t know how long it would take us to reach the trailhead.  I did have a goal in mind however, to finish in 12 hours and 59 minutes or less.  That kept me moving.  My son and daughter-in-law were kind enough to let me take the lead and set the pace.  Though I knew that they could cover the last 7 miles of the trail faster than I was hiking, I was very happy to have their company and to stick together.  Months ago, I had originally planned a solo hike on this day, not knowing that anyone would want to join me.  When the kids volunteered to come along after I mentioned my plan in a phone call, I knew the hike would be much more memorable with the three of us making the journey and my wife as our support crew.

09 devils corkscrewWe continued to head up the trail towards our next stop, Indian Garden.  We hiked up the switchbacks appropriately named the Devils Corkscrew and then up through an area of pancaked sandstone called the Tapeats Narrows.  At one point, I was so focused on putting one foot in front of the other that I didn’t even notice the single deer grazing about six feet off the trail.  Fortunately, Daniel did notice and we stopped for a couple of pictures.  Finally, after 3.2 miles and over 1,300’ of elevation gain, we had made it to Indian Garden. 

Indian Garden was a beautiful section of the trail, with massive cottonwood trees and fed by several springs, it was certainly a garden among the desert trail.  We rested there for a while, finding some empty benches directly next to the water source.  Here we met two gentlemen who were “running” rim-to-rim-to-rim, over 46 miles!  They had passed us on the North Kaibab trail shortly after we started and here they were coming down from the Bright Angel trailhead on their way back to the North Rim.  A journey that they expected would take them to 10 or 11 pm, more than 17 hours from start to finish.

After a short rest, we headed out for our next stop, the 3-mile resthouse.  We were now only 4.9 miles and just over 3,000’ down from the south rim.  It was 1.7 miles between Indian Garden and the resthouse which included a 900’ elevation change.  Just prior to the resthouse, we hiked up through another series of switchbacks known as Jacobs Ladder. 

10 3 mile resthouseAnother short break, and then we pressed on towards the 1.5-mile resthouse.  Up another 900’ of elevation and about 50 minutes of hiking and we had made it to our final official rest stop.  I had cell service for the first time during the hike and sent my wife a quick text “ETA 5:45 – 6:00 p.m., all are well. Luv u. C,” so she would know we’re on the way.

    It was just after 5:00 p.m. when we left the resthouse and I was feeling every bit of the previous 22 miles of hiking.  The last mile and a half proved some of the most difficult steps of the journey.  As we climbed over 1,000’ of trail, I found myself needing to stop about every 10 minutes.  We hiked through one small tunnel as we approached the rim.  We knew we were close when we started seeing more tourists who had hiked a short way down the trail for better photos.  I chuckled inside when I thought of their short journey compared to the over 12 hours we had been hiking. 

11 tunnelAs we passed through the last short tunnel, and by more tourists, with only a few hundred yards left to go, we finally spotted my wife up at the top.  She, of course, had seen us much farther down the trail with the benefit of her camera and had been busy capturing the end of our journey.  I was very happy to see her—she was a sight for sore eyes and tired bones.  We made our way over the last few yards of our hike and arrived at the top of the south rim. 

We had been hiking for 12 hours and 50 minutes, and the sun was still 5 minutes away from disappearing in the western sky.  On top of the rim there were hugs and big smiles all around as well as a “we’re done!” photo.  We had descended 5,700’ over 14 miles of trail down from the north rim to the bottom of the canyon and then climbed over 4,300’ over 9.5 uphill miles to reach the opposite rim.  I was exhausted but happy—it had truly been a journey of the incredibly physical punctuated by the absolutely beautiful.  

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That View….

My husband and I just spent an extended weekend in San Francisco, visiting our youngest son and daughter-in-law. We had a great time seeing this city through their eyes….food, drinks, shopping, site-seeing, and hiking. A wonderful trip for us and time spent with our kids was priceless.

My husband normally plans all of our trips and what we are going to do. Those trips are filled with so much that we often need a vacation to recover from our vacation. So, when we planned this extended weekend, we let our son do the planning for us….. with time spent with the two of them the priority. And we wanted to see San Francisco through the eyes of these two young adults, to see what they loved about their city, their home.

Our son and daughter-in-law did a fantastic job of planning just the right amount of things to see and do and quite a variety. We completely enjoyed our time with them, creating more memories to look back on.

I could write a book about our trip and all that there is to see and do in San Francisco. But, this blog post is all about THAT View….

Our son planned a hike for us for Sunday morning. Saturday night we watched the fog roll into the city from their living room.   Of course, we checked the weather apps to see what the morning would be like and if the fog would lift before our hike.

And the weather apps all said it would lift about 8am. Yes! We would get to see those views our son had told us about.

He chose to take us on the Lands End trail hike. And said that hike would offer us spectacular, out of this world views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the ocean and the bay. We were excited and my camera was ready to go.

Sunday morning came and we were ready for our hike. The fog was hanging on, but the weather apps said it would lift about 9am now. So, off the four of us went.

We started from the ocean, hiking toward the Golden Gate bridge and the bay.

And the fog hung on…..that view our son and daughter-in-law said was so spectacular was shrouded in mystery. The fog was surreal and mystical. And it was beautiful, creating an air of mystery all along the trail.

Our views were spectacular. And magical. And beautiful.

As we hiked and talked and took in the surrounding areas, I couldn’t help but realize that THAT VIEW was THIS—my family….my son, my daughter-in-law, my husband.

THAT view was spectacular. THAT view was beautiful. THAT view made my heart dance. THAT view was just what I needed and wanted. And THAT view will make my heart sing and bring a smile to my face for many, many years to come.

My son and daughter-in-law were right. The hike would give us amazing views! And time spent with them, talking, laughing, sweating…..all AMAZING!

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The love of family and time spent with family is absolutely priceless and NOTHING beats it!

Nature as the Artist

I love art. But I am not an artist. I admire those whose creativity comes through in the many art forms.

I love to see architecture, the artistry simply amazes me.

I love public art……from statues in public places to the murals painted on walls of buildings to graffiti in an alley and everything in between.

I love the art created by Christmas lights every December.

The Sistine chapel has always fascinated me, so seeing it in person left me speechless.

I love to visit art museums and local artists when we travel.

Art inspires me. Manmade art is stunning and beautiful to behold.

But natural art, created by the forces nature makes my heart sing.

As a child I loved to lay in the grass and look up at the clouds as they took on many different forms, changing as they drifted over my head. Nature as an artist at its finest.

And as a teenager I discovered the beauty in the artistry of water and wind over the red rocks of Arizona……I was awed and could not take my eyes off the sculptures created by the forces of nature.

I have always loved a forest filled with green trees, brown trunks and the many colors of wildflowers painted across the landscape. And then as an adult, I was introduced to the beauty of trees that were bare, the leaves having fallen away in autumn. I am amazed at the beauty created by those branches reaching upward and outward and thankful for the friend who taught me to “see” those trees in a new way.

Nature is quite the artist.

And my latest trip into Southern Utah reminded me once again, why I love the outdoors and just how breathtaking the artistry of nature can be.

We saw wood work—twisting and turning–beautiful–

We saw how nature painted a canvas of colors and murals on the hillsides and how water painted stripes and shaped the rocks through the ages.

We saw how the forces of water and wind can carve rock into amazing creations, that like the clouds change with the angle and the direction of the sunlight highlighting the works.

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And we saw glass….a mountain of glass in the middle of the red valley, surround by red rocks and bluffs and sand—created by water and wind……unexpected art that delighted the soul.

 

I love art.

And art created from nature is one of my favorites….it makes my heart sing and my soul dance. I could spend hours……days even…..exploring this art and never feel I have seen the same piece twice.

Nature is an amazing artist.

Facing Fear while hiking in a National Monument

When my husband planned our vacation for this summer I was ready for an adventure. Our vacations are not relaxing vacations, most of the time, anyway. Our vacations are more of an adventure, an experience, and after our adventure we usually need a vacation.

And sometimes on our adventure vacations, I learn new things about myself and I often face my fears.

This adventure had me facing my fear of heights, again, and my fear of lightning storms…both at the same time on the same hike.

I am scared of heights………I approach overlooks and edges with caution, often standing back far enough to not feel as if I will fall to what I know will be my certain death. And my husband loves to find ways to push me into facing that fear. So, with shaking legs and hands, heart beating out of my chest and a feeling that I may just pass out, I went with my husband on the hike he had chosen for us.

But this time on our hike, as I faced and conquered my fear of heights, I had to also face my fear of lightning storms, a fear brought about by a severe thunderstorm that produced a tornado when I was in first grade……….a long held fear that has me hiding under my blankets at night when lightning strikes…..a fear that grips me and keeps me from venturing outside or near an open door when I hear the first clap of thunder. I am so scared that I will be struck by lightning that I run as fast as I can if I am outside, seeking shelter from the storm……..on this hike, I couldn’t run….I was hiking and going up a steep trail when thunder came rolling in.

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Going down the stairs near the beginning of the hike.

We were in Natural Bridges National Monument. It was evening, close to sunset. And it was cloudy and lightly raining when we arrived. The rain slowed and then stopped so we headed out on our hike to Sipapu Bridge. The hike down to the canyon floor under Sipapu bridge was not long, it was only .6 miles. But it was steep, descending 500 feet in the .6 miles. There was a set of steep stairs and 3 wooden ladders along the trail to help us get to lower sections. The ladders scared me…..not being able to see where I was stepping, nor how far the ladders descended had me frozen on the rungs, unable to take that next step…..until my husband guided me, making me feel safe enough to travel down the rest of the ladder.

 

There was a moment when my fear told me that there was no way I was going down those rocks and that the view I had at that moment was close enough. We had reached a point on the trail where metal railings had been cemented into the rock so that we could hold on and not fall as we descended down the steep rock…..ugh! I saw that and froze. Nope! No need to go any further. My fear said to just look at the natural bridge from here and wait for my husband to finish the hike and return to me.

And then I realized that fear is irrational and illogical. And I was not going to let it stop me from experiencing the view from underneath the natural rock bridge. So, with my husband’s guidance and reassurance and despite my legs feeling like jello, I grabbed that railing with a grip so tight I thought I just might pull the rail out of the rock and I finished the hike down to the bottom.

It was worth every shaky, anxiety filled moment! The view beneath that bridge was breathtaking. I felt so small standing under the rocks. And I felt so proud of myself. This was one of those moments that had me glowing!

And then it was time to climb 500 feet back up out of the canyon on the return .6-mile hike. It was steep. It was scary. And my legs shook again as I walked along the edge of the rock, up the ladders and grabbed the railing with a death grip. My heart beat fast and hard, from the fear and from the exertion of climbing up the 500 feet.

We made it half way up and stopped to take in the view. How tiny we felt standing there, awed by the stunning beauty that lay before us.

And then………the thunder. My heart jumped, my body shook. I still had a long way to climb up…….a ladder and the steep set of stairs between me and the safety of our vehicle. No way was I going to stick around for lightening to strike me, or the trees around me, or the rock that I was hiking on. Time for this girl to move and move fast.

And fast we went. I forgot about the height and the drop off next to me and moved quickly up the trail, praying I would reach the top before the lightening got me.

I was almost to the top…….I could almost touch the top and could see the SUV but I couldn’t breathe, my heart was beating so hard and fast I thought it was going to jump out of my body. I reached for my husband and let me hold onto him as he helped me to the top. And once we were there, next to the SUV and finally ready to jump inside to safety………and then he made me walk some more to slow my heart rate before climbing into the safety of the SUV…..…..really? in the thunder and lightning?

I did it. Despite my fears I hiked to the bottom and back up.

I did not fall to my certain death. I did not fall and injure myself. I did not get struck by lightning and I did not die of a heart attack.

Fear is irrational, fear is illogical and fear is born of our past experiences.

But facing my fears and pushing past them allows me to see just how strong I can be and lets me experience things that the fear would have had me miss.

I survived. I took the leap. And the experience was amazing!

Chiricahua National Monument

One of my bucket list items is to visit EVERY National Park and National Monument in our country and thanks to my wandering spirited husband, who enjoys traveling and exploring as much as I do, I have been to a lot of the parks and monuments…..there are still many more to visit and some I want to go back to and explore more of.   This past weekend we crossed off another of those bucket list monuments.

This year is about saying ‘yes’ to those things that scare me or are outside my box and it is about living life to it’s fullest, silencing that voice that tells me “no, you can’t do that….you have so much you need to do and you can’t afford to take time for you”.   And I remind myself of this daily.  So when our friends asked us if we wanted to join them for a weekend get-away to do some hiking and celebrate our friend’s birthday, we said yes.  My mind and that voice said that I had a lot to do for work that weekend and I really needed to catch up on some things at home…..but my heart and my choice to celebrate life had me saying yes, let’s go! 

We visited Chiricahua National Monument, located in southeastern Arizona.  What an unexpected delight I found in this part of Arizona.  When we imagine this state, we picture the Grand Canyon, the desert, brown, dry and full of cacti and rattlesnakes.  But this state is so much more.  And here in this out of the way part of Arizona we found the unexpected and that made my soul sing. 

Chiricahua was called the land of the “Standing Up Rocks” by the Chiricahua Apache Indians and after my visit there, I can understand why. The road through the park was closed beyond the Visitor Center so we knew we would not get to see everything, but we could hike and see some of this beautiful monument.

Now when it comes to hiking my husband and I attack it very differently, much like other things in life, yet we find a way to balance it so that we both enjoy what we are experiencing. For my husband it is about the hike, the exercise, the exertion and the time spent in the outdoors, free of all of the distractions of the fast paced world we live in, communing with the nature.  And the hike is done at a pace that keeps him moving, quickly along the trail, getting in the distance he wants to accomplish while pushing his limits.  And the outdoors are his spiritual place, just as it is for me.

Hiking for me is about the feeling of accomplishment when I finish, the photography possibilities, the spiritual feeling I get from being in the outdoors, and the views.  My pace on these hikes is often slower than my husbands, partly because I stop to take pictures or to take in the view or smell a flower and partly because I am just slower, and that is okay. 

I love to take my time on a hike and really “see” what is around me. The ocean is the place I feel the closest to God and to my mom, it is where I find peace.  And time in the outdoors is the next best thing for me.  I feel rejuvenated, refreshed, and peaceful.  I see the greatness of this earth that God created and I marvel at all that is around me.  The diversity in the landscapes leaves me in awe.  The outdoors is my spiritual place. 

 

 

This hike was amazing. And the diversity of the landscape we hiked through was inspiring, leaving me so grateful that I live in this great nation, full of diverse people and land.  We left the visitor center with no real decision on how far we would hike and usually for me that is scary.  I like to know how far I am going and how long it will take.  And I like to know ahead of time, how much elevation change there will be so that I can be prepared.  Often I look at maps and back out of the long hikes…..4 miles is okay but more than that would be too much…what if I get out there and then I don’t have anything left in my legs to carry me back?  I knew this would be long, but I wanted to just take the leap and go.  And I am so glad I did! 

We went from the pine forest surrounding the visitor center to high points with views that took my breath away.  We traipsed over dirt paths, and snow packed, icy paths. And then we traveled down to the creek bed, crossing the snow covered creek, mostly empty of water, a number of times before hiking up the other side, toward the standing up rocks.  We went from winter to spring and back again.  We happened upon an animal none of us had seen before, the Coatimundi, a relative of the raccoon.  There were four of them and I was thrilled.  We walked through tall rocks, grottos and finished at the top of Echo Canyon……and then we had to turn around and go back. 

The hike, the time outdoors among the trees, rocks and animals and the time spent with friends made my heart and soul come alive and sing. I am happiest when I can be disconnected from the world for a little while, when I can find peace, the time to converse with my spiritual side and can renew my spirit. 

I did this hike and I finished.  We hiked over 9 miles that afternoon, for 5 1/2 hours.  And I did it!  One more time that I accomplished something I didn’t think I could do, I went farther than I thought I could……oh, I was SORE after the hike, but the feeling of accomplishment, the sights I saw, the time spent with friends were all worth the pain in my legs.   

I am really living when I take the leap and just see where it takes me.

And the icing on the cake is when I can cross off another item on my bucket list.