Saturday, September 12, 2009
Grand Canyon Run/Hike
Just a couple weeks ago my client turned best friend, Chris, sent me a text asking if I would be into hiking the Grand Canyon with him. I answered an excited "yes!" and he quickly made all the arrangements - probably before I realized what I had said yes to! Our plan was to start at the South Rim and hike the width of the canyon to the North Rim- stay the night there, then hike back. Apparently this is not done too often and I have never been there, so when he said 42 miles total it didn't seem THAT bad to me. Okay, 6 miles down to the bottom of the canyon, around 12 miles across, then 6 miles out. I've run 32 miles in a race before, how hard can WALKING 24 be anyway? Well, it was a good thing I went into it like that because it was pretty difficult!
We left on a Friday, flew into Vegas (kept blinders on so we didn't just stay there and play all weekend), got into the rental car and drove 4 hours to the Grand Canyon. We stopped briefly at Hoover Dam. It was incredible! I have never been there and to see how huge it was made me feel pretty small......we slept from midnight to 4am and we got ready as fast as we could. When we stepped out the hotel doors we saw that it was RAINING!! But, being the freaks we are we just laughed and put on our rain coats. :) We drove to the South Rim and found the shuttle bus that would drive us to the South Rim trail head. This is where we would start and spend 10 hours on. The descent down wasn't bad at all - lots of steps, but it was early and fairly cold so we motored along fast. This was about 6 miles until we hit the bottom---it took about 4 hours. We crossed many bridges, crazy switchbacks, a tunnel and eventually the Colorado River at the very bottom. This is where Phantom Ranch was and we filled our water, got some coffee and other provisions and then after a quick stop continued on our way. By now the sun was beating down and it was about 100 or so degrees. We walked and walked without any problems and we talked about EVERYTHING! We laughed often and when we would take a break from staring at the ground in front of us to look up, we would be in awe of what we were seeing. It is the most beautiful place and it truly feels magical. What we were setting out to accomplish was huge. Especially this being my first ever hike.....we crossed little stream and it came in the right time to soak our bandanas around our necks, splash water on our shirts, and wet our sun hats. It was getting hotter. The meals we ate along the way were everything BUT Zone or Paleo!! hahah protein bar after protein bar ended up making us feel a little shitty and we decided to get better provisions at the North Rim to go back with. Okay, the hairball section out of the canyon - I can try to tell you how scary it was but unless you were actually ON the trail you have no idea what it ws really like. When we started climbing out of the canyon we were going up to 6000 feet elevation (maybe 8000 on that rim I forget) the trail was about 3-4 feet wide and the cliffs were 2000 foot drpps. ZERO to hold onto. So imagine this----17 pound packs on your backs, been walking for 5 or more hours in 100 + degree heat, now your cimbing up up up and in front of you in a sheer rock formation that you are supposed to hike up. There is no trail that you can see and you have no idea where you are going because of that. I sat on the trail and had a little minor melt down at that point. Chris was awesome and just told me that we were brave and lets keep going.....I hugged the left side of the cliff as best as I could and didn't look to the right - just at Chris's heels in front of me. As I was freaking out I told Chris to remind me when I get back to Santa Cruz Central to punch Rob Miller in the stomach because I believe he is a freak of nature! (Rob is a big rock mountain climber and is quite comfortable sleeping in a tent suspended off a cliff).So I thought maybe the hard part was over after we made it past that point....but NO! Now we were going to ascend as if we were on a stair master for 4 hours.....at elevation......!! I had to laugh because I couldn't believe how people do it without CrossFit! We finally got out just before sunset and tired, beat, blistered feet and all but we were estatic!
We had to walk a bit to the North Rim Lodge but when we got there a warm restaurant and delicious food was waiting as was a cabin, warm shower, and comfortable beds. We feasted on steak, wine, and vegetables, then went to the store to load up on food for the hike back. This time we got roast beef sammies, turkey sammies, nuts, pizza, yogurt and fruit and some other little thing.
We went to sleep with full tummies knowing we had to walk back in the morning. Just thinking about it now makes me so excited becuase I have never been on an adventure like this before - EVER! I adore Chris and we were the perfect travel companions - not one fight, we worked as a team, and everything went to smooth.
5am and we are getting ready as fast as we can so we make the shuttle that will drive us to the trail head. We make it and sip our coffee on the bus talking with other passengers about what they are doing. When they asked us what we were doing and we answered with "completing our rim to rim to rim" none of them left it at that. It was "wait--your camping at the bottom right?" or "Not all in one day" _ weknew we were badass, but that just made it even that more sweet. Other than the blisters we werent too sore - thanks Xfit!!
We enjoyed the sunrise over the canyon while eating pizza....and readied ourselves for the hairball section. It was much easier this way today than I remembered the evening before. Maybe because I was fresh and not at the end of a long day? Either way, we got the job done and were feeling great! When we reached the bottom of the canyon Chris asked if I wanted to run....I said "YES!!!"" Crazy, I know.....we strapped our packs, that weighed 17-20 pounds full, tight and started running. together we did about 4 miles in a section called "the box" and it was 115 degrees this day. It felt so amazing to run!! I mean c'mon---we RAN the Grand Canyon!! Fucking amazing!! Chris would turn to look at me, shoot me a look and a nod, and I would instinctively know what he meant and I would start to run. I will forever remember that feeling, the sights, and how proud I was of Chris and myself. We learned a lot about the sort of people we are - We are "Strong too" and we are survivors---we make it through whatever comes our way and we push forward. Amazing :)
The climb out of the canyon on the South side was completely BRUTAL to say the least! Just look at the pictures and you will see. I stopped counting the stairs after i reached 2000.....some of the steps were as tall as my knees :)