Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hike the Grand Canyon

I'm going to be real here for a minute.

I'm not what you call... outdoorsy. I don't camp. I hate bugs. And I'd really rather someone bring me a large, frozen margarita than to scavenge the woods for food (ok, a bit overdramatic). 

But that leads me to a new series that was really a catalyst for this blog. My intent is to share experiences and stories of people living life to the fullest. No regrets. Jumping in and doing things that challenge them. 

My dear friend Heather came to me late last year and said Hey! Let's hike the Grand Canyon. 

I thought, cool. A day hike. Then we can find a great bar overlooking the big ol' hole in the ground with cocktails to nurse our inevitable wounds. 

Until she said those dreaded four words: three-day overnight hike. 

Oh heckkkk no. Why would I want to intentionally throw myself down the canyon? Overnight? And then hike back up? 

But, in the interest of challenging myself - I decided. Why the heck not. 

Under one condition... I didn't have to sleep in a tent. 

I agreed to this great adventure, so we did some research, packed our bags and hit the road to Arizona.

After threatening to turn around because there was 3 feet of snow on the ground  much anticipation, we headed out on our great adventure. 

For all interested, we started our hike on the South Rim - South Kabab trailhead. 
Smiling. Obviously haven't started hiking yet.
Legitimately, the first step I took, I not only slipped and fell. I tumbled. Down the side of the ledge. 

Yeah, that's ice.
It looked a lot like this. 
But after about 30 minutes, the ice started to melt and we were on our way down. Looking back, I think we were blissfully unprepared for the trip. We carried a lot of water, too much food and far too many clothes. All fine and good - except we did not pack hiking sticks (I didn't want to look like a hippie. Because image is important in the middle of nowhere) and ice clamps for our shoes (WHO THOUGHT THERE WOULD BE ICE IN ARIZONA?). 

Hiking down, there are several moments when you just have to stop and watch out for the mule poop  take in how awe-inspiring the view is. 
You can stop and smell the roses... but all you'll smell is mule poop
We stopped to drink water and have a snack every hour or so. Prior to the trip, we went to every outdoor camping store in the area to indulge the salespeople in conversation about best practices in the G.C. (hip to the lingo). After we blatantly lied  fibbed about how outdoorsy we were, they suggested Camelback water bladders (3 gallons) to keep us hydrated for the hikes. We also loaded up on sunscreen, electrolyte mix, gluten free granola and a first aid kit (guess who needed it the most). 

See that bridge waaaaaay down there? Yeah, that's where we were going. PS: Colorado River was not pretty when we were there. Powerful. Scary. But muddy.
After about 12 miles hiking down, we finally made it to our camp site. It reminded me of a run down girl scout camp. But at least we didn't have to sleep on the ground. #diva

Phantom Ranch is booked up to a year in advance... but keep calling because people always cancel
We stayed at Phantom Ranch, which offers a Canteen area with breakfast and dinner options. And of course, zero gluten-free options, so I stuck to my rice cakes and peanut butter. Yum. 

Day 2
The camp has two wake up calls for breakfast. 5 AM and 7 AM. Since we were staying in a dorm-style cabin with 6 ladies, we figured we'd be woken up at 5 AM anyway, so might as well get on with it. 

We were going on a day hike to a place called Ribbon Falls. Our legs were still feeling a wee bit tender from the day before as we started the mostly flat 14-mile roundtrip hike. 

Look at this beauty. 
One thing that struck me throughout the entire trip was the utter and complete silence. At the beginning of our hike, we encountered a decent amount of people- until you hit the "point of no return" for the day hikers.

After that, we rarely saw anyone. 

The silence is awesome. No people. No traffic. The only sound is the rushing water of the creek or the rustle of the bushes when a deer comes by. 

We reached the waterfall, and lingered by the water for much of the day. It's crazy how different the terrains are when you go to different sections of the Canyon. From a desert to a lush garden to a tropical-feel by the waterfalls. 

We met one group of older folks at the waterfalls who took care of us on the hike and showed us where to go. Being foolish  adventurous, Heather and I decided that we were "experienced" hikers and could go with the group across a rushing river. Let's just say I may or may not have had to utilize a few people to...assist me out of across the water. 

Heather was a bit drier than I was at the end
Final Day
With a long journey ahead, we packed our bags, filled our water bottles and were out the door by 5:30am. This time, we were going up a different trail - Bright Angel.

Luckily, as we were crossing the Colorado River, we caught the sunrise. #swoon. 

Not even going to lie. Going up the Canyon sucked. Even after training and completing a marathon only 3 months before, it was seriously grueling. 

My only advice? KEEP GOING. Every time you stop for a long period of time, it's that much harder to get going all over again. There are some parts when it's crazy switch backs for miles, and some parts when it's just straight up. It's hard to remind yourself to look at the beauty all around you -- especially when all you want to do is sit down, tend to your blisters and drink a gallon of vodka infused gatorade. 

Turn around and look how far you have come 
So, after 3 days, 43 miles, 1023 photos and four blistered, ugly feed, we made it to the top. It's such a feeling of immense accomplishment and overwhelming joy to have finished something that's physically grueling and so beautiful at the same time. And I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

So. Key takeaways from the journey. 
  1. Go with someone you enjoy being around, that will cheer you on, but also to tell you to stop your sorry complaining and keep going. 
  2. Be thankful for a body that is able to climb. and breath. and survive.
  3. But you're going to be tired and sore and hungry. Get over it.
  4. Everyone you encounter is so incredibly helpful. Embrace it. 
  5. There's no cell service. No wifi. The only way to communicate with the outside world is to send mail via Mule. So turn off your phone and unplug from the world for a few days. It'll all still be there when you get back.
  6. Schedule a massage ASAP
  7. Just do it. Why the heck not?!

We didn't kill each other / fall off the side of the cliff / get eaten by a wild animal made it! 

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