Finally, the Grand Canyon. Ricky and I had a slight fear that by the time we actually reached this world wonder we would be too jaded to truly appreciate it. But honestly, even after 3 months of traveling and experiencing the most amazing natural beauty that this country has to offer, we were still blown away by the view of the Grand Canyon. The enormity of it is just overwhelming, and the colors are simply astonishing. Standing at the rim of the awesome natural masterpiece is bound to take your breath away.
All of our hiking adventures up to this point have been part of our training regimen for the Grand Canyon hike. It is a long, strenuous, physically challenging hike at high elevation in an arid climate. The plan is to hike all the way down to the Colorado River, spend the night at a campsite, and hike up the following day. Here’s how it went……
The Hike Down. To get into the canyon we hiked the South Kaibab trail. It’s a steep 6.4 mile trail that takes you to the floor of the canyon, 4,780 feet below the rim. We were well equipped with 3 liters of water each, plenty of snacks and freeze dried meals, our sleeping bags, a tent, and multiple layers of clothing. With a 40 pound pack, Ricky led the way down the trail. I followed close behind, with 20 pounds on my back. Clearly, between hiking down and hiking back up, hiking down is less strenuous. The steep incline is tough on the knees and the back of the legs, and after a couple of hours your toes begin to chafe from being pushed up against the toe of your hiking boots, but all in all it really wasn’t too bad. (hiking poles are really helpful. I highly recommend them). The South Kaibab trail is beautiful. As you descend down the 2 billion years of exposed geological history your surroundings are constantly changing. Each level is colored differently, and they are all equally magnificent. Slightly un-nerving were the hikers that passed us coming UP the trail. Red-faced and breathing heavy, wearing pained expressions… it was a glimpse into my own bleak future. I tried my best not to think about it though, and just enjoyed the beautiful scenery. My favorite part of the hike down was the crossing the Colorado River. You enter a small rock tunnel to get to a suspension bridge that takes you over this powerful aquatic beast. Deep in the canyon, with raging water beneath you and miles of canyon wall on either side. Amazing.
We reached the campground and began setting up our home for the night. We settled on a campsite that was directly adjacent to a stream that ran alongside the entire campground. Waterfront property. It was a beautiful little spot, and very relaxing to listen to the water running, especially at nighttime. Ricky cooked us up some freeze dried breakfast skillet for lunch, which we devoured. We were starving!!! We explored around a little bit too.. it’s so green down there! It’s a COMPLETELY different landscape than up at the rim. And there are deer roaming all over. They will graze just a few feet from you, or cross over the trail so close that you could literally reach out and touch them. You’re really right in the midst of nature down there, it’s a very serene feeling. We cooked an early dinner and we were all tucked in in our sleeping bags by 6:30. Oh my gosh, laying in the tent in the pitch dark in the depths of the Grand Canyon with the stream running in the background, with the love of my life just laying and talking… I just loved every second of that. To pass the time I decided to tell a ghost story. It was probably the worst ghost story in the history of all time, and I was literally cracking myself up as I was telling it because it was just so stupid. Ricky was NOT amused and started to get really annoyed with me. It’s times like these when I really miss my sister. I need someone to get the giggles with!!! Anyway, neither of us slept very well at all. It was the combination of sleeping outdoors mixed with angst for the next day’s hike. We ended up waking up around 4am, and since we knew we weren’t going to get much more sleep we decided to just pack up and head out. We ate a good breakfast and packed everything away. By the time we were actually on the trail, it was about 5:30, and let me tell you- our legs were FEELING it from the day before. Big time. We had a good hour of hiking in the pitch dark before the sun started to show up…
The Hike Up. On the way out of the canyon we hiked up the Bright Angel Trail: 9.3 miles long with an elevation climb of 4,460 feet. The scenery along this trail was altogether different than that of the South Kaibab trail. That’s another thing that makes the Grand Canyon so unique. There’s just so much diversity within the scenery. Even though it’s one canyon, a different trail will give you a completely different perspective. It’s cool. As the sun came up we had good momentum going, and so far it was not as difficult as I had expected. I knew we would come across steeper switchbacks as we went up, but I was feeling good. I had a good pace going, I was breathing fine and my legs felt strong. I was feeling pretty proud of myself, actually! We made it 4.7 miles up to the Indian Garden Campground. From here, we had just 4.9 miles to go. We decided to eat some hot food to get us fueled up for the remainder of the hike. At the pace we were going, we expected to make it to the rim in about 5 ½ hours, which is pretty damn good. Rested and rejuvenated, we were ready to tackle the last 4.9 miles. Bring it on. Everything was going smoothly and I was feeling great…. Until we got the 3 miles house. I started to get this weird pain in my chest that was coming in waves. It felt like there was a baseball stuck in my esophagus. And this, my friends, was the beginning of a minor setback in our trek back up to the rim. A minor setback that involved 5 episodes of vomiting, a phone call to the ranger, and an hour and a half of wasted time. What happened was this: I was drinking plenty of water, but made the fatal mistake of not paying attention to my electrolytes. Hyponatremia (low sodium) set in hard and fast. I was dizzy, nauseous, and having these insane waves of stomach cramps. I made several attempts to get up and start walking, but I could only make it a few steps before I would start retching. I really thought there was no way I was going to make it out of the canyon on my own. Ricky made a phone call to the ranger station who informed us that it would be about 1 to 2 hours before anyone would reach us. With the way I was feeling at this point in time, I thought I was going to die in the canyon. I started to get freezing cold from not moving, so I wrapped myself up in a sleeping bag and curled up by a rock on the side of the trail while I waited for help to arrive. After about an hour of rest, I started to feel like maybe I could move. I got up and hiked at a slow pace. Ricky carried both packs. We met up with the ranger just before the 1 ½ mile house and I assured her that I was feeling much better. Slowly but surely, I made it to the rim without needing to be airlifted out by a freaking helicopter. Lesson learned: put a damn electrolyte tablet in your camelbak when hiking up the Grand Canyon. Shoot.
The whole low electrolyte incident really was a shame… Everything was going so smoothly, and I was getting up that canyon at a great pace!! What a disappointment… but other than that, the entire experience here was amazing. It definitely ranks as one of my favorite parts of the entire road trip. We scored ourselves a hotel room tonight. We deserve a hot shower and some relaxation. Kanya and Liam arrive tomorrow!!!!!