Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Grand Canyon!!!

Spring Break 2001 I took my first road trip across the grand landscape of the western United States. New to both living in the United States and also independently, I was in awe of the sense of freedom I felt as I watched the miles of highway escape into the distance and the unimaginable space and vastness of this country open up with each passing hour. The Grand Canyon was a halfway point to California and one of the most impacting sights I had ever seen, so much so that the rest of the trip seems a mute point more than a decade later. Short on time and money as twenty something college students, we just stared for hours, took photos and camped in the frigid near zero temps before heading on. The Colorado river, majestically prominent with it's shades of aqua blue and green stood out amongst the dry red rocks and desert landscapes. It seemed so far and unreachable, but yet realistic. The type of goals I always seemed to reach for. Since I was a child I have always wanted to hike to really faraway points, say that tree on top of that mountain. Probably possible, but unlikely without preparation. I have wanted to hike to that river since March of 2001. And I have thought about that river, in that canyon countless times in the last 13 years and talked about hiking to it, someday. So, that's how important this was for me. And I finally got to do it with the love of my life and the partner of my dreams.

Getting the permit was a bit of a hassle since we didn't have previous reservations. Day 1 we got on a waiting list and had to arrive at 8 in the morning the next day to see if we got a spot for two days later. They only gave away 4 per day. Luckily we made it and got a permit for two nights! We meandered around the park for a couple of days learning about geography and what not. Camping was free right outside of the park.

7 miles in and 10 miles out. Two nights of camping. The rangers made a really big deal about hiking in the summer due to high temps, but we were there in the middle of spring so the conditions were near perfect. Hiking in our energies were high, going downhill was swift and we often stopped to just look around and take it all in. There were several occurences of a pack of mules either with or without people coming up or down the trails and oftentimes we'd have to scramble to the side as to not spook them.  The further down we went the higher the walls of the canyon loomed over our tiny existence. Incredible and humbling.

We quickly learned that hiking downhill for 7 miles gets to be very painful as evidenced by our burning calves and the huge blisters on our big toes. All I could think was how amazing it would feel to just go up, even just a few minutes. Who would of thought. The next day we would get our share of up! The end of the hike was extremely satisfying as I finally got to touch the Colorado River! Goal accomplished.

We want to do it again, but a longer hike, more nights and away from the main trails. I guess ten years ago I wouldn't have known the difference, but after all the time spent in the Montana wilderness it was a little disappointing how much "backcountry" hiking was full of people. The first nights stay at Phantom Ranch was literally a rustic resort with a restaurant and cabins for all of the group tours. (We camped in a separate campsite, but we were right next to the cabins and bathrooms). The second night was just a campsite, but still pretty developed. We learned that if you want to get into back country you have to take the less popular trails. Good to know for the future. All in all an unforgettable experience and one that we are looking forward to doing again with a little more planning.


Colorado River Bridge

The Greener Side

Dusk from the Rim

Hiking Up!


Almost there!

Through this tunnel will be rest, food and  cold stream in which to soak our aching legs!

Descending the desert!

Seriously?! Our calves hurt already!

We made it!

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