I had three large goals for this year: run a half marathon, hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim, and graduate with my MBA.
You should know that I am not an athlete. I never have been an athlete. I never will be an athlete. If it involves, throwing, catching, hitting, jumping, running, kicking or anything else that involves any kind of coordination, I cannot do it. Really. I can't. I'm one big clumsy oaf.
Nor is my body a thing of beauty. Don't get me wrong. I love my body. But there is nothing remarkable about me physically. I am not beautiful. I don't have long sinewy legs. I've never been particularly lean (though I've also never been particularly fat). I'm just basically a very nice average person.
Does anyone wonder, then, why two of my goals were so physical? Besides me, I mean.
Well, y'all, guess what? I finished #2 this week!
Here's a little timeline:
June 2012 -- Janece tells me about Phantom Ranch and how it is a bucket list item of hers to hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim. So I say, "I would do that with you!"
July 2012 -- Janece says she is going to try to get reservations for Phantom, but they are taken 13 months in advance. I tell her to count us in (see how I did that to Spencer?).
August 2012 -- After 1 1/2 hours of dialing and re-dialing, Janece finally gets hold of Phantom Ranch to try to get reservations for September 2013. They are already sold out.
September 2012 -- Janece and two other friends spend the morning dialing and re-dialing, and Laurie gets reservations for nine of us for October 2013.
January to September 2013 -- I run nearly every day.
June to October 2013 -- Janece and I climb 32 flights of stairs twice a week.
July 2013 -- Janece, Spencer, Landon, Devin (Landon's friend), and I climb Mt. Olympus. I wonder what I was thinking to agree to do this.
September 2013 -- I successfully run a half marathon.
October 1, 2013 -- The U.S. Government "shuts down." All national parks are closed until the government leaders can somehow reach agreement about the national budget. Arizona and Utah top the states who offer to pay to keep their national parks open. Eventually the federal government gives permission for this to happen, but it will only be in effect till October 18. Finally the government shutdown ends, and we are a "Go" for the Grand Canyon!
Friday, October 18, 2013 -- Aundrea gets an infection, sees the doctor, and starts taking antibiotics, which are marked "Avoid direct sunlight while taking this medication." We purchase two backpacks (I know, nothing like preparedness, right?) and trail food. We pack till nearly midnight.
Saturday, October 19, 2013 -- Spencer and I left home at 7:15 a.m. so we could be at Janece's by 8:00. We put our packs and our bodies into her Toyota Corolla and headed for Arizona. We stopped for a little bit at the Best Friends animal shelter, which I think our kids would enjoy seeing. We didn't go see all the animals, but we watched their video and just had a nice rest stop. From there we drove to Jacob Lake. Janece and her brother, Scott, drove to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for the sunset, while Spencer and I hung out and then had dinner with our "son," Logan Gifford. We went to bed once we'd looked at the stars, taken some pictures, bought me a new pink coat, and played a couple of rounds of Hollywood Rummy. I think it was 8:30 when we called it a night.
Sunday, October 20, 2013 -- We reloaded Janece's car, then Spencer, Scott, and I went into Jacob Lake lodge for a nice breakfast. As soon as breakfast was over, we drove to the North Rim Kaibab Trail entrance. Janece's car said it was 29 degrees outside. We bundled up in coat and gear, and got onto the trail around 8:45 a.m. Then we walked. We took pictures. Repeat a lot.
Seven miles from the trail head we stopped at Cottonwood Campground for lunch. It was about 1:00 p.m. We knew we had a very slow pace, so Janece and I decided that in the interest of safety it would be better if she and I just stayed on the main trail to Phantom Ranch. Scott and Spencer, however, really wanted to go to Ribbon Falls. So they took off together, while we girls stuck together. The boys caught back up to us, and I have say that I was really starting to be fatigued.
Finally I realized that if I let it go much longer I was not going to be in good shape. So I said to Spencer, "I am very fatigued. My legs don't want to move. I just want to curl up here and go to sleep, but I know it would not be good to be stuck here in the dark. I am mildly nauseated. Help me know what to do." We stopped and he had me eat some dried apricots. He looked at my legs, and they were EXTREMELY red and sore, like sunburn, only I'd been in long pants all day. We figured that the medication for my infection had probably caused some of that, exacerbated by my knee braces. Spencer wanted to massage my legs, but it was like rubbing sandpaper on a sunburn. Then we plodded on. Spencer took some of the articles from my pack and put them into his. We walked for a very long time. And then we walked some more. Spencer would call ahead to me, "Take a drink, Babe," or "Have another apricot." I got feeling quite a bit better, but I was seriously so tired! At 6:15 we hiked into Phantom Ranch.
Our dinner was at 6:30. They fed us stew, cornbread, and salad. And chocolate cake. Everyone talked about how delicious it was. I know the stew was pretty spiced with pepper and bay leaf, but it was all I could do to lift a spoon to my mouth. :) Once dinner was over, I went to our dorm, took a quick shower, and went. to. bed.
Monday, October 21, 2013 -- At 4:30 a.m. a Phantom Ranch employee knocked on our door with a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call. A few people got up then for 5:00 a.m. breakfast. I went back to sleep. At 6:30 Phantom Ranch rang the 6:30 breakfast bell. I went back to sleep. :)
When I finally got up, I took my time getting ready for the day, then went to the men's dorm for Spencer, who also had just gotten up. We ate some breakfast together, then did some wandering. Except for my sore, faux-sunburned legs, I was tender but doing much better. We visited with the other members of our group, who did their hike south-to-north. John and Shauna used to be in the ward Janece lived in. Laurie is Shauna's sister and Rich is Laurie's husband. Laurie and Rich live in Montana. It was nice to make new friends, but the four of them stayed grouped for things while Janece, Scott, Spencer, and I made up another group.
That afternoon all eight of us decided to take the River Trail hike, which was only a couple of miles and not strenuous. We passed some Hopi Indian ruins as well as the only sanctioned burial in the Grand Canyon (a man who was killed during a blast while making the trail). We hiked along the Bright Angel Creek to the Colorado River, over the Black Bridge, downriver a ways (we watched a river run trip for a few minutes), across the Silver Bridge, and back to camp.
We sent postcards to our kids (they haven't arrived yet), had some "Lemmy" (Phantom Ranch's lemonade) and some M&M's. Then, blessing of all blessings! Spencer made arrangements for the mules to take my pack out of the Grand Canyon the next day. We put as much of our gear into my pack as we could, leaving his for water and last items we needed to carry. We filled all our water packs (Camelbacks and hand-held water bottles) so we were completely ready for the next day. We went to a fun ranger talk which was formatted like a game of Jeopardy, where we learned a lot. We went to Bright Angel Creek and soaked our feet in the numbingly cold water (it was HEAVENLY). We had a lovely and much more lively steak dinner at the Ranch.
Tuesday, October 22 -- We had gone to bed early again. Scott and Spencer had the 5:00 a.m. breakfast, but Janece and I opted to eat our trail food and get on the road, knowing the men would catch us before we were very far. She and I dropped my pack off for the mules, then turned on our headlamps and took off. It was still full night when we left at 5:15ish, and it was seriously beautiful to watch the stars and the moon as we walked. The men caught us just as we had decided it was light enough for us to turn off our headlamps. Spencer and I stopped for a picture of the river, and both Scott and Janece were long gone. Scott was a VERY fast hiker. He made it out of the canyon in about 4.5 hours. We thought we would catch up with Janece, but she never appeared, so we figured she had made it up ahead of us. It turned out that we had passed her while she was in a restroom or something. We beat her to the top by about 2 hours (it took us about 6 hours even).
You guys, this hike was in.cred.i.ble. The bottom half (4.5 miles) was uphill with a few strenuous stretches and switchbacks, but nothing too hard. But the view! And we had the blessing of doing this as the sun came up into the canyon, illuminating it piece by piece. We kept thinking we'd have to turn a corner and we'd lose our view, but no. Each time we turned a switchback, we'd look and have our breath taken away again. It was seriously so beautiful that we kept trying to find words to describe it, and nothing seemed like enough. Majestic. Awesome. Breath-taking. Expansive. Vast. Glorious. Huge. Beautiful. Gorgeous. Amazing. There's just nothing that adequately described it.
Wednesday, October 24 -- We caught a shuttle back to the North Rim (where our car was). That took 4.5 hours. We drove an hour back to Jacob Lake for lunch, then started the 5 hour journey home. Arrived back to our safe family, lovely home, and my blessed pillow! :)
I'm so grateful we went on this trip! Actually, more than anything, this feels like a gratitude trip for me. What a lovely world we live in! I'm so glad we had the means to do this (both economically and physically), and I'm so glad the park was re-opened just in time. Our weather could not have been more perfect, and the autumn colors with the colors of the rock were all splendid. The stars were out in full force, and we saw the Milky Way for the first time in MONTHS. We had beds, bedding, toilets and showers. Everyone was well, including me. Part of me is a little disappointed in myself for not being able to pack everything all the time. Most of all, though, I'm so grateful for my sweetheart, who never abandoned me, who never made me feel like I was a burden, who quietly and graciously took care of me. We laughed together. We worked together. We took pictures and laughed some more. We played games. We oo'd and ahh'd over the amazing gift that we had to be on this trip. We talked about our kids. We prayed together. It was a glorious, glorious trip in every single way. I'm so glad we did both rims. I'm so glad we spent a full day in the bottom of the canyon. I was so grateful to not have that infection (because of antibiotics), and I was so grateful for the freezing cold water on my burning legs (because of antibiotics).
|They felt as nasty as they look!|
Also, I'm not a photographer. Just hand me a PHD (push here, dummy) camera, and you get what you get. Here's some of what I got.
|Scott, Janece, me, Spencer|
|At our cabin at Jacob Lake. I love this man!|
|Spencer, me, Logan|
|This is maybe my favorite of all the pix I got. This is Janece.|
|I was enthralled by the water, and wanted a picture of this...|
|...but my husband photo-bombed the picture!|
|Daddy, can you see the face?|
|Another favorite picture. Look at the colors!|
|Gravesite near Phantom Ranch|
|Indian ruins along River Trail|
|The Colorado River|