Guidelines

Generally, I am appreciative of guidelines for adventures like this. Guides are people who have been there, done that. Guidelines are their words given to me to make my trip easier and safer. There is nothing about that to not like.

For this hike, I downloaded several pages of guidelines. I feel like winter has contributed nothing to my level of physical fitness, so the guidelines on training for the physical demands of the hike were… well, daunting at least, terrifying at most.  The tips start out with language like this

“The physical demands of hiking Grand Canyon are in stark contrast to those found in mountain climbing or hiking on relatively flat terrain. The first portion of your trip will be a knee-jarring descent. The climb out will come when your legs are most tired. The atmosphere will become increasingly thin as you near the top (the average South Rim elevation is 7,000 ft.), making it considerably more difficult to breathe.” (I highlighted the scary parts.)

Following this part where they got my attention, were schedules for cardio training, muscular strength training and body/joint flexibility training, the likes of which I have followed NEVER. And that was just a “suitable” workout schedule for general fitness.

This was the next schedule for the month leading up to the hike where a “tougher” training was recommended:

  • Day one: 1.5 hours cardiovascular workout, 30 to 40 minutes lower body strength training
  • Day two: 30 minutes cardio warm up, 30 to 40 minutes upper body training
  • Day three: repeat day one
  • Day four: repeat day two
  • Day five: repeat day one
  • Day six: Day hike at least four hours in duration. Try to simulate the Canyon’s trails by hiking on steep hills wearing hiking boots and back pack.
  • Day seven: Rest

I don’t know. I just don’t know.

And the summation was in bold type: Remember-the fitter you are the more fun you will have and the more you will learn.

I’m pretty sure this guy missed the guideline about staying away from the edges of scary cliffs.

The food guidelines are a subject for another post so I’ll skip them now. Protecting the park itself is important though, so I will mention some of the National Park regulations of interest:

  • Carry out your trash. Burning, burying or leaving trash or toilet paper is prohibited.
  • Wood or charcoal fires of any type are prohibited. Sterno or fossil fuel backpack stoves are permitted.
  • Use of biodegradable or any other type of soap in creeks or camping within 100 feet of any water source (except at designated sites) is prohibited.
  • Feeding, touching, teasing, or intentionally disturbing wildlife is prohibited.
  • Throwing or rolling rocks or other items down hillsides or mountainsides, into valleys or canyons, or inside caves is prohibited. 
  • Leaving a trail or walkway to shortcut between portions of the same trail or walkway, or to shortcut to an adjacent trail is strictly prohibited.
  • Possessing, destroying, injuring, defacing, removing, digging, or disturbing from its natural state any plants, rocks, animals, mineral, cultural or archeological resources, natural features, or signs is prohibited. Walking on, entering, traversing, or climbing an archeological resource is prohibited.
  • Traps and nets are prohibited. A valid fishing license is required for all fishing.
  • Because of their sensitive and sometimes dangerous nature, entry and/or exploration of any caves or mines must be approved in advance through Grand Canyon N.P.

I can imagine how all these rules became necessary, and what a job it must have been (much like parenting) to figure out all the words that would have to be used to cover all the excuses people would make.

The thought of carrying out used toilet paper is not pleasant but then neither is the thought of seeing someone else’s used toilet paper stuck on a cactus or sticking out from under a rock. I can see their point. Good to know. I can keep these rules. Just sayin’, how hard can it be?

A Place to Practice

I remember when I was in my teen years, sitting in church, and feeling great discomfort as the pastor asked if anyone wanted to give their “testimony”.  I should have a testimony, I thought. Other people have testimonies, and they sound so glowing and spiritual. I would scramble to think of something to say and hope that the time allotted would be done before I got myself together to volunteer.  And then I wouldn’t think about it again, until the next uncomfortable time, when I would also not be ready again. So went my first uncomfortable church experiences.

Since then, I am happy to report, I’ve discovered a new way to deal with discomfort in church (other than staying away from church – not the best solution). This is partly due to training I’ve had in Bible Study Fellowship, where they taught me to think about my own spiritual experiences, beliefs, and even feelings ahead of time.  We have a somewhat “churchy” language when we call it a testimony, but it really is an explanation of what I experience, believe and feel about my relationship with God.  And how odd was it that I had never realized I could think about those things ahead of time?

 The last two weeks in church, the pastor has offered an opportunity to practice being vocal about our relationship with God.  Last week he asked for examples of God’s faithfulness during the week. This week he asked what thanks we had for God.  Such general questions are great nudges for us to practice speaking about things that are important to us. Church gives us opportunities and a safe place to practice in order that we grow and improve. Speaking these things gets easier the more we do it.

In this day of TED talks and podcasts, people are all over the place, talking about what is important to them. Not everyone is meant to be a public speaker, but it looks to me like God gave most of us mouths and the ability to speak. He is faithful to us, blesses us with things to be thankful for. Every week he makes it possible for us to be back in church in front of a friendly, compassionate audience of friends and neighbors. I should be the first on my feet. That’s why I am.

Being first up is my philosophy of the last few years. It really cuts down on anxiety, vacillating on whether to speak or not, those moments of racing pulse and stage fright. I don’t always know exactly what I’m going to say, and sometimes I say something a bit strange and wish I’d said it differently. But overall, the practice has been worth it.  The Bible says that when we are brought before authorities to answer for our faith, that God will give us words to say. Somehow, I don’t think it’s saying that should be the first time we’ve ever opened our mouths.

I’m just sayin’ this because I know others have this same discomfort at times and I want to encourage, if this is you. Think of something to thank God for each day, and be ready to say it.  It’s really that easy.

Fletcher, Colin

Fletcher, Colin – writer and hiker

I’m including a post about Colin Fletcher, yes, because his last name begins with F, but also because he was somewhat famous for hiking. In spite of being interested in hiking for quite some time, I had never heard of Mr. Fletcher, so I was surprised and intrigued to find out that he’s considered the grandfather of backpacking. He was one of the first persons who thought long and hard about where he was hiking, how to get there and what to take along. His book “The Complete Walker”, a sort of hiker’s bible, has sold over 500,000 copies and is still in print. So, as a result of studying up on him, I now have a new reading list that I can’t wait to get into! See it at the end of this post.

Fletcher was born in Wales, educated in England and did time in the military in World War II. He also spent time teaching in a Mountain Warfare Training Camp and living in Africa, surveying and helping to build roads. He did some prospecting in Canada, which led to a move to San Francisco in 1956. He hiked the nearby mountains. By this time, exploring and getting out alone into the wilderness was in his blood.

This is funny. His first extended backpacking trip in 1963 was from Mexico to Oregon, all along the eastern coast of California. He did what he called “contemplative walking”.  According to the NYT obituary, he took this hike to think over whether or not to marry his girlfriend. He did end up marrying her but it only lasted a few weeks. He probably should have taken a longer hike and contemplated more.

Daughter Julia and I are out for a “contemplative walk”.

He wrote his first book about this experience and called it “The Thousand Mile Summer”.

His second book, “The Man Who Walked Through Time” was written about his hike from one end of the Grand Canyon National Park to the other. He was the first to do the complete length in one hike.  The park at that time didn’t include the entire canyon but it was 200 miles in length. Apparently, with all the zigzags and explorations, he walked closer to 400 miles.

Not many have done this hike even today. It is incredibly difficult to cross the many deep tributary canyons. In an interview with NPR, Chip Rawlins, who co-authored the latest edition of Fletcher’s book “The Complete Walker”, said that Fletcher had devised a sort of life vest that would float him across some of the rivers he had to cross.  One of Rawlins friends, a river guide, said Fletcher must have been “nuts”. Here is a quote from “The Man Who Walked Through Time”:

“I saw that by going down into that huge fissure in the face of the earth deep into the space and the silence and the solitude, I might come as close as we can at present to moving back and down through the smooth and apparently impenetrable face of time.”

The Man Who Walked Through Time, by Colin Fletcher

Colin Fletcher also traveled the complete length of the Colorado River, from source to sea, when he was 69 years old. His book “The River” is said to have his reflections on growing older.  It sounds like all of his books, in addition to having detailed guidelines on wilderness backpacking (solo), have a lot of philosophical musings. A bonus, all of the reviews say his writing is witty and enjoyable as well. I can’t wait to read these books!

The Thousand Mile Summer (1964)

The Man Who Walked Through Time (1968)

The Complete Walker (2002 edition)

River: One Man’s Journey Down the Colorado, Source to Sea (1997)

Elevation!

Yes, ooh aah!

I am not going to give a lot of statistics on elevation in this post. What is significant about elevation, as you would expect, is that this is a very deep canyon. Viewed from the rim, the Colorado River at the bottom looks like a tiny ribbon when, in fact, it is quite wide in all the places that you can see it.

Standing at various lookouts on the rim during my first brief trip, I remember feeling that rush looking out over the cliffs. You almost can’t help but think of what it would be like to fall, or jump. The drops are so extreme.  ( I was saddened to hear the news last week of a tourist who fell to his death. Taking pictures can be hazardous. )

The rims vary from 6000 to 8500 feet above sea level. The drop down to the river at the bottom of the canyon varies from 3500 to 6000 feet. Our gain/loss of elevation on Day 2 and Day 4 of the hike will be about 5,000 feet. That is enough difference in elevation to produce a climate change. It is often much cooler up on the rim and quite warm to very hot at the bottom.

That might make it tricky to pack the right clothing. In May, when I am going, it should not be oppressively hot at the bottom and hopefully, it won’t be snowing up on the rim.

This is what I can expect for May weather:

South Rim (where we start) Max 70 degrees, Min 39 degrees, Precip 0.66 inches

Inner Gorge (lowest point) Max 92 degrees, Min 63 degrees, Precip 0.36 inches

One very curious fact – the plateaus on both sides of the canyon are higher than the elevation upriver. Why did the path of the river run from low to high elevation when it first began cutting the Grand Canyon? Of course, it didn’t. There are several theories about why it appears this way. None of them are certain. Geology is sometimes very strange and although it has stories to tell, we don’t understand them all.

I will end with a picture of one of the bridges that we will cross at the bottom of the canyon – a bridge that still seems scary high, even though it is dwarfed by the walls of the canyon.

It’s difficult to see but there is a mule train crossing the Black Bridge to Phantom Ranch. This footbridge has a solid floor to keep the animals from looking down and freaking out.

Dehydration!

Welcome to Day 4 of the A to Z Challenge. My theme for this year is the Grand Canyon, which I will be hiking this May. As I go through the alphabet I am educating myself about the canyon, the equipment I’ll need and the specific hike I’ll be going on, the Take A Load Off: Mule-Assisted Camping 0514

One day while hiking on the Appalachian Trail I started feeling a little light headed and maybe a little less certain of my footing, on a trail that was rocky and precarious. I was able to make it down to a place where the trail crossed a maintenance road, but couldn’t go any farther. Feeling worse by the minute, I had one of my hiking buddies flag down some rangers in a truck on their way to a campground a few miles further away.

They loaded me up, took me to the campground, helped me set up my tent and gave me some electrolyte tablets to put in my drinking water. That was the end of hiking for me that day. The rest of my group reached the campground before nightfall and joined me. This was my first experience with dehydration. I don’t want to repeat it.

The Grand Canyon, in May when I am going, could have some warm weather. There will often be places without shade. We will be moving and carrying light packs for hours. Dehydration is a serious possibility under these conditions and this is most certainly a place where I don’t want to lose my footing.  Water is scarce there and although there are places on the trail where it is available, we will carry what we need plus some extra. One of my guidebooks says this about the subject:

“Dehydration accounts for more fatalities in the Grand Canyon than any other single cause. Some victims have died with water in their canteens. It’s not enough just to carry water, you must drink it.”

p. 228 of A Field Guide to the Grand Canyon, Stephen Whitney

Great advice. Drink the water. Also, in my hike guidelines, marked as an important note, is the instruction to have sufficient sodium and fluids in the 72 hours before the hike commences. So, no low sodium diet, and make sure that travel time to the canyon does not keep me from drinking plenty of water (not coffee or alcohol).

Here are the symptoms of dehydration. You don’t want to experience these so be on guard: 

  • early on you may have thirst, malaise, irritability, fatigue, flushed skin, and increased pulse
  • leading, later on, to dizziness, headache, labored breathing, tingling, dry mouth, difficulty speaking and walking.
  • It gets worse and then you die.
  • You can recover from mild cases, like the one I had, by resting and drinking as much as possible. Advanced cases take medical intervention.

I will carry three liters of water each day of hiking and drink small amounts frequently, regularly. For me, the easiest way to do this is my water pouch, which I carry in my backpack, with its tubing that comes over my shoulder with a bite valve on the end. It is within inches of my mouth and so handy that I can’t ignore it. I do not plan to miss any of the hike being dehydrated this time. And I certainly don’t want to have to be hauled out in a helicopter, a not uncommon occurrence.

Yes, they standby for emergencies like dehydration.

Colorado River

Colorado River – I have a huge poster of the Grand Canyon, a gorgeous picture, that I bought on that first, brief trip past the canyon. Since then I’ve learned that it’s actually the book cover of “Time and the River Flowing” by Francois Leydet. The book is full of photos of the canyon, and quotes and stories from its explorers. The “river flowing” is the Colorado River, and I thought I should know something about it before the hike.

Beautiful pictures with quotes and excerpts from those who have written about the river from the conservationist viewpoint.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by facts and numbers about this river, because there are so many. Here are a few that I found informative:

  • It’s one of two major rivers that cross the southwest of our country, the Rio Grande being the other one.  
  • It’s part of amazing scenery everywhere it runs as evidenced by the 11 national parks that it goes through.
  • It starts in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where 90% of its water is snow melt, the rest coming from tributaries along the way.
  • It’s a very managed river in that there are many dams, reservoirs and claims on its water for irrigation of crops.
  • By the time it passes the surrounding crop areas in Mexico, on its way to the Gulf of California, every bit of its flow has been apportioned. The last 100 miles are dry most of the year.
  • There has been much controversy surrounding the building of dams and restriction of the flow. ” The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.” Theodore Roosevelt
  • It used to have a delta and tidal bores much like other larger rivers.
  • It provides the water needs for 40 million people in towns and cities along its course.

The Colorado River was one of the forces creating the Grand Canyon. It’s mind boggling to view the depth and breadth of this chasm and realize that the water, way down there at the bottom, was responsible for this wonder of nature. It took a long, long time. I found this quote that illustrates just how long it took to form the many layers of rock, compared to the time the river has been doing its work.  

  “if the two billion years that have elapsed since the creation of the schists of the Inner Gorge were telescoped into a single day, each minute would represent about 1.4 million years. If the schist formed at 12:01 am of that day, the Paleozoic Era began about 6 pm and ended three hours later. Shortly after 11:00 pm the Mesozoic rocks were eroded away and the Paleozoic strata were uplifted. The Colorado River began to carve the Grand Canyon sometime between 11:45 and 11:58 pm. The entire span of human existence has occurred in the last minute before midnight. “

A Field Guide to the Grand Canyon by Stephen Whitney p.242

I’m told the river is cold, swift and has lots of exciting rapids. We will get to hike along it, perhaps wade in it a little on the day we explore the bottom of the canyon. I can’t wait to see it.

Bright Angel Trail

Bright Angel Trail, I can’t wait to climb this “corridor trail” out of the canyon. It’s the most commonly used trail and its trailhead is at the Bright Angel Lodge in Grand Canyon Village. On my brief visit years ago, I had breakfast at the Lodge and wistfully walked a few yards down this wide, well maintained road, knowing that I had to turn around and go back in a few minutes.

Many hikers go down into the canyon on this trail and because of that it has several places where water and restrooms are located. There is a campground called Indian Gardens about 4.5 miles down. It was used first by the Havasupai Indians for accessing water at Garden Creek. Seasonally they stayed at Indian Gardens. The trail was widened and improved around 1890 and extended all the way to the Colorado River by Ralph Cameron. Wouldn’t you know, he started charging $1 per person to use the trail, plus more if needed water or using the outhouses.

What I wondered was why it was called Bright Angel? For a while it was called Cameron’s Trail for obvious reasons, but later he named it after Bright Angel creek and canyon. And those places got their names from the explorer John Wesley Powell. He thought the creek was delightfully pretty and clean, unlike one farther upriver called Dirty Devil. Yes, Dirty Devil and Bright Angel, makes perfect sense.

Bright Angel Trail is not quite as steep as the other trail we are using to go down into the canyon, but even so, it climbs more than 600 feet per mile on average. The total ascent will be 4,380 feet, about a 10% grade.

The Park Service does not recommend trying to hike down and back out in one day on this trail, especially in the busy summer season. In off seasons it has some cold and windy sections near the top of the south rim, and there might even be snow and ice. Many use it as a day hike to Indian Gardens which is quite do-able. It is rated as a moderately difficult hike and even though water is available I will carry my own as well.  

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

Adventure!

Adventure. I am always looking for it and will tell you that I think of myself as an adventure loving person. I do. In that regard, I have a bucket list of adventures and experiences that I try to work on every now and then. On my list for this spring is to spend time hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Years ago, I drove to a family reunion in the “four corners” region, an interesting geographical area, where four state square corners meet.  There is a monument there explaining that as you look in different directions you are seeing Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona from that one spot. It is not far from the Grand Canyon so we added a side trip. We had not arranged any excursions ahead of time and were only able to take a shuttle ride along the south rim, but that was enough. The views from the rim are breathtaking and the thought of starting down that trail was so compelling it has stuck with me ever since. I knew I had to do it, someday.

As it happens, one of my brothers spent summers working at the canyon, in various capacities, when he was younger. It has been one of his favorite places over the years and he has hiked nearly all the main trails. I finally gave up waiting for him to ask me on a hike and begged. It worked.

This year’s A to Z Challenge will cover the inspiration, the preparation, the expectation, and the anticipation of my hike down the South Kaibab Trail, my two nights at Phantom Ranch, and the hike back up on the Bright Angel Trail. Since the hike won’t actually take place until May 14th, I’m planning on adding “participation” notes and pictures to my posts after I return.

There is a lot to consider, a lot to learn before going. We have been planning for months already. My brother is taking good care of me as evidenced by the guided trip he chose for us. It is the Grand Canyon Conservancy’s Take a Load Off: Mule-Assisted Camping 0514. In addition, I’ll be spending a few nights in the Mather Campground on the south rim before and after the hike.

Read along on the next 25 posts and you’ll know how to get ready for it too. You will want to go. It will be an adventure!

And so we start on our adventure!

The Grocery Walk

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One of the nicest things about living in a small town is how close I am to almost any kind of service I need or want. In the few months I have lived here I have thought on this many times. Take today, for instance. And honestly, you could take today, because it was almost a waste for me, due to a headache that hijacked my afternoon. If it had not been for my evening grocery walk, I wouldn’t have much good to say about this Monday.

I emerged from “headache fog” late in the day to be reminded by the husband that we had no milk. I thought of a few other things that should be on the list and decided to go shopping after supper. Walmart is literally in our backyard, and a second grocery store is about a half mile away, so I took my back pack and walked in search of food.

The store farthest away had one of the items I most wanted to get, so I went there first. The cool air and the act of moving myself rhythmically felt very restoring. It reminded me of the “contemplative walking” I had heard about in doing research for my upcoming Grand Canyon hike. Walking does give me time to think, and thinking makes the distance go so fast. There is also the benefit that I see things with time to look at them, unlike when I’m driving past.

I walked past Lake Hayward where a pair of Canadian geese were already looking for a nesting spot on the small area of open water.  The sidewalks and roadsides were covered with dirt left by the melting snowbanks. I passed numerous office buildings, my favorite clothing store, and Dairy Queen.  I wondered if an ice cream would be good for someone who had just had a headache for hours…

It didn’t take long to make my purchases at Marketplace and load up the coleslaw dressing, the organic bananas and the oatmeal in the backpack. It is a good thing that I’m carrying some weight on my walks because I’m supposed to be training that way – again for the Grand Canyon hike.  (Can you tell that I’m getting a little obsessed with this hike? It’s a bucket list item and I want to do it right.)

Passing Dairy Queen again, I decided to check the DQ app on my phone and, sure enough, I had a coupon for a $.50 cone.  I was feeling kind of guilty for not having change with me and having to use a credit card for that small amount, when I checked in my pocket and realized the credit card was no longer there.  By now I should realize that when I pull one thing out of my pocket, the phone, more than one thing sometimes comes out – it’s not the first time this has happened to me.  I knew it had to be a few yards back, on the sidewalk, but even so I was surprised to find it.  It’s a strange feeling to see something you normally guard with your life, glinting in the sun in the distance on the dirty sidewalk.

I thank God, I did get my $.50 ice cream cone and it was good.

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The last stop, Walmart, added milk, celery, and raspberries to my pack. A short distance later I was home again.

Why am I writing about this? Because it amazes me and makes me feel noticed when God allows a simple thing to come along and brighten my attitude.  Often, he uses a change of scenery, getting outdoors and doing something active to restore and help me feel better when I’ve felt miserable.  There will always be times in my average life that are not so great, but God balances them and somehow leaves me feeling blessed and aware of his kindness towards me. It doesn’t take much.

Inner Child

I am very much in touch with my inner child.  The “kid” inside loves mystery, loves playing outside, loves activity, adventure and all that stuff I used to be a part of when I was ten.  I think that’s why I love playing with kids when I get a chance.  I love it when I see them really having fun, being inventive and using their imagination. I especially enjoy when they are old enough to talk about what’s on their mind.

This last week children were visiting next door and I got to play. They were trying their hardest to enjoy the snow but they needed a sled and I had noticed one in the attic. I knew they liked animals so I introduced them to Scruffy the dog and had them join us on a walk. And on their last day to play we walked through the deep snow to see the hidden fort in the brush pile out in the wetlands. We sat inside on the carpet of dried grass and rushes and marveled at the construction, how “cool” it was. Kids love forts.

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Except for this entrance, it’s just looking like a big brush pile.

However, most kids also love playing with fire at some point in their growing up years. And it was this thought that had been bothering my brother since last fall. Knowing that quite a few people, many still school age children, were aware of the fort and its “coolness” he was always imagining the horror it would be to have the fort go up in flames with someone in it. The wood was tinder dry and the winter air had made it even more ready to burn quickly. He decided it was time to return to his original plan of burning the brush pile.

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The inner sanctum with its bed of dried grasses.

Around suppertime, I went out to say goodbye. I took pictures, crawled inside the fort and sat for a while. I took the small tin that had been left there as a souvenir. There was a little war going on in me – the inner child was having a small tantrum.

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The first match…

Later, with my brother and his wife, I watched the flames eat the brush pile nearly flat. It was a glorious fire, hot and fast. One match to the inside of the fort made quick work of the bed of dried grass and I could understand the wisdom of getting rid of a fire hazard.  It was a pretty sweet fort and it was fun just knowing it was there, while it lasted. But it was time. My adult self was glad that potential danger was going to be averted.  As an adult I’ve learned to ignore tantrums, even my own.

 

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My souvenir, all that’s left to remind me of an excellent fort.

I’m saving this little tin as inspiration. This is a rather large property with a lot of interesting wooded areas and I’m already getting ideas on where the next fort should be. Long live the inner child. Just sayin’…