Is Moving an Adventure?

I don’t know. Sometimes it feels like an adventure, but it’s also a lot of work. Work and adventure.

All winter my aunt and uncle have been living in town, very close to us, in a condo that my family owns. Because they have been here I’ve been able to help them drive to doctor appointments, and other things they’ve needed. This week they moved back to their own house, farther out in the country. That was my first moving adventure of the week.

As soon as they were situated at home, the husband and I moved into the place they vacated. Although I have been in this house a lot when my mom and dad lived here, and when one of my brothers and his family used it frequently, I’ve never considered it my home.  It’s a strange feeling.  As I look through cupboards, drawers and closets and find things that my family has left behind, I’m constantly having to decide – keep or not to keep? How do I begin to feel at home?

So, I bought flowers and started to “pretty up” the outside. We now have the husband’s lounge chair set up on the patio where we can listen to the waterfall fountain and sit in the sun.

Our own private waterfall.

Now that this second move of the week is over, I don’t have to keep my clothes in mom’s garage anymore and we have a dresser with drawers in the bedroom, big change. (Although I have to admit that the filing cabinets I was using before do make excellent storage for socks and underwear.) I have a kitchen all to myself.  More importantly, mom has her kitchen back, as well as her living room, guest room, her TV, her garage, and her sanity.

It’s all good.  We did well living together, while we had to, and time demonstrated that it was best for all of us to spread out a bit more. We are very blessed to have the space that allows us to do that.  And since it is summer here, we have even more space – the whole outdoors. Unlike Florida, where we were most comfortable going from one air-conditioned space to another, Wisconsin is remarkably cool, clean and refreshing. The woods are full of spring flowers, the brooks and ponds are full of all kinds of ducks, geese and their little broods.  We took a walk this week and came within five feet of the smallest fawn I have ever seen in the wild. The little guy/gal froze as we walked past.

newborn fawn hiding in birch forest
Can you see him?

Spring is magical here in so many ways. Spring is a recurring adventure and a gift to us from an adventurous God.

Coming Out

Do you see how far away that rim looks? How do I keep from thinking about that?

I kept looking up at what is called the Redwall, a formidable layer of red stained limestone above me. I could see no path taking me up beyond it and it was towering. After five hours of upward travel, the Redwall seemed like a dead end. The only thing I could think was that if I didn’t stop, if I just kept going, I would eventually get to the top. The mental challenge was every bit as big as the physical. I found myself praying frequently that God would strengthen me to keep moving and I warned him that I would someday ask him to explain this canyon to me. This beautiful, challenging, and mystifying place…

When I looked back over the distance I had already traveled I was aware that I had already come far. But most of my attention was focused on the ground where my next footfall would land. The second half of the Bright Angel Trail, right before the South Rim was a real struggle.

We had started that morning around 6, with cool weather and a possibility of rain. The Silver Bridge took us from the campground to the south side of the river. The trail stayed along the river for a while before heading out of the inner gorge on what the guides called “Devil’s Corkscrew”. It wasn’t as steep or difficult as I had expected and all of our crew made really good time. Again the scenery was powerful with frequent views of the trail below and above us, so three dimensional. Voices carry in the canyon and we could hear other hikers even when they were far away, like in an echo chamber.

Indian Gardens – trees, water, resting places

We reached Indian Gardens around 10 am a little ahead of schedule, and rested. What a beautiful place! Large cottonwood trees thrive around the creek, and green plants were plentiful. I can see why the Indian tribes chose to spend time there in the past. I could have spent more time there but we were urged on – the guides knew there were still 4.5 miles to go, some of it would be in the sun, and some of our group had expended most of their energy and strength.

Our group had spread out by this time and I lost track of my brother and his wife. I had seen them ahead of me and I didn’t want to fall too far behind them. I passed up the next stop at Three Mile because I would have had to come down a hill from the restroom and downhill was still too painful to choose unnecessarily. I skipped the stop at Mile and a Half because of the vicious acting squirrels trying to get people to share their snacks. I had heard squirrels were the most dangerous animals in the canyon and I found that believable. I wasn’t going fast at all – I felt like the only way to go slower would have been to stop. It’s possible I looked pretty wasted because lots of people asked me how far I’d come and tried to cheer me up.

I walked out of the canyon at 12:50 pm. I never did catch up with my family, and I found out it was because they were behind me, not ahead. Hmmm….

The member of our group who had trouble and the guide who stayed with him made it out two hours later. As we collected and went to find food we compared our experiences. My sister-in-law and I both were avoiding painful downward grades and well, we walked funny. We were sore. Both my knees hurt – I had actually taken the brace off the right one and put it on the left. I found out that if I kept walking even though I hurt, pretty soon that hurt would diminish and something else would hurt more. That was one of my more interesting observations about pain.

It was wonderful to know that I could stop walking, and that most of the places I would want to walk were relatively flat. I felt relieved of responsibility that had been impressed upon me numerous times, in books, in words, and on signs – the warning “to go into the canyon is an option, to come out is not”. I had gotten myself in, and with God’s help I was now out.

A 30,806 Step Day

And all of them were down…

Hiking the Grand Canyon, particularly the hike to the Colorado River and the inner gorge, requires that a person have a compelling desire to go down there. Without a strong motivation, the pain may not be worth the trip.

The trouble is that it is easy to go downhill quite a ways before the realization sets in that you will have to go back up. All the literature tells you that you should allow twice as much time going up as you took to go down. This surprises many people.

On this hike I was highly motivated, even in the face of probable pain. I knew that I was committed to going all the way down to Phantom Ranch, no matter how I felt. However, before we reached the halfway point descending the South Kaibab Trail, I was feeling pain in my right knee and trying to step in a certain manner to avoid aggravating it. Stepping that way began to cause a clicking in my left hip that didn’t feel right either. At each step I had to decide whether to feel the pain in my knee or start a new problem in my hip, so I alternated, hoping to keep them both happy.

As the descent continued I also noticed my toes would occasionally hit the end of the toe box of my boot. They started getting sore too. Knee jarring, toe jamming, never ending, downward stepping trail (but the views were awesome).

Several of our hiking group “the centenarians” ( not because we were old but because the park was having its centennial).

Lest you think that I was the weak link in our little group of ten hikers, I need to mention that we had three men who were in their seventies. One, Bob was his name, was 78! Bob actually fell and twisted his knee, making it necessary for him to put on a brace. He was getting weak and wobbly as well. We were sometimes hiking in the sun now, and the temperature was going up a few degrees for every thousand feet we descended. Every time I looked at Bob I was afraid he was going to fall off the edge. He was going very slowly and one of the guides stayed with him while the rest of us forged on.

This rest stop was about 2/3 of the way down, just before going into the inner gorge.

The trip down started at 7:30 a.m. and we didn’t reach the Bright Angel Campground until 3:30 p.m. This was nearly twice the estimated time! We were all ready to stop walking. Unfortunately, we still had to go up to the canteen at the Ranch, another quarter mile away, and get our duffels that had come down by mule. Fortunately we had just enough time to get there before the canteen closed to prepare for the dinner hour. The canteen is famous for reviving tired hikers with their lemonade. I had two large glasses.

We had a group campsite. I (orange tent) and Robert & Elizabeth stayed here two nights.

Even in my debilitated state, I managed to set up my tent, eat dinner and go to a “ranger talk” that night. One of my big toes was turning dark, my legs ached, but I crawled into my sleeping bag grateful for the chance to be horizontal, for a change. I had been told to bring ear plugs so the snoring of other campers wouldn’t keep me awake. That turned out to not be a problem – the creek was swollen, running fast and full and so loud that it made a superb, natural, white noise machine. I slept.

To be continued…

Going Off Grid

For the next few days I want to forget my devices and concentrate on the Grand Canyon (and staying alive). Even in the lodge on the rim internet is slow and frustrating. On the canyon floor it is pretty much non-existent. Join me again on Saturday when I will post each day’s fun, as recorded with pen and paper. I will have plenty of airport time to do it. See you then!

Arriving at the Canyon

I took this one myself. Bright Angel Canyon with the trail far below.

I didn’t like the way travel day ended – I got a headache that was utterly unpleasant. But yes, I did like the way it ended because I was able to get a room at Maswik Lodge and crawled into a comfy bed and slept the headache away. I love my room, and I have it tonight as well.

The scenery here is quite different from my Wisconsin wetlands. There are lots of rocks, and trees that I don’t recognize. It’s a combination of mountains and dessert. One minute we are looking at tall pines and white barked trees, and the next minute we are on a flat plain with short shrubs and grasses that have not had a lot of water. We can usually see one or more mountains with sharp pointy tops covered with snow.

Flagstaff airport is small – the kind where you walk on the tarmack from your plane to the building. I don’t know how we timed it so perfectly, but my brother arrived only minutes after I did, and we were on our way.

It is about 70 miles from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon National Park.Grand Canyon Village is bigger than I remembered, probably because it has grown. There lots of twists and turns as the roads wind from one lodge to another. It is forested, and as you look out into the pines you can see elk grazing everywhere. Unlike our Wisconsin deer who like to startle and dash into the road, these animals are used to the traffic and stand within feet of cars with no alarm.

They are everywhere, and they pay us no mind.

Most of today was spent in class with our guides Michael and Nina. There are eight of us hikers and everyone is retired. I would say that several are older than I am and one man is 78! All have done quite a bit of hiking except our Elizabeth, and a couple of them have hiked in the canyon a lot.

Our guide, Mike, talking to Bob and Elizabeth. We are on our way to the mule barn with our duffels.

We spent the time talking about our equipment, safety on the trail. We filled our duffels for the mules and took them over to the barn. And right before we quit we walked out to look at the canyon and talk about the geology. We toured the Kolb house, where the Kolb brothers had a famous photography studio – hanging on the side of the cliff right below the rim.

We start early tomorrow on our descent. Wish you were all going with us! I have pictures but they are failing to upload – not sure why.

Getting there is half the fun…

I don’t know who said that but I hope they’re wrong. Travel is amazing, and interesting but I wouldn’t call it fun.

I and all my devices got in the truck and made our way to Minneapolis last night. We had a short sleep in a motel, where I left the truck. Everything went so smoothly at the airport that I started wondering why. I finally realized that it’s one of the benefits of traveling solo. Don’t get me wrong – I love traveling with companions as well, but this kind of freedom has a charm all its own. I don’t have to match anyone in my likes, dislikes or pace. I can be as early or as late as I choose. I can eat or go without. I have one person to watch out for – me.

I am now safely in Arizona, sitting in the waiting area for the flight to Flagstaff. I decided to check in here with a short post because I have over four hours to wait and have to fill the time. I know it won’t be long before I will have to forget my “devices” and start experiencing this hike without them.

This is my first trip in a long time without my computer. Instead I’m using my phone for everything – it’s camera, tablet, caretaker of boarding passes, as well as communication central. What a device! And I have paired it with this tiny little bluetooth keyboard, which so far is doing a great job.

I sat next to a dog! I saw a fairly large man walking around in the gate area before the flight and noticed him because he had this tiny dog on a bright red leash. You don’t see this every day. Later, much later because I was in the last zone to board the plane, I got to my seat and there they were again. The little fella was so quite, slept all the way to Phoenix, and licked my hand when he woke up after we landed. Make me decide between sitting next to a kid or a dog, I’ll take the dog.

In addition to being a travel day, yesterday was Mother’s Day. It was so nice to spend it this year with my mom, my youngest daughter and my brother’s family. We went to church, had a wonderful family brunch that I wish I had taken a picture of but didn’t. We took walks and talked. Later, at the motel, I got a call from eldest daughter to round out the day.

Thanks again for the book Ryan! And this is my mini-keyboard folio.

So here goes four hours of waiting. I have a book to read. Food and drink is close at hand. Fun is ahead as I look forward to meeting up with brother Bob and Elizabeth. It’s hard to believe I’m here, so far from where I started this morning, in such a different place.

A very different place than the one I left this morning. Yes, real mountains…

Walking Through my Hometown

I’m going hiking in the Grand Canyon!! Countdown, 11 days!

After my first training walk in Hospital Lake Forest, I was all charged up about walking 10,000 steps every day. It would be the least I could do to prepare. There isn’t much I can do to replicate the altitude change, but to walk for several hours at a time in my hiking boots, that I can do.

Thinking that it would be beneficial to train on a grade, I decided to look for a hill in Hayward, my Northwoods hometown. It’s in a river valley, and there are hills on both sides of the river, as well as glacier formed terrain throughout the forests and fields – how hard could it be to find a good place?

Since I also had an errand at the far end of Main Street, I packed my papers in a backpack along with a snack and some water. (I’m trying to carry a backpack as part of conditioning too.)  I set off down an ATV track that follows an abandoned railway bed, toward the center of town.  I live on the north edge of this booming metropolis of about 2,300 people. I am within sight of New Moon ski/bike shop, Pizza Hut, AmericInn, Walmart and the tip of the flag flying over Perkins.

This is the town I grew up in and always thought of as quaint, and pretty, in an old-fashioned way. But growth, most of it outside the city limits, has deposited a large electrical station at the intersection of two of the main roads. There is no disguising this huge collection of gray metal poles, insulators, wires and fencing.  It clearly does not say “Welcome to lovely Hayward”. There’s not a time I go by it that I don’t wonder why they put it there in such a prominent spot.

Lovely Main Street
They always do flowers well.

Our Main Street however, is a popular tourist site during the summer, and has even been listed as one of the prettiest in the Midwest at Christmas time.  It ascends from the river and Lake Hayward up a gradual slope, past numerous shops, the bank, the Congregational church, and finally the courthouse and the financial office where I stopped to talk for a minute.

“I’m looking for a hill to climb. Maybe County Hill?”

“Yeah, County Hill might be okay.  Are you parked somewhere near here?”

“No, I need to get 10,000 steps in, so I’m walking, why not?”

No response, other than the “why would you do that?” look.

My destination was only about three miles from home, but somehow this is considered a long distance in a place where no one walks anywhere they don’t have to.  Urban walking is a lost art, at least in Hayward. One of my best realizations, upon moving here, has been that everyplace I really need to go is within walking distance, as was County Hill.

I passed houses where my high school friends had once lived, where my cousin’s family lived, the parsonage of the church (where I practically lived) and the empty lot where my elementary school had once stood. I had time to look at the condition of the houses, to see who had raked their lawn of last fall’s leaves, to see where remodeling had added rooms and a complete new look.

I’m sad to say I saw a lot of neglect – places that made me want to start pulling weeds or scrape peeling paint. Maybe this is always the way things seem when you go back home after many years. Memory is selective and I tend to think things were lovelier in the past.

It wasn’t much of a grade. I walked up one side of the road, had my snack at the top while enjoying the view, and walked down the other side. My attention had been caught by the town cemetery at the bottom of the hill. Cemeteries have kind of a spooky fascination for me. I walked through looking at names and dates, imagining scenarios. There were many family names that I recognized from my childhood years in Hayward.  I found the stone for my first-grade teacher and one of my junior high teachers – people that I had loved and been close to. 

The rest of my walk was uneventful, but I was beginning to feel some soreness in the lower legs. This after about five miles, showing that my conditioning has not been sufficient yet. But my feet were fine, boots were good and I finished with 13,300 steps, meeting my goal for the second day in a row.

Training is tough, especially when I have to have at least two free hours to walk. Being a little sore is to be expected. I will give the legs some rest tomorrow, and then think of another place to see. Believe me, things look different and you see things you did not notice before when you are on foot. Try it.

Ever Changing

I have written much about the wetland property where I now live in Wisconsin, where I take frequent walks and do my communing with nature and peace of mind. Well, today there was a major change.

The marsh

One of the more prominent areas of our wetland is a huge marsh. It is bordered by higher ground and is composed mainly of cattails, water plants and sometimes water shrubs of some kind. There are usually waterways around the edges and sometimes small bays and extensions. The beaver lodge is in one of the waterways, close to the edge of the marsh.

The snow melt and the recent rains have raised the water level considerably. In some places water has started to cover our paths, and submerge our footbridges. The dams that the beaver have constructed are now completely underwater and I can’t see them. But the most amazing thing is that the marsh migrated last night.

Neighbor’s house and her new open waterway.

My brother got a call from a neighbor on the other side of the marsh. She told him that she suddenly had a beach where the marsh had been – open water. I had to go out and see what had happened. Evidently, wind and rain had done the job of loosening the marsh from the soil underneath and the whole thing moved north and west. The open waterway to the beaver lodge is now closed – it’s the path I took over the ice this winter when I checked on them. And other waterways that were wide, separating us from the marsh, are now narrowed to five or six feet.

The marsh now comes within five or six feet in an area that used to be open.

I wonder how many animals and birds had to re-orient themselves this morning. Nature is ever changing, sometimes delightful, sometimes catastrophic, but changing always.

Xeriscape of the Canyon

Xeriscape: a landscaping method that employs drought resistant plants and special techniques to conserve water.  I love plants! Can’t forget to do a little research on plants…

I’m thinking that someone did a pretty good xeriscape job in the Grand Canyon. Looking at the chart below with rainfall averages for the South Rim, North Rim and the Inner Gorge, I see only one month, August, with significant precipitation. The highest number for any month is 2.85 inches. The Grand Canyon is mostly desert.

I am so glad we are not going to the Inner Gorge in July or August (the numbers with the little stars by them – see note about 120 degree temps!!!)

In spite of that, and because of the climate changes with elevation, it is amazingly rich in plant life and almost all are drought resistant. Here’s a list:

  • 1, 737 known species of vascular plants
  • 167 species of fungi
  • 64 species of moss
  • 195 species of lichen

There are 12 plants that are only found in the Grand Canyon (endemic), and only 10% of the plants in the Canyon are exotic (from somewhere else and probably invasive). Those are pretty special statistics.

There is such a variety of eco systems in the canyon. As you can imagine, along the river where there are seeps and springs and tributaries joining the Colorado, there will be willows, acacia, rare plants and hanging gardens. At higher elevations there is desert scrub, then pinyon pine and juniper, then at about 6,500 feet above sea level the Ponderosa pine forests start. On the north rim there are some mountain meadows and subalpine grasslands.

I’m glad I don’t have to forage for food while I’m visiting the canyon, but how good is it to know that there are things there that can be eaten? I found a website telling me that the top three plants that could save me from starvation are the banana yucca, the currant bush, and the cereus cactus. Maybe you should know about them too – you never know where you’re going to find yourself. Click the link.

I would have a tough time creating a xeriscape that would have the natural features and beauty of the Grand Canyon (unless I had a couple billion years to work on it) but I am expecting to enjoy and photograph it – a favorite pastime. Hoping to add some stunning pics to this post after the hike.