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?

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!

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things Z

Zzzzzz’s (okay, sleep)

I used to think that missing sleep was not a big deal, if I could make it through the next day all right. I’m learning differently, and it’s a little scary.

A good sleep pattern, something that’s habitual, can make the difference between being healthy and active or falling prey to (are you ready for this?) brain fog, memory loss, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Prolonged poor sleep habits are a factor in all of those things THAT YOU DON’T WANT!

I’m especially concerned about my brain as I age, specifically I want to avoid dementia of all kinds. Good sleep enables the brain to clear out damaging proteins and carry out several other physiological chores that cut inflammation and bolster the immune system. Sleep apnea,  a common condition these days, has been shown to be a factor in the cognitive impairment that can precede Alzheimer’s disease. I’m not saying that my husband is cognitively impaired yet but he says he’s worried that he is.  What I hear, a few minutes after he falls asleep, is snoring. After he is fully relaxed his airway closes and he doesn’t breathe for a much longer time than normal – which rouses him suddenly just enough to start the cycle over again. Neither one of us sleeps very well through this.

The good news is that he has finally gotten around to visiting a sleep specialist for his sleep problem. Yay! I have been telling him that it could be causing some of his other complaints, and after getting the explanations from this doctor, he is starting to believe it. He’s eager to get on with his night time sleep study (polysomnogram). There is a whole field of medicine devoted to sleep disorders, and it’s about time since we spend nearly a third of our lives sleeping, or trying to.

Sleep, good sound sleep that leaves me feeling refreshed, is a memory from younger years I’m afraid. I usually look forward to getting off my feet and lying down, but after a few hours of hunting for a position that doesn’t hurt something, somewhere, I’m am looking forward to getting up again.  Tried a “sleep number” bed. It didn’t help. Tried “My Pillow”.  Didn’t help either. I’m defying the odds. But every once in a while I hit the jackpot and get a really good sleep. It is so sweet, and definitely a favorite.

20160422_115958
The kind of ridiculous, good sleep I’m waiting for…

 

I’m addressing my sleep deprivation from several angles, trying lots of lifestyle alterations that help. There’s lots of interesting information out there! How are you sleeping these days?

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things Y

52d4d-20130122_133521
This pelican has nothing to do with the post subject but posts are better with pictures and I’ve always wanted to use this one.

Yes.

I have spent many years being very fond of the word “yes”, except for a brief period around two years old when I was probably practicing “no” more than “yes”. It has been not only a joy to have said yes to many things but it has been the source of adventure that has made life rich. It is hard to go through life without any regrets, but I can’t think of a single “yes” that I would take back if I could. (Perhaps that’s just the blessing of selective memory? Perhaps. ) You know the results of the things you say yes to. The times you answer “no”, you always wonder… what if I had said “yes”.

When I was very young, I said “yes” to God, which was about the only thing I had a choice in. Kids aren’t aware of all the choices they have because they don’t really seem like choices. Should I obey? Should I lie? Should I hide? But the chosen answers do start the formation of character.

As a young adult, I’m glad I said “yes” to the hard work of schooling, to marriage, to employment opportunities, to children.

I’m glad I said “yes” to travel experiences in a faraway part of the world. I’m glad I spent time camping on the Appalachian Trail. I’m glad I said “yes” to riding a horse across Florida.

I’m glad I said “yes” to all the beginning conversations that ended in long time friendships. I could really have missed out there. I’m glad I stretched myself to come alongside some who were in need. I’ve been repaid for those “yeses” as they have given me a sense of purpose and a chance to share burdens with others without going through the hardship myself – vicarious learning.

I’m glad I said “yes” to writing – years of corresponding with friends and family, years of journaling, and years now of this blog. It is my record of life.

To be fair, the word “no” is not bad just because “yes” has been good. “No” finds its rightful place more often now and it feels more like wisdom to say it. I am only content in saying it because of all the times I’ve said “yes”. (No, I don’t want to go waterskiing. I’ve done that and I have no desire to have my arms pulled out of their sockets today. Thanks.)

There is a whole world of “yes” out there, still to be explored, no matter who you are or what your circumstances.  Think about it.

 

What unregretted “yes” pops into your mind as you read this?

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things X

X it out – Delete!

I am on the 60th page of 139 email pages, 10 emails per page. I glance at the senders, select all, and delete. I do this about every week, trying to clear out my mailbox before I get the message that they aren’t accepting any more emails.  This is one of two email address accounts that I have. And don’t get me started on paper accumulation from snail mail.

20170428_110207
Tremble, tremble…

I am watching closely as my WordPress media gallery gets closer and closer to full capacity. I had fun deleting photos once last year – many of them weren’t important by themselves – until I realized that they were also being removed from my posts, where they were important. Time to upgrade, they tell me.

My Verizon cloud is full, they want money. My JustCloud is past full and they want money. They won’t even let me see what’s in that to determine if I want anything. My iCloud is full and messaging me regularly. Delete. Delete. Delete. XXX.

It’s true that some of these storage accounts were ones I didn’t ask for. They came with “the device” but I’m finding that the weight of them is stressful.  I keep looking for the place where I can unsubscribe and be rid of them but I don’t find that option, oddly (or not).

Many times I write, think, write, think, then delete and start over. I’m thankful for the X and how it stands for the freedom of crossing out and starting over. I’m often thankful for the things I did not write/say. The X usually turns out to be a better way.

2017-04-28 10.55.42
One of my handiest (and most often used) keys.

There’s a big spiritual side to this concept too. Everything we feel bad about, are angry about, grieve over, and struggle with can be and will be X’d out. Our responsibility for these things can be lifted. We can’t get through life without some of this baggage – God knew it. He made a way to delete and sign on a different plan which he pays for in perpetuity. I signed up and can tell you it works as described, and I’m really starting to like this analogy. The next thing, someone will be marketing the God Ap, or maybe it’s already out there, I don’t know.  We people just can’t help ourselves.

Back to taking things out of my life – I made a big trip to the donation center again yesterday. Less is better, and now I have less. If I ever have to move I want it all to fit in one trailer and done.

Where does the concept of deleting, X’ing out, find itself useful in your life?