Tuesday, April 14, 2009

38 miles, 4 days - Grand Canyon March 28-31st 2009

I finally got it up! Here is the blog of our experience in our backpacking adventure in the Grand Canyon.
The crew (Joe, Cyndy, Rachel, Me, and Shey) Photographer: Aaron

Day 1:
We started our day to the sound of our alarm at 5:30 in the morning. After a few sleep buttons, we decided it was okay to be late as we were already packed and ready to go... where the others in our party needed to distribute weight among the packs. Once we arrived at Rachel's house, everyone was just about ready to go. Cyndy, a friend of ours, was the planner of the trip. Along with us, was Rachel, a work friend of Cyndy's who only talked about her Peace Corps adventures in Swaziland. Joe, a former boyfriend of Cyndy, who had asked her to take a few random naked pictures of himself in the canyon, and finally, Shey, a guy Rachel met at a coffee ship the week prior who continually offered fruit and nuts on the trail, and did a weird little dance every time he was about to say something. We will call him Fruit 'n Nuts from now on. Apparently, Fruit 'n Nuts was interested in Rachel and it seemed to us, that Shey was an ex-tweeker who was clearly still in the closet. All in all, nice people. Shey stated a trip to Late for the Train was in order. We all agreed. Our truck was used to carry the packs, while the four of them piled into Cyndy's car. After drinking down our tasty beverage of choice, we drove down the road 74 miles to the big hole. Once there, my stomach started to curl in nerves. We didn't know half of the people we were hiking with, and since we are relatively new hikers, I was nervous of how my ability would compare to others. We loaded up, and headed to the shuttle that would take us to the trailhead at Hermit's Rest. My pack was not feeling good, and after a few minutes, my back was screaming at me. After some adjustments to make it feel comfortable, we headed down... So far, the trail seemed great! Just a slight down hill, at a great pace. After a few hours of hiking, our decent became much more steep and dangerous. Rock slides had happened since Cyndy last did the trail, so we were moving very slow. The views started to get much better, and the temperature began to heat up as we descended. After a lunch break of packaged seasoned fish with Triscuits and a fresh avocado, we continued down the beaten up trail to a somewhat level trail. By the time we reached our camp altitude I could barely walk, and felt as though my toes and heels were profusely bleeding. "Just around the corner" or, "We're almost there" were common phrases that would temporarily ease my mind, yet it seemed we would never be almost there. Finally, we saw our first night of camp, and although I could barely walk, I was happy to be done for the night. After sterilizing water, and letting fish nibble at our swollen toes, we cooked dinner for the night: Oriental Stir Fry. Yum, one of the best meals we have had backpacking. That night we fell asleep under the stars of O'Ryan.

This is where we went straight down!!

Our first campsite for the night.

Day 2:
I have never woken up so sore in my entire life. Barely making it out of the tent, I took advantage of the compost toilets we would only stop at certain areas and laid some cable. Hobbling back to the campsite, we started the stove for a delicious breakfast of pancakes and poptarts. Everyone has to bring some sort of luxury on the trail, and ours was Nutella. Nutella is pretty heavy for backpacking standards, yet on pancakes in the morning, mixed with a little peanut butter... yum! It really sticks to your ribs. After packing up, we started uphill for a bit to get out of the campsite. Today was going to be the shortest day, only about 5 miles. I was a little tight, but it wasn't until we continued our descend that I really felt it in my legs. Our first views of the river set in. By now we were half way down the canyon, and we could see the very top of the canyon and the bottom at the same time. However, it was a little rough knowing that we were only half way down, and the leg muscles and toes were going to suffer again. We continued down a really beautiful canyon, with a natural spring and a spire in the middle. We were told there were no fresh water along the way or at the campsite, so would need to drink river water, which was full of silt. However, on the way down the canyon, we notice the ground continue to get more damp. Finally, an unexpected spring popped up. Sweet!! We didn't have to drink grainy water. Our view was gorgeous and we found a little campsite tucked away in the trees that would protect us from the wind. Every time a gust would come, you would get sand in your eyes, mouth and ears. Since it was a short trip, Aaron and I decided to have a cooked lunch: Tasty Bites. Sounds weird, but it's really good natural Indian food. The rest of the day was spent hanging out by the river and relaxing as best as we could. A few hours went by and a river party came up with their boats. I hear it's customary for river parties to offer beer to hikers... and although our jokes of them giving us beer didn't work... one of the guys said we were welcome to use their gruever. Hm.. you won't give us beer, yet you would be willing to literally carry our shit down the river with you? Wow. Come to find out, not everyone in the party agreed to that offer, so when Cyndy walked through their campsite with toilet paper in hand, everyone gave her the silent treatment. We were joking that the guy who offered would never fess up to it to the rest of his party. Our conversation turn to food, as it usually does when backpacking. Everyone talked about what they had been craving on the trail. I spoke up, "I was craving jalapeno potato chips a few miles back..." Rachel speaks up, "Yeah well, I don't really eat processed foods, so I guess since you eat a lot of processed foods, I can see how your body would crave processed foods. There were no processed foods in Swaziland..." Yeah, whatever, nevermind that it was as simple as your body wanting salt! We went to bed early that night after a dinner of spaghetti. We couldn't compare to Fruit 'n Nuts stories of eating figs for a week, or Rachel's sentences that started with "This one time, in Swaziland." That night was a bit stormy, the sand was so small that even through our mesh tent the sleeping bags were coated with it. We ended up putting up the rain fly, which was a good plan, as the wind was intense and it rained off and on throughout the night. Still as gusts went by, we would wake up to a sand blast... even through the rain fly.

Going down...

This spire was close to the river.

The Colorado River! Hermits Rapids, campsite #2.

Day 3:
Know the day before how I had said I have never woken up so sore in my entire life? Scratch that.. On THIS morning, I have never woken up so sore in my entire life. I felt like I should have been 90, and walked as though I were 90. After using bunches of tape and band aides on my feet, I put my boots on and attempted to get out of the tent. Once I was up, the slightest hill gave me anxiety. I'm talking very slight, like 20 degrees. I was extremely nervous for today's hike, as it was close to 11 miles. My heels were developing one giant long blister all along the side, so when I put a band aide on, I had to put tape completely around my fee to make it stay. Later, I would discover that this way of putting tape on feet, would give one giant burn on the top part of one's foot. Never do that. Breakfast that morning was oatmeal for us, and kipper fish for Fruit 'n Nuts... gross. We offered everyone some propel water mix with electrolytes, but Fruit 'n Nuts said he couldn't eat sugar. Not even fake sugar. He said if he did, his whole entire body would break out into hives. He did offer some fruit and nuts to everyone as an alternative. Of course he did.. After a couple of stiff miles, our bodies started to warm up. The Tonto trail was the most beautiful hikes we have been on. Aaron and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We saw condors with a 6 foot wing span, big horn sheep, and a family of deer. For a snack, we stopped at "Inferno", a small canyon along the way. Despite the name, it was actually quite pleasant. The best part about it, was the fresh running water we weren't expecting. Since that night we would be camping at a spring with a uranium runoff, we took advantage and filled up our water bottles and bladders. We headed up the trail and walked another two miles before we stopped at a dead gorgeous view and ate lunch. We sat on a cliff, where we had fish and crackers, with beef jerky and dried fruit over looking the Colorado. Meanwhile, I tear the tape off my feet to discover the painful burns it created. I decided I had better stop taking the tape off and wait until we camped for the night. After bandaging my feet again, and walking the last few miles, we reached our camp for the night. Horn Creek was tucked away in a little canyon with Red Blossom and Cottonwood trees, and breaktaking views. Since this was our final night, we really wanted to reduce the weight in our packs for tomorrow's strenuous uphill battle. So, we ate two dinners: Trail Side Pizza (one of our favorite backpacking dinners), and mashed potatoes. We also finished off the little bit of liquor everyone brought, accept Fruit 'n Nuts, he doesn't drink alcohol. Also, people started to pull out all kinds of stuff in their packs. Joe brought huge gingerbread cookies for everyone, we brought out some chocolate Reisens, and Rachel pulled out Norwegian chocolate. Now, remember Fruit 'n Nuts' sugar tolerance? Well, as soon as Rachel pulled out the chocolate, he grabbed a chunk, shoved it in his mouth and said "thanks" without even skipping a beat. Aaron and I glanced at each other with I'm sure, a very confused look on our faces. We were all exhausted, and ended up going to bed rather early soon after the sun went down. Although we were never full of food, nor slept well, we went to bed very satisfied!

In the Inferno

Our stop for lunch.

Along the Tonto Trail

Our last campsite

Soaking in the last evening

Day 4:
Today was the day... The day of going straight up for miles... We started our morning with the rest of the pancakes topped with peanut butter and Nutella, and also as many poptarts as we could stomach. A few miles of somewhat level trail, we hit Indian Gardens with absolutely beautiful trees and a small river. It was very pretty, but the tourists started to emerge. The first group of people we passed, we were overwhelmed with the smell of cologne and perfume! The smell was unbearable!! After four days of natural, organic smells of poo and BO, it was hard to adjust. We stopped for lunch at Indian Gardens before the 5 mile uphill. We ate our last Tasty Bite as tourists passed on mules.. We watched them as the stepped off the mule and complained of sore muscles... please... We also witnessed an older man fall off a mule. His face was all bloody, and people were rushing over to him, I think he was okay. After eating everything else we could find in our pack, I knew that I needed to start the trail first. Most everyone else was faster than me, and I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to uphill with a backpack. So, while everyone explored, Aaron and I decided to start our way up. We started at a fast pace, which was great! Maybe I wasn't as bad as I thought I would be. We were passing people along the trail left and right. I knew we would be at the top in no time! That pace, and that particular thought eventually went away. I was amazed at how many tourists we passed without water, or food. The closer you get to the top, the less people know about hiking etiquette. (FYI, hikers who are going uphill have the right away. Hikers coming down should get off the trail and let them pass.) When we were close to being done, Aaron came face to face with a teenage girl. Aaron stated sternly, "I am NOT moving!" Then she huffed and looked down at the trail, covered in mule pee and poo. Ahh... you didn't want to get your new white shoes dirty?? Maybe you should have thought about that before hiking the most traveled trail in the Grand Canyon! It was a tough uphill battle, and without going into the details of my mini breakdown, and Aaron coaching me on the way up, we made it!! I have never been so happy to see the car. After a few minutes, the rest of the party showed up. I was glad we were able to hike out of there alone, but felt bad because Cyndy stated she was hoping to run into us. We all cheered, and decided for pizza and beer in Tusayan. It was an excellent trip, and we would definitely do it again. It took a few days to recover, but our bodies are feeling good, and I'm now able to wear normal shoes again!

Leaving the Canyon

Indian Gardens

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