So, this weekend was the big birthday trip and I spent the big weekend with two of my favorite boys (excluding my dad of course, who really is more of a man, so he doesn't qualify for this category). Sorry if you were one of the many men who thought you were my favorite. Perhaps you'll have your chance to attain that status if we ever do something like this:
Scott and Paul and I had an incredible weekend backpacking the Grand Canyon. I know this may sound dumb, but I really had no idea how BIG the Grand Canyon really is. The pictures don't even do it justice. It was AMAZING!! The vastness and beauty were breathtaking (as was the hike from Bright Angel Campground back up to the rim of the canyon...literally...I had no breath).
I was about to say "I'll spare you the details" but unfortunately I am who I am and it's impossible for me to do such a thing. Just so you can be impressed with how amazing the Grand Canyon is (and how amazing we are for hiking it) I'll not spare you the details.
With about 4 hours of pretend sleep under my belt, we began the descent into the Canyon on Saturday morning, taking the South Kaibab trail (which is about 7 miles and about 4780 ft elevation change). I was a little worried that my 30-year old body, particularly my knees, wouldn't be able to handle the trip...but she held up just fine. I had to do lots of IT band stretches and maybe looked like I had cerebral palsy going downhill with my two hiking poles, but I made it down unscathed except for a blister on my right hand that burst about an hour into the 5 hour hike. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and got hotter and hotter as we went further into the canyon (which made me nothing but happy since I've been living in drearyville these days).
We made it to the bottom in a little under 5 hours, found a lovely campsite right by a river that feeds into the Colorado, and then hit the beach. Yes, there is a beach at the bottom, on the banks of the Colorado River. I was initially upset that I forgot a bathing suit and was about ready to strip down to my sports bra and dive in...until I got my feet wet and realized that the water was FREEZING! A few brave souls (including Paul) took the dive, but I'm my father's daughter and I HATE cold water. I was perfectly contented to lounge on the beach in the shade of a tree. We met up with some of Paul's fellow trainees (he is at the GC for 2 weeks for a National Park Service Training with people from National Parks all over the country) then went back to the camp site for some much needed grub. Paul made us a delicious din din of camp quesadillas...YUM!! After dinner we hung out on Scott's raft of a bed roll and chatted with our new friends. Then we headed to the mess hall at Phantom Ranch (yes, there is also a ranch at the bottom) for a night cap (or cocoa). We hit the hay around 9:00 and spent an amazing night sleeping under the most beautiful starlit sky of my life (and I even saw a shooting star just before falling asleep).
We woke up early (5 am) the next morning and prepared for our hike out. This time we were taking the Bright Angel Trail which is about 9.3 miles and 4460 ft elevation change. I started the morning off strong and was trucking through the first 4.5 miles. I found this hike to be SO beautiful! I loved the stream and the canyon walls and the brief glimpses of the entire canyon below. It was amazing. We met up with our friends who started the ascent earlier than us and continued with them for the rest of the day. They provided some much needed entertainment. I continued strong through Devil's Corkscrew to Indian Garden, the lovely little mid-way point. We hung out, had some food, and took a jaunt to Plateau Point (though Scott and I got distracted by a photo shoot and didn't make it all the way there). I was feeling great at this point, knowing we were half way there. But, then I realized that in the first 4.5 miles we gained 1300 ft in elevation. And in the second half, we were covering about the same distance but gaining 3000 ft in elevation. YIPES!! I made the mistake of filling my 3 liter camelback, which was totally unnecessary considering there was a water station in a mile and a half. It weighed me down a bit and I was definitely quite a bit slower in the second half. But, me and my 35 pound backpack trudged up the endless switchbacks. I won't say it was easy. My hips were begging me to just stop, drop my pack, and make my home on the ridge. But, I will say that it was completely amazing, beautiful, and gratifying. Scott (and his previously unknown to me competitive streak) raced up the canyon in the second half. He turned a switchback ahead of us and was never to be seen again. When we finally made it to the top, it was pure, sweet success! I saw a couple with ice cream cones and yelled "ICE CREAM!" and b-lined it for the soda fountain shop. Rainbow Sherbet never tasted so good.
Scott and I had early flights to catch on Monday morning, so we went back to Paul's place, showered, and then headed back to Phoenix (with a brief stop at Arby's where we gorged ourselves on all of the fried food we could get our hands on). We visited with his cousin, took a dip in the hot tub, ate some more food (c'mon, we burned a LOT of calories on the hike) and then crashed out. I woke up exactly 2 minutes before our planned 4 am departure time and we headed to the airport. Every step was excruciating and I hated the idea of putting the pack on my back one more time. Scott even ditched most of his belongings (including throwing his hiking shoes in the trash) to lighten the load.
So, the big trip for the big 3-o was about as big and as good as it could get. I had an amazing time with my two BFs, was reminded of God's love and the beauty of the earth, and came to know myself a little better. BIG thanks to Paul and Scott for making it such an amazing and memorable weekend. You guys are great and I miss you both already! I'd love to go back and do it again if anyone's up for it. Though, while I'm glad I backpacked it the first time around (mostly so I can say I've done it), next time I would definitely book a room at Phantom Ranch which would require only a day pack.
And now, just like aunt Mildred, I'm going to subject you to a slide show of my photos of My Trip to the Grand Canyon (totally cliche, I know). But, at least you can look at them at your leisure (or not look at them at all) and you don't even need to feign interest!