Saturday, May 19, 2012

Grand Canyon Misadventures

Well, adventure is what you get when everything goes terribly wrong.

That said, things have been going alright, though not as good as hoped. I made it to the Grand Canyon on the 15th, but I fell quite ill a couple days before that while in Dallas visiting my sister, and was still very fatigued. I attribute it to the long days of driving, hardly moving my body, not sleeping great, not eating great, and the stress of a major life change. So it goes. But it meant I had to drastically scale back my plans at the Canyon. I'd wanted to hike the Thunder River Trail, or failing that, the North Bass Trail. Both lead down to the Colorado River. Both are pretty challenging trails, especially the latter, and I knew I was nowhere near up to it. The climb out would have killed me. So, that was a pretty big let down.

I feel like to really appreciate the canyon, you need to hike below the rim, it can't just be a distant visual. Truly, the scale of it baffles both eye and mind; even at Marble Canyon, the very beginning of the Grand Canyon where the road crosses on a bridge (it's still that narrow), the depth is crazy, you get dizzy looking at it, trying to comprehend, to focus, and you have to step back from the rail. It is important to make it a full body experience, to touch, hear, see, smell, uh, taste? So for my case, I was limited to day hikes on the Kaibab Plateau, still nice, but not the same. 

I did try to do an overnighter out at Francois Matthes Point. I say "try" for a reason. It was about 5 miles or so, almost no elevation gain, so I felt I could do it. I drove to the trailhead, sorted out my gear and rations and headed out. It was a pretty hike, starting out through a burn area, still patchy with live trees, but exploding in wildflowers where it had burned, it was like a yellow carpet, beautiful. The trail is unmaintained, though, just an old logging road, and the blowdowns were annoying. But there was the unburned forest areas, shady and cool, dry yet green and alive, and I love me some pine woods. I got almost to the end of the trail when I stopped dead in my tracks, suddenly full of the knowledge that I hadn't packed my sleeping bag. Un-fucking-believable. Insanely stupid, for someone who has as much experience as I do.  

I decided to walk on, contemplating whether I could survive the night with the clothes and such that I had with me. This was depressing, because at 8000' in mid-May, it was still getting down to the 40s at night, and had been windy since I'd gotten to the Canyon. I went to the Point, which was a pretty decent view (duh), and decided to try to tough it out. The whole point was to be out on the rim for sunset and sunrise, away from the crowds (not that they are too bad at all on the North Rim anyway), to enjoy the moments in solitude and full-on nature. 

But then the wind kicked up like crazy, and feeling drained already, knew I could not deal with another night of no sleep. I hiked back, exhausted at a suddenly 10 mile day on a pretty uninteresting trail, just to camp at the damn trailhead. Glad I did though, because the wind was the worst I'd seen it yet that night, gusts had to have been 40 mph. I would have frozen to death, or blown off the rim, or something. There were more than a few moments, laying in my sleeping bag, that I was sure a tree was going to fall on me and my truck; in fact I had to clear a sizable downed tree from the road just to get out the next morning. Yet I slept pretty well that night. Needed it. 

Am feeling better these last two days, and am now in Kanab, UT, just chilling out, letting myself really rest, and waiting for the eclipse tomorrow. Plan to head out to the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument to view it, if the place I found on Google Earth is indeed accessible. Looks like a dirt road there, hard to tell. Then gonna check out a few slot canyons and Ancient Puebloan/Indian ruins as I make my way to Moab. 


  1. It's a good thing you chose sensibility. Sounds like you would have been in peril otherwise.

  2. Yeah, you know you're whipped when ten miles on a trail with flat terrain is something a former thru-hiker calls exhausting. I seem to be fighting something serious here, may even call it quits on this whole moving to Utah idea, go back to Florida, a good job, and... even thinking about college again, though all the hurdles there still put me off. Call this a vacation and be done with it.

    1. So extreme! Sounds to me like you're just a bit out of shape. Maybe it's simply a case that your mind sees yourself as a "through hiker," but your body hasn't regain that form yet.

      My suggestion is to give yourself some time to sort things out. If you go back -- without giving yourself a chance to make your Utah excursion succeed -- you'll end up pining for it again once back east. Of course, all I'm dispensing here is purely armchair advice.

  3. I got to visit that part of the country once, very briefly, when I was 13 and I've wanted to go back ever since. Maybe someday, though I doubt much serious hiking is in my future plans. I pulled a thigh muscle a few years ago, trying to get back in shape to do some hiking/packing. With a family to feed, a business to run, and no health insurance, I'm too worried about a re-injury to even attempt a pickup game with my son these days. Whatever you decide to do, keep moving and keep writing (one keeps the body young while the other maintains the mind).

  4. I bet it's the elevation. You're probably just not used to the high altitude up there. It takes a few weeks to acclimate to it to where you really feel strong again.

    Or maybe it's all that election coverage on NPR you've been listening to! Heh heh.

  5. This is definitely not the elevation. I've been sick since Texas. Seems to be getting worse. Thanks for your concern, everyone. I'm seeing a doctor today and probably heading for home tomorrow. I'll maybe actually try to have a plan next time, or a job waiting. Talked to a guy for a while yesterday works at the BLM, gave me some job hunting tips and ideas. There are just too many omens and signs that this isn't the right thing for me just now.

  6. By the way: I don't listen to the bullshit election coverage.