Greetings from Grand Canyon National Park

We survived the Grand Canyon.

There aren’t enough adjectives to convey how hard this hike was for me. Strenuous, arduous, grueling, punishing, debilitating, brutal, harsh, Herculean, monstrous… you get the idea. Full disclosure: I’m 60 years old and have lived my whole life at sea level. We hiked a lot (at sea level) to try to train for this.

Nothing prepared me for this.

My hiking buddy Brian Childress persuaded my husband and me to hike down and back, spending a night at Bright Angel campground.

Brian decided that my trail name was Tater Tot and how? Why? Who TF knows. I don’t eat tater tots. The man is crazy.

Brian named himself Turd Ferguson and that suits him well. My husband named him Chief Peezinboks and there’s a great reason why. I’d tell y’all if it would shame him but it won’t.

We left the South Kaibab trailhead at 10:30, arrived Bright Angel campground at 6:30. Pitched camp wearing headlamps and inhaled a lot of moths and biting bugs. Brian cooked our dinner - Mountain Home freeze dried beef stew. These camping meals are pretty good in any other situation but Rob and I were so queasy from exertion we couldn’t finish them. I swallowed more bugs and cared not. I hope a lot of them were the sweat bees that kept stinging us. The rat bastards.

I crawled in the tent and prayed for the ibuprofen to kick in.

We paid for a down-and-back mule pack to carry most of our camping equipment. $150 total. In the future, pay the higher cost and get a bunk in the bunkhouse!

Seeing the stars from the bottom of the GC is amazing, magical to look up through the top of our tent — we eschewed the rain fly to allow more ventilation. Listened to the night sounds of crickets and katydids? And cicadas and thought it was all so wonderfully calming. We had inflatable thermarests (thank you, pack mules) and fashioned pillows with a stuff sack and the sleeping bags - too hot for the bags. But the day before the lows at Bright Angel had been 40 degrees so the sleeping bags were necessary. Better safe than sorry. Seriously.

The low was about 65 during our night under the stars.

We heard skittering and scratching throughout the night then about 3:30 I was jolted awake by 2 ring-tailed cats growling and snarling right at my feet. I screamed, flailed at the tent, woke up Rob who thought they were coming in through the roof, he yelled, and I guess they ran off (laughing and high-fiving). Ok, so sleep was over for me and since the ringtails literally scared the pee out of me I decided to lie on the picnic table bench and watch the falling stars. (They were very cool.)

Stupid cats.

The only smart thing I planned was breakfast at the Phantom Ranch: flapjacks, sausage, bacon, eggs, juice, coffee and more. Our host Alfredo spoke to us afterwards about religious pilgrimages and I wish I could have felt the grandeur and spiritual renewal that this adventure is meant to awaken in us puny humans. But I knew I had 11-12 hours of misery hiking from 3,000 feet to 6,000 feet, up the Bright Angel Trail to the GC South Rim.

Much cussing ensued.

Brian helped us both by taking some of the weight and giving me his hiking stick. I should have taken 2, not 1.

This hike is a young person’s game. I said I was going to carpe diem and attempt it before turning 60. I shoulda run with the bulls in Pamplona. Or just knocked myself on the head with balpeen hammer.

Three young teenaged boys saw me from a much higher switchback and started chanting “First Success, Then You Rest.” They passed me (headed down to a lookout point) and all congratulated me and encouraged me to keep going. (I would have paid them $100 to take my pack up the rest of the way)

Other folks clapped & congratulated me at the very end.

That was an emotional and heartfelt finale for which I’m very grateful.

It was the hardest, most physically grueling thing I’ve ever done but also the most incredible. Don’t wait until you are 60 to experience it!

Sincerely,
Leigh

Grand Canyon National Park

America’s Southwest is full of breathtaking canyons, but none as famous or as widely visited as the Grand Canyon. This world-famous landmark offers wondrous views, spectacular hiking, exhilarating whitewater rafting and countless adventures. One look across the enormous chasm confirms just why this inspirational place is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and a must-see destination for so many travelers. The park also protects a wealth of biological diversity, including numerous endemic and threatened species and several rare ecosystems.

State(s): Arizona

Established: 1919

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