Grand Canyon 2015


This year's hike was vastly different even though the canyon is so familiar. This was hike number four for yours truly and the first time I've camped at the bottom. Breaking up the hike into two days is definitely worth the price of the pack weight. This hike had such a different flavor considering it moved from center stage of our little weekend to just a preamble to the big deal of getting married the following day. But more about that in a different post.

This year the posse consisted of me, Nathan, Sarah, Xandy, Katherine, and the surprise late arrival of Tessa to our rag tag band. This was Xandy's second hike but everyone else was new to the adventure. It was a little strange for me to be the veteran in charge, but thankfully navigation in the canyon is pretty hard to get wrong so there was little for me to mess up. The disputable highlight of the hike was Tessa joining in at the last minute. I've been talking her up for this hike for years without much interest on her part. This year, considering the group is all family, she was getting it from more than just me. Peer pressure did its part and she jumped in the morning of. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

We flew into Phoenix Friday after work, crashing at the Dents' lovely home (love you guys) for way too short conversation and a few hours of sleep before waking up silly early and driving up to the South rim of the canyon. We stopped in Flagstaff for a quick breakfast and that's where things turned for Tessa. Everyone kept teasing her, "you can still come if you want". This banter was nothing new, but I saw a look on her face that told me that she really wanted to do it. I told her she had about ten minutes to decide and calmly walked through the reality of the situation with her. I told her I had nothing but confidence she could do it, but also assured her that it would be incredibly hard and once she was in it there was no getting out of it (except for that whole climbing up a vertical mile thing). She decided she was in so we all jumped for joy then delayed our start by about an hour to scrounge up a sleeping bag, backpack, hikers, and some clothes for her. She was a truly amazing hiker and everyone agreed that she added a ton to the group. I am infinitely thrilled that she came with us. Not a single complaint the entire time. From Tessa that is, the rest of us complained plenty.

A few days before the hike as I was reminding others to bring some money for postage if they wanted to mail post cards from the bottom of the canyon I had the bright idea to mail our wedding announcements from Phantom Ranch. So into my pack they went. And here we are stamping all of them to save the staff from having to do it.

We hit Indian Gardens a little after dark, which was not ideal, but our later start and the general lazy pace of the day had consequences. We were all pretty exhausted so the goal was to set up camp and get to sleep. Unfortunately it did not work out quite that way. We had passed a small family of three that were struggling as we headed into the last stretch to the campground. They were traveling much, much slower than us but still claimed that they were going to make it to the top that night. The mom had a torn meniscus and the daughter was looking pretty done. Seems the dad had done the rim to rim in a day hike before and miscalculated that tacking on a few extra hours would be sufficient to bring his wife and teenage daughter. Not so. Considering the dark and the cold and their general state of weary we worked hard to convince them to stay at the campground with us. They weren't prepared for an overnight stay so we ended up giving up some of our sleeping mats and sleeping bags to help them out. Which was definitely the right thing to do and I have no regrets, but it was one of the worst nights sleep I've ever had. Too cold and too uncomfortable to get more than short bursts of fitful sleep. The worst part of it though was that I was too generous with our ibuprofen supply. I thought I had more than I did and when I realized I had given away too much I broke into tears knowing that I was the only one in our group that had packed any. There were several in our group that were going to need it badly come day two, but especially knowing that Tessa was in the group the mommy in me was devastated that I no longer had enough. Come morning we begged a few back and rationed the rest of what we had and honestly, just toughed it out to get out of the canyon. It worked out fine in the end but in the dark of night it was certainly an emotional low point for me.

I had complained to Nathan that before our wedding I only had one (one!) decent photo of us together, a whopping total of two if you counted a dismal one of us hiking. Close to the very first words out of my mouth when we decided to get married were something about the fact that I would very much want to have a photographer at our wedding. And look how Nathan stepped up! So many pictures!

The hike went well for everyone. We all had different moments of difficulty, but in general spirits were high. The weather was beautiful and I discovered that morale stays pretty high when you're not fighting the dark to get out of the canyon. Once again I am amazed at the whole endeavor. Amazed at the beauty, at my awe and reverence, at the camaraderie, at the triumph. Can't wait for next time.

More pics here.


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