so my 2nd thru 4th days here at the canyon will be comprised by a hike down into the canyon, spending two nights at the bottom, and hiking back out on thursday. the following two posts will detail the adventure.
i had a shuttle-to-the-trailhead to catch at 7am. the earliest place to get coffee opened at 6:30am. this was going to be close. i was like a vulture waiting outside the cafeteria that was supPOSED to open at 6:30 but didn’t unlock it’s doors until 6:40. i was getting nervous. but i got my coffee and got to my shuttle no problem. phew. that coulda been bad. but i’m not addicted, really. i just knew i needed it THIS day.
i finally started my hike down at about 8am. i had about 8 miles and 4500 vertical feet down ahead of me. i was a little intimidated, but i’ve hiked pretty substantial elevation before. they say it’s a pretty intense hike down to the bottom – and i’m sure in the summer it’s even more intense when it’s 115 DEGREES. yikes. i’ll stick with my 55-degrees-and-cool-breeze thanks. this picture at the trailhead made me laugh –
i think it’s funny that the observed message - with our eyes drawn to the picture of the guy who has just had a heart attack - is that they are basically telling you that they don’t want to drag your corpse back up to the top if you keel over because you’re too out of shape to hike down to the bottom or aren’t careful or are just stupid and don’t drink enough water. anyways. i begin my way down.
and it’s a beautiful hike down. i try to look around as much as i can while keeping an eye on my footing – as i’ve got nearly 50 pounds on my back. for every bit of elevation i go down, the views change. i feel really lucky to get to experience the canyon by going down in it. during one of the ranger programs i went to at the bottom (yes, i’m a nerd), i learned that only about 1% of the 5 million visitors to the park each year actually hike all the way to the bottom. that’s crazy! i would have guessed a lot more than that. but apparently i have joined an elite few. i mean, that’s still 50,000 people a year, but out of 5 million! AND, since half of the allotted people per night at the bottom stay at this mini-resort-ish ranch place, only 25,000 people a year are actually hardcore enough to FULLPACK all their gear down to the bottom and camp in the campground. booya for me.
my thoughts on the way down are largely (obviously) about what i’m carrying, as my back (and my legs!) begin to feel the weight of my full pack by about mile 3. and i realize, as i periodically do when i’m backpacking, that i’m carrying EVERYthing i need to survive right on my back. i’m probably carrying even MORE than i really need to survive actually. and every time my mind settles on that, i think about how much CRAP we all own. i especially am very aware of my crap, seeing as i just shipped about 2500 pounds of it across the country, and have my car full of whole bunch more. why do we acquire so much stuff? i have spent a lot of time over the last couple years thinking a lot about simplicity, and how i can slowly orient my life toward living more simply. and one of my biggest hang-ups has been all my stuff. i can’t seem to rid myself of it. i don’t really know what to do about it, but i am very aware of my crap – and most notably the 50 pounds of it that i have on my back. it’s certainly hard to ignore it when it’s literally weighing down on me. and it’s easy to be aware of our possessions since we can see them surrounding us every day. but what about our internal crap? how aware are we of that? i, too, have been trying to get a better handle on my internal stuff lately – emotions, reactions, needs, etc. it’s a bit more difficult to get rid of ‘frustration’ or ‘resentment’ or ‘envy’, than it is to toss out that old bed or those knick-knacks from some trip 8 years ago. it’s a bit more painful too. but i’m glad i’ve become more aware of my crap. i think it will help in the long run.
i get to the bottom of the canyon in about 4 hours. it’s a perfect day. i head back to the campground and stake my claim. it’s about 1, so i head back out toward the river and take up residence on small stretch of sand on the shore. i head down to the water, and i stick my feet in the mighty colorado river. i let the 47 degree water numb my toes and the tops of my feet. the river looks strong – like it has taken lives before. i sit for a number of hours and read on the bank. i’ve started Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. it’s really good. as i head back to camp i stumble across a ranger program and sit in. all told, i ended up going to 4 different ranger programs while i was down there. it was great. i learned about the civilian conservation corps, bats, plants of the grand canyon, and the geology of the grand canyon. i love learning new stuff.
so that was my first day. it was amazing, and by far the most experiential and emotive. i’ll put day 2 and 3 in another post.