So, I hiked the Grand Canyon and then I went away. Seems about right, yeah? So, here’s the Grand Grand Canyon post I promised! Hopefully it’ll be worthwhile.
That Saturday morning we woke up, had breakfast, loaded up the car and took ridiculous photos and posted them on the Instagrams and Facebooks because that is how we live our lives now, ok? OK.
Then we drove. We drove toward the Canyon. And we were all a bundle of nerves and excited energy and we chatted and had roadsign Tourrettes and smartassery and were just, generally, ourselves.
We arrive to the Canyon and I cannot WAIT for them to all see if. This is the first time my friends had all seen the Grand Canyon. RIGHT?!?!? Everyone needs to see the Grand Canyon and I will take you all because that’s how strongly I feel about that! And they are all appropriately impressed and I cry because oh my god it is so pretty and oh my god we’re going down there! WE’RE GOING DOWN THERE!
Off we go to find where we meet the shuttle and we get all dropped off and my car parked and we look at the Canyon from a vantage point I’d never been to and then we load up in the shuttle and we ride for, like, SIX hours. But it actually went by quickly. We enjoyed the views and talked and napped and all the things you do when you’re in a shuttle for six hours.
We see a forest that was burned out thanks to a lightning strike, herds of elk, and then we finally arrived to the North Rim. A first for us all.
Our campsite was SO CLOSE to the rim! That was a surprise. And the North Rim is oh my god so pretty. Pine trees and aspens and far less people and amazing views. So nice. We took pictures, set up camp, had dinner, and watched the sunset. And with the magic of putting our phones in just the right areas at just the right time we each were able to do one last post before our big trip.
The next morning we woke up early and got ourselves fed and on the way to the trailhead and to say that the energy was high would be an understatement. We were all amped the fuck up, y’all.
As we were walking the over a mile walk to the actual trailhead I was getting super nervous. My pack did NOT feel right. At all. And I was worried. Because, um, we’re not even started yet for real and I’m already uncomfortable holy shit what did I get myself and my friends into holy fuck?!?!? Then we arrive to the trailhead and we’re doing selfies and group shots because we’re a bunch of nerds and photographers so this is going to happen A LOT when Dave says “Andrea, why does your pack look so wrong?” I took it off, he did some adjustments, I put it back on and it was instant relief. THANK YOU SO MUCH DAVE.
Then off we went. Down the North Kaibab Trail. And we, of course, were all “Look at us! We’re finally hiking into the Grand Canyon!” because we were just beside ourselves with glee. We stopped to marvel over how amazing the Canyon is. We stopped and proclaimed “Look! Mount Humphreys!” anytime we could see it. We determined that the Canyon is Majestic As Fuck! and proudly proclaimed it as we saw fit. We stopped and talked to other hikers to give them encouragement and to ask questions about what was ahead for us.
Basically, we took a long time going down because we were like overly stimulated toddlers.
The first day was the day I was the most nervous about. It was the day that I’d be on the portion of the trail that everyone felt would be scary and upsetting to me. But? Not one single thing about it upset me. I was too much in awe of where I was and what I was doing to be concerned with anything else. I was too full of happy to be all up in my head. And it was glorious.
I will say, however, that it was a lot of unrelenting down and by the end of that day my hips were sore. But Jeff and I just did some stretches and that was that!
Before we made it to Cottonwood Camp we were worn out. We were ready for the day to be over. We took too long and we let the Sun come up and the temps get high and we were tired. We wound up with a campsite that was in full Sun, little shade, and it was a nice walk to the creek. But the creek was in full Sun, too, so it’s not like we could sit there all day, either. But we made it all work. We would go down and sit with our feet in the creek for a bit. Then we’d refill our bucket, dip our hats in the creek, and walk back to camp. We’d sit as still as possible. Like lizards. Expending as little energy as possible watching the Sun approach the high Canyon walls to provide shade. As soon as that happened? We felt the temp drop at least 10 degrees and we were able to move and be alive once again! So we ate dinner and played games (“I’m the Countess!”) and enjoyed the rest of the day.
We went to bed that night excited about what we’d done and with a plan to get up and moving early the next day so we’d get through The Box before the Sun was too high so we’d not die. The Internet told us we’d die in The Box. The Internet can be so dramatic, you guys.
While we were in the Grand Canyon the moon was full. Which, of course, killed our plans to enjoy all of the stars and the Milky Way but we did, instead, enjoy the brightest moon we’d ever seen before! Like, it was so bright that each of us, individually, woke up in the middle of the night and asked “Who the hell has a light on?” Space, fuckers. Space has the light on. Go to sleep.
The next morning we woke up and packed up and got on the trail a little later than we wanted but still before 5am. But for some reason my pack was leaking. And I was not having it. Jeff wanted to wait to figure it out but I was all “NO TO THAT!” and I turned into The Hulk and I lifted my 30lb pack OVER MY HEAD AND BODY SLAMMED IT!! Which made Dave say “Well that’s not helpful.” To which my face said “Shut it.”
I fixed the leak, I apologized for being a maniac, and off we went! Towards The Box!
We made AWESOME time, thanks to Jeff keeping us on pace. We made it through The Box in complete shade! We stopped and had snacks there, talked to other hikers, took photos, etc and so forth. All in the shade. It was awesome. As we approached Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Campground, though, the Sun was making itself known. But we got an excellent campsite and spent the day in the creek.
This day may be my favorite one. They were all amazing, do not get me wrong. But the whole Phantom Ranch/Bright Angel Campground area had a really cool summer camp type of vibe that I really liked. The views were amazing. Sitting in the creek all day to stay cool was relaxing. Spending time talking to Jeff and Dave and getting to know Amy was just super nice. And we had access to ice cold tea, beer, and snacks. Why wouldn’t this be my favorite day?!?!
Park Rangers walked around more at this camp and talked to hikers and campers and they do nightly programs at Phantom Ranch that everyone can participate in so we walked down for that and learned about the native plant life in the Canyon and watched a mule deer eat her dinner.
On one trip to the bathroom we saw our one and only snake. I small one, not even sure what brand it was. But it slithered across our path and I did mom arm to stop Jeff from getting near it and life was good.
We went to sleep that night feeling pretty good, I think. Ready for the next day’s trek, which started out flat and ended on the incline towards Indian Garden Campground.
The next morning we get up, get our breakfast on, get our packs on, and headed for the bathrooms since they were on our way out. What I discovered once I went to the bathroom was that my period had arrived and then a lightbulb went off and said “Oooooh, that’s why I’ve been a maniac!” But, I was not prepared for this event. Like a dummy. So I had to just use the old balled up, wadded up toilet paper trick. At this point we’d already been naming our poo and being super mature and gross so I just told everyone “Guess what? I started my period and I am unprepared.” Dave, ever the boy scout, proclaims “Well, you have extra socks!” and we hit the trail.
When I’m on my period, the first day sucks. I get cramps really bad. My uterus really is an asshole and likes to be dramatic. So, carrying my pack with cramps and a wadded up ball of toilet paper in my crotch didn’t really lead me to feel super terrific so when we had to trudge through some sandy type beach like trail I wasn’t thrilled. But! I was still in the Grand Canyon so I didn’t really let it get me down. I’m not an idiot.
As we encountered lady hikers that I recognized from camp I’d ask them if they had supplies. I got a lot of no. But I couldn’t worry too much about that because we were headed towards The Devil’s Corkscrew. A nice series of switchbacks that seem to never end. Or, at least that’s what the Internet told us. I found it to be a nice series of switchbacks. I’m so positive.
This hike was more of the same yet totally different. Lovely Canyon views and us being a mix of excited and tired. When we arrived at Indian Garden Campground we were not quite prepared for how lovely it was. And most sites were in full shade! We had a covered picnic table! Just all the shade!
The tradeoff? The bathroom was UP A FUCKING HILL!!! Really? We’ve been hiking our asses off for how many days and now I also have to walk up hill just to pee. Bastards. All of them.
I spent most of this day watching lizards play and laying my head on the table in an attempt to ignore the cramps. Oh! But I did find a lady camper that we’d been friendly with that had just finished her period and gave me all of her supplies!! OH HAPPY DAY!
However, by this point eating was a chore for me. I have no idea why. All I know is that it would take me an hour to eat one meal today. I had to force it. I just couldn’t do it. But I did. And it was fine.
We had discussed going to Plateau Point for the sunset but then Amy, Jeff, and I all determined that nope, we wanted to preserve our energy for the next day’s up and out trek. Dave, the energy bunny of the group, went. And he enjoyed it immensely and we enjoyed his photos so it’s all fine and good.
The next day we wake up and get ourselves packed and fed and on the trail bright and early yet again. We’re pros at that. And as we’re walking up the trail we’re approaching a Canyon wall and wondering, how the hell are we getting out of here are we climbing THAT?!?!? The answer was “We are climbing that but there are switchbacks and rest houses and it’s not just a sheer wall like it appears, settle down, gosh.”
We’re fairly giddy and slaphappy by this point. We’ve enjoyed the Canyon and we feel accomplished and we’re on the way out and we’re just slap happy, man. And Dave was like a damn sprite bouncing up the trail and making announcements and a lady from a group that had been hiking on the same schedule as us said “Can I slap him?” and we gave her permission. Without hesitation.
As we were walking up the the trail I was having to stop a lot to catch my breath. Jeff finally said “Why are you walking so fast?!” and then proceeded to tell me that I’m not holding anyone back, I’m catching up with people that keep walking as I stop to take breaks and that what I need to do is find my pace and stick with that. A slow, steady pace. It really will win the race, you guys. Because once I shortened my stride and just walked slowly up the Bright Angel trail? I didn’t have to stop near as often. I just kept moving forward. Go Jeff!
We stopped at the 3 miles rest house and took off our packs and had snacks for about 20 minutes. Jeff was taking photos of me and Amy when my hat blew off and the thickets Southern accent ever escaped my mouth and I proclaimed “MAH HARRR!” when I realized how bad my hair must look by this point. And then Amy and I got the giggles because of “Lawd, Jaysus, it’s a faaar.” Who doesn’t love Sweet Brown? Nobody I want to know, that’s who.
So, we rested and giggled and snacked and then up we started again toward the mile and a half rest house.
This part of the trail really is just switchbacks. I’m not sure why people make a big deal out of the Devil’s Corkscrew portion when the entire way out is switchbacky. People, I tell you. People.
I continue to maintain my slow and steady and I continue to hand out the electrolyte gummy chews like a drug pusher. And we made it to the mile and a half rest house.
By this point we’re encountering people coming down and they’re asking us questions and it’s nice but mostly we’re still just the four of us in the rest house being the four of us. I’m sitting in the floor and I turn on my phone to see. I have signal! I let notifications come in and I only answer one text. Then, as I look up and out the window of the rest house I can see the Canyon. All that we’ve just hiked. And I legit started to cry because I was just so proud of me and my friends and filled with amazement and all of it. And Dave said “Jeff, give her a tissue. I’m not even kidding.” I’m such a sap.
After a nice 30 minutes we decide to finish this thing. We make a plan to stop at the top to take a triumphant group selfie and off we go at our own paces.
As we are going up we’re starting to run into more and more people making their way down. And just as we had given hikers encouragement on their way up three days earlier, these folks did the same and it felt amazing. Strangers smiling at us and telling us that we’re almost there! you’re doing great! Asking when we started and from where and being impressed! It really was awesome and I’m so happy that we did that to hikers we encountered instead of thinking that would be lame. It’s not lame. At all.
Then I realize….these people smell FANTASTIC! Every single one of them smelled so good. That’s how we all walk around daily and take for granted. Now I know this. Thank you, Grand Canyon.
As we reach the top we’re getting more and more giddy, Dave is going more and more ahead and giving us the progress report, people are being more and more smiley and congratulatory, and we’re just plowing ahead to get to the top and we’re exhilarated and sad that it’s going to be over so soon.
When we reach the top Dave pulls out his flask and we all take a shot of whiskey. Then selfies happened and photos of individuals and talking to other Canyon guests and the group shot just didn’t really happen. We just got too giddy.
Calls were made, posts were made, talking to people at the top happened. It was a whirlwind.
We dragged ourselves to breakfast. Our stinky, dirty selves. And they welcomed us. And we ordered food. Real food. Made in a kitchen. And as it was placed in front of us we all started eating like bears. Arms protecting our plates as if someone may steal it from us. No talking. No giggling. No smartassery. For half of our plates. Then we finally came up for air and slowed down a bit.
I made it to the car much easier than I thought I would. I mean, I just hiked the Grand Canyon and now I also have to walk to get the car?!?!? But I did it. And I smiled and floated the entire way because I JUST HIKED THE GRAND CANYON!!
We loaded up and found the camp showers. I had no idea a tiny pay for use shower would be so damned amazing. But it was. And we smelled like the others once again. We no longer showed signs of our achievement.
And then off we went to be tourists. But now? We’re part of the 1%. The 1% that make it to the bottom and back successfully. I’ll never be simply a tourist at the Canyon again.
(Here are photos that we took in the Canyon. It is a mix of all four of ours. Enjoy!)