Tag Archives: sweat

canyon climb

23 Feb

Climbing down and up the Grand Canyon has always been a dream of mine, but after inquiring about the food costs (60 dollars for 2 meals), I realize this is a dream far too spendy for me to undertake. Disheartened, I decide to walk around the top, but then I meet Charles, 72 years old, who inspires me to take the plunge by telling me he “goes down and up in one day,” and that if I want to forgo the expensive food I can “always survive on the cafeteria’s 3 dollar bagel and cream cheese.” Convinced, I head for the South Kaibab trail (13 km), walk past all the experienced hikers with their REI gear, me in my long black leather jacket, I look out of place, and I am sure I conjure up a few laughs every time I pass one of these die hard climbers.

The climb down from the rim is slippery due to the snow and ice, but as the descent goes deeper into the canyon, the red rocks emerge; the deep red appears to melt the ice. I walk in silence down the canyon breathing in the serenity of the immense valley that stands before my eyes. I pass an elderly couple in their 80’s, both carrying huge knapsacks. How are they going to make it with such a load? My pace quickens due to the steep inclination, and at this rate, I am sure to make it down before the sun sets. Then I feel a burning sensation in my toe and an ache in my knees. Ugh, a blister! Not much to do about it but concentrate on getting down. Finally the horizon opens up to the amazing blue of the Colorado River, and I know I am almost there. I see the hanging bridge, the canyon cliffs jut out to the sky above the beautiful blue. I wander through the green Maple trees below, pass the ancient kiva and dwelling place of the Pueblo tribe, and follow the river towards the Phantom Ranch Lodge; the only lodge down below. Soon night falls in, out of the dark the old couple finally comes wondering in; sweaty and tired they have made it down after dark, after many hours. The pain in my knees lingers on, and the exhaustion has kicked in. I dread about tomorrow’s hike up. I gaze at the silhouette of the canyon against the night blue sky. One star stands visible from below. It feels like a magical night sitting in the belly of the earth listening to the old, old river, and watching the stars.

The next day I am up early, and on my way. I am instructed to follow the hikers and to go slow. After a while I realize I have to do what my body tells me. I begin to walk fast, and I concentrate on my body and breathing, I fall into a meditative state. Then a helicopter flies in. Was it sent for the old couple? Apparently they were mistakenly told to bring down extra bedding and food. I continue my ascent, and finally I can see the rim again. A big black raven lands beside me and begins to crow. I know he is cheering me on and I feel I must continue at this fast pace. But then I come face to face with the tour group on mule, each pays $550 for the ride! The guide tells old cowboy stories, as the tourists laugh automatically. Its just too Disneylandish, I desperately need to pass about 15 mules to get away from it. Fortunately the mules outpace me, and I am left, once again, to the silence of the canyon. Every turn requires effort and concentration. I walk alone towards the top. I thought I would never make it. My whole body aches, I can barely walk. My body and spirit humbled, as I realize I am more out of shape than a 72 year old. I continue towards the parking lot and see the cheering raven waiting in a tree. Yes, I guess I finally made it.

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