Monthly Archives: August 2014

Grand Canyon Part Trois

As we all left Phantom Ranch we agreed to split into two groups. Terry, Herb and Rick would hike together and Mark and I would run together. It was a great plan… but it didn’t work out all that well. Mark and I took off across Silver Bridge and recrossed the Colorado River to the southern side of the canyon and onto Bright Angel Trail as the others started their walk. If I remember correctly we quickly gained a bit of altitude and briefly paralleled the river from on high. From there we could look down and see a few river rafting groups who were taking breaks on shore before heading further down river.

As we turned away from the river to continue our assault on the rim I gradually pulled ahead of Mark. I agreed to wait for him at each of the three or four water stops to come so we could regroup and make sure all was well. The other guys were left to their own stick-together strategies. This trail seemed easier than South Kaibab but it was also longer. I waited probably less than ten minutes for Mark at the first water stop. We filled up on water and pressed on.

The next stop was going to be Indian Gardens — one of the most popular stops on the South rim corridor trails. On the way there I was shocked by how varied the terrain and vegetation were. I would be on steep, hot, dry, rocky trails only to sweep around a corner and run in a flattish area with a grove of cool shady deciduous trees and running water. There were also places where water ran across the trail. These were welcome respites wherein I’d dunk my hot, tired, dusty feet in cold, clear goodness.

I got to Indian Gardens and noted that the outdoor thermometer read 99 degrees. I got some strange looks from lots of the people there. I assume it was because I was traveling so lightly — many of them were laden down with extra clothing, walking sticks, backpacks, food and gallons of water. I tanked up on H2O, reloaded my bottles then relaxed as I awaited Mark’s arrival. He trotted in about twenty  minutes later and after a few minutes of rest we were off again.

Mark was suffering a bit and I knew the next stop the wait would be longer. I kept cruising at a steady run until about two miles from the top of the rim. Fatigue, which makes cowards of us all, finally kicked in and I was reduced to a jog/walk for pretty much the rest of the way. I got to the final stop and after waiting for about forty minutes Terry showed up. He had passed Mark who was still going but was very tired. I don’t even remember how much longer I waited for Mark but probably figured he could make it the remaining mile and a half to the rim. I reasoned that If I didn’t see him at the top after half and hour I’d go looking for him.

I ran the last 600 yards or so to the top of the rim and rewarded myself by finding a restroom to pee (at least I was fairly well hydrated) followed by situating myself so I could watch people come up to the top of Bright Angel trail. Terry found me and told me Mark had taken a little turn off at the top and had opted for some cool icy dessert. Mark then joined us as we waited for Rick and Herb.

As buddies, Rick and Herb go way back. They were both Wisconsin boys who went to UW-Madison and ran in local road races in the greater “Madtown” area. Back in the day they were quite studly endurance athletes.

Oh how the mighty had fallen. In the fading light of dusk we peered down the trail and caught sight of Herb helping Rick negotiate his final struggling steps up to the finish. I was sure their roles would be reversed but on this day Herb was the stronger man.

Having regrouped, our sorry lot must have been a sight to behold as we lurched toward our van parked about a quarter-mile away. Every step brought wincing pain from muscles and sinews that had been pushed way beyond their conditioning. Taking the last flight of stairs down to the parking lot was a hoot as we crabbed our way down sideways and backwards to ease the pain of muscles that protested every action of being put upon.

We piled into the van and there Terry announced he would not be camping tonight as we’d prearranged. He wanted a decent restaurant meal, a shower and a soft place to rest his head. Not a peep of dissension came from the ranks as we pointed the vehicle toward Williams, Arizona to try our luck in securing hotel rooms with all the trimmings.

But again, that is another story.

Grand Canyon Part Deux

We were starting in the shade but we could see the North rim was already in direct sunlight. Even though it was the second week of September we knew it could get plenty hot. We each carried water (at least enough to get us to the next water stop along the trail) and our own particular idea of proper fuel. I had lots of gels and bars and gummy items as well as a fat bag of corn nuts. That, a pocket camera and two 26 oz. water bottles was all I carried in my water belt. Rick and I wore racing flats for the journey.

The trip down the canyon was full of twists and turns with lots of leaping from one uneven surface to another. The trail was well maintained but that didn’t mean it was smooth going. In places it was more like running down a set of very uneven stairs — a small stair here, followed by a large step and again a huge step and a normal one… x 17 miles.

We had about half an hour of shade before we descended enough and the sun rose enough to greet us with its killer smile. Don’t get me wrong I love the sun. Where would we be without it? It’s just that it was now going to be our constant companion for the rest of the trip.

After a few running spurts that took me well ahead of my companions it became clear to me that some of my fellows had not done the requisite training to run this whole thing. I’d run ahead for a while and wait for five or ten minutes and we’d regroup. Rinse and repeat.

In addition to the magnificent scenery I was greeted with a few strange sights. At one point I smelled cigarette smoke. WTF? I decided to investigate and just over the lip of the trail, hidden from sight was some dude kicking back with his ciggie puffing away. There went my illusions that this was unanimously revered as a sacred site.

Another time I came around a bend and there, sitting just off the trail was what had to be at least a 16″ cast iron skillet. I took a picture of it (I should have put my shoe in it for scale) and pondered what crazy skit played out that resulted in its deposit in so precarious a place. For the next fifteen minutes I giggled to myself as one cockamamie scenario after another drifted through my dehydrating brain.

One thing you’ll discover about the GC is that from most points on the rim you can’t see the bottom. People drive up, get out of their cars and peer into what looks like a large wide hole. They then get back into their vehicles and drive off content that one more item on the bucket list is ticked off.

WRONG!  Hell no, all wrong!

You can’t really experience the canyon unless you go down into it. I prefer the trails but others swear by river rafting. No matter. To quote Kool & The Gang you gotta “get down on it.” Only by subjecting yourself to the terrain and variety this beauty shovels up can you feel the pulse, the rhythm and the life of the place. Trust me on this one.

At one point after about 45 minutes of steady descent we saw the Colorado river. Another ten or fifteen minutes and we were taking the black bridge over the river to the other side. We ran as a group the last little bit to Phantom Ranch and took a 45 minute break while we refueled on luscious lemonade and cooled our heels in the welcomed shade.

Well this is taking longer to tell than I thought so I’ll have to wrap it up on my next post.

See you then.

Grand Canyon Sweet

Seven years ago — the week after Labor Day weekend — four of my buddies and I took a road trip from San Diego to the Grand Canyon (the real one — not the one pictured above). We were going to try to run from South Kaibab trail on the South rim, across the Colorado river to Phantom ranch then back across the Colorado and finish by going up Bright Angel trail. The whole excursion would be about seventeen miles.

The ride to the GC was one big loooooong laughathon. I can’t be more specific than that but suffice it to say it was hugely hilarious to reconnect and ride along with my buds.

The night before our canyon assault we all camped out in Kaibab National Forest. We just pulled off the road and threw up our (individual) tents. We started a fire and cooked our dinner. It didn’t take long for things to cool WAY the f@!k down once the sun set. I was shivering by the time I got to my tent.

During the night the temps just got colder and colder. I was forced to put on every warm thing I’d brought but was still teeth-chatteringly cold. I pulled my down bag over my head and waited for sun up. The first rays of dawn streamed through my bag and revealed that only a few stray pieces of down were in the upper part of my bag. The rest of the down had settled into the bottom of my bedding — I hadn’t really used this bag since I took a cross-country bike trip when I was twenty and the bag was shot. No wonder I was freezing!

Around 7am we broke camp and settled into the van for the trip to the GC park entrance. The van’s temperature LED readout registered 32 degrees. I knew I wasn’t hallucinating the cold.

We got to the entrance and were informed that it was National Park Day and we got free admission. Sweet! We parked the van, got geared up and took a tram to the trailhead of South Kaibab. At the trailhead kiosk we were greeted with a posted story of a woman who was a sub-3:00 marathoner who the year before had succumbed to unwise decisions in the canyon.

Sobered by this epitaph we headed into the gaping maw of the canyon and began our trek. It was 8am and my knees were knocking from the coolness of the air and the anticipation of the adventure to come.

To be continued…

Yum…Eek!

I know I haven’t posted much text lately but sometimes I don’t have an accompanying story so I just let the cartoon speak for itself rather than bore you with some made up filler. This is one of those times. See you next post.

 

Viddiction

So this morning I’m buying some veggies at a great little produce place near where I live and I can’t help but notice that the checkout clerk is blazing fast. He packed my recycle bag quicker than I could fish out my wallet. No sooner did I hand him my credit card than he spat back the receipt for me to sign. I was about to leave when I remembered I needed one additional item.

I ran over to the salad area and grabbed a red bell pepper. As I was jogging back to the clerk he was looking expectantly at me. So I tossed the pepper maybe fifteen feet, he snatched it and had it rung up and in the bag before I got to the counter. He said “nice throw.” I told him I thought he was moving so fast I thought we were in a video game. He responded that he loved his video games. I told him the last video game I played was table top Pong and he laughed. I said I don’t even do the Facebook thing because I can’t handle the time-suck involved. He nodded and confessed he’s so addicted to gaming that sometimes he’ll look up from his computer and eight or nine hours will have passed.

I left the store dumbfounded. It’s hard to fathom such, er, dedication to gaming. I know I’m treading on the toes of some hard-core gaming maniacs here but come on now. Isn’t that a bit extreme? Doesn’t Betty Ford have a wing dedicated to curing that kind of thing?

There are scientists and mystics among us who argue that we’re all in a holographic simulation — one big computer-like game — so if that’s the case I’d rather play this one instead of the pale imitation. It makes my brain hurt  to think we might all be avatars for some god-like creatures or one infinite intelligence. But luckily I don’t have to think too hard (there are much greater minds working on that one). I just have to play the game. I should say “get” to play the game.

For that I’m grateful.

Selfies

Selfies: Not sure I get em. I don’t know what all the fuss is about.

I just saw there’s a clap app for selfies now. You set your smart phone/appliance down to get your shot then clap your hands and about three seconds later it snaps the pic. If you think this is the ultimate in self-indulgence you’re dreaming — there’s undoubtedly a butt-load of “helpful” apps in the pipeline just waiting to make our lives easier. If our so-called smart phones were really that intelligent they wouldn’t let us get away with so much narcissistic behavior. The phones (apps) may be smart but they lack wisdom.

Maybe what we need are wise phones.