Thursday, November 12, 2015

Grand Canyon National Park

Wednesday - Veteran's Day - Day 42 of Funemployment

The plan for today was to hike from the south rim of the Grand Canyon, all the way down to the bottom, touch the Colorado River, and then hike all the way back up. In one day.  That meant we needed to get started early.  Scott said he wanted to be hiking on the trail by 7am.  I knew that meant 8am...

Somehow I managed to sleep okay last night, despite the temperature being in the 20s.  But I can't tell you how NOT pumped I was to go hiking in 20 degree weather.  Not.At.All.  (Poor Scott had to listen to me complain about it alllll morning.)

After last nights peeing escapades (I basiccaly peed on the edge of the Grand Canyon in the dark), I held it this moring until it was light enough to see where I was -- and made sure I wasn't one step from the biggest cliff around.

This was the view I woke up to as soon as I opened the van door.  I guess being freezing cold isn't so bad when you get to wake up to this:

So off we went, a lilttle before 8, all bundled up.  Seriously bundled up.  I had on layers upon layers.  Ski socks, long underwear x 2, hats, gloves.... I did NOT want to be cold.  (News flash:  I was still cold.)

I mean, come on, there is SNOW on the ground!  I don't hike in the snow.  I SKI in the snow! 

We made it to the trail head right at 8am and were on the Kaibab trail at 8:01 -- just like I said we would be. ;)

And one of the first things I see is this sign:

WARNING:  DO NOT attempt to hike from the canyon rim to the river and back in one dady.  Each year hikers suffer serious illness or death from the exhaustion.

Oh awesome.  JUST what I wanted to see when we had already argued about me not being able to do it one day...

But of course we went on anyways, agreeing to turn around whenever I got tired or didn't think I could turn around and make it back.

The start of the trail was steep switchbacks, and the trail was covered in ice and snow.  The footing was NOT easy.  (And did I mention it was freezing??)

The saving grace for the mornign part of the hike was Scott taking a few cool pictures.  It was so cold and windy standing up on this rock, but it was a good distraction and the photo turned out so cool!

Just after the first lookout point (and bathroom break), I found a good spot to sit down and enjoy the view.  On the edge of the cliff, of course.  

The sun was finally coming up enough to hit parts of the trail and it felt OH so good.

There isn't really much else to say about the majority of the hike down.  You just.keep.going. down and down and down.  It was so hard on my knees and legs to have the constant downhill pressure.  I would say at least 80% of the trail is pretty dang steep.  

We hit Skeleton point and didn't even consider turning around at that point.  It was still early and I was feeing good.  {That is the place where everything we read said to not got past if you were planning on coming back up that day.}

The steep switchbacks continued, but the lower we got in the canyon, the easier the hiking got.  Less elevation to deal with and it was warmer.  I even shed the top layer (puffy coat) at some point.

We only saw two groups on mules, and man, I was thining that looked pretty good about then.  I would have paid good money to hop on one and have them take me down and back!  (Okay, not really.  I actually felt bad for the poor mules with overweight Americans on them!)

We paused at the next bathrooom break (I don't remember the name of the spot with the port-a-potties) and debated turning around.  It was 10:00 and we still had severla more miles to go.  10am was our turn around time if we started at 7am, but since we didn't start until 8am, I wanted until 11am and kept on trucking down.  I hadn't even seen the river yet, so I wasn't calling it quits yet.

And not a quarter of a mile further down the trail, I got my first glimpse of the river.  And oh  man did it look like a long ways down to it...

But we kept going.  I'm way too stubborn and competitive to give in when it was so close.  That, and I didn't EVER plan on doing that hike again so I wanted to make sure I finished it this time.  

We hit one more group of pack mules, this time carrying supplies back up (not people), and ... continued down.  The whole time I was thinking, "What the heck are you doing?  Seriouslly, What the hell are you doing?  You can't walk all the way back up this!"  But, yeah, I kept going.

I paused from this spot at 10:30 and decided wherever I was at 11, I would turn around.  My legs were already shaking from the constant downhill pressue.

But as the time kept clicking away and 11 got closer and closer, I was basically race-walk / jogging down the last mile of the trail.  I was hell bent on making it to that dang river.

We came up on a tunnel, and then the bridge just on the other side.  I thought we had made it, but it was actually still a little further to the river.

View from the bridge -- but I still had to make it across and down to that beach:

Running down the last hill, we made it with 4 minutes to spare.  7.5 miles straight down, rim to river, in just under 3 hours.

Aaaahhhh the cold (really cold) water never felt so good.  And it was hot down there!  Clothes definitely came off.

Jumping for joy that we made it!  (I was ignoring the fact that I had to walk alllll the way bak up at this point and just happy in the moment.)

Okay, enough of the cold water.  Seriously.  It was COLD.

Lunch time!  Scott brought down leftover Indian food from last night, and some quonia and veggies.  

Best hiking lunch I've ever had!

We snapped a few pictures, and decided we better get back to hiking.  It was supposedly going to take us twice as long to get up as it did to get down.  

We left the river at 11:30 -- that meant we should get back to the rim in six hours, at 5:30.  In my head, I wanted to shave at least an hour off of that time and was shooting to make it up by 4:30.  

   ^^ Our outfits were so ridiculous on the way back up.

We took the hike slow(ish) and steady on the way up.  It was basically like the eternal stair stepper.  You just keep walking.  Step up, step up, step up....repeat.  

I stopped a few times wherever there was a good cliff to dangle my feet off of:

I told Scott to do his best yoga pose on this rock and this is what I got:

This was half-way, and we were serioysly crushing it on the time.  We were hiking up just as fast as we had hiked down.  It only took us about an hour and a half to get back to this point!

I thought it was the lack of elevation and warm sun that was keeping us going so fast, and kept thinking we would slow down when we got higher (and colder).  My heart rate was slow and honestlyl, I felt better going up than I did going down, so I was pushing it while I felt good.

Did I talk about the eternal stair stepper?  Yeah, forever...

We made it back up to the second view point - with just a couple of miles to go, in record time.  My legs were starting to feel the fatigue, so we stopped for an apple break before the final push to the top. 

Oh, and we were still on pace to make it back up in three hours at this point!

Our view from the apple break:

Okay, not going to lie.  With about a mile left, the high elevation and steep trail got the best of me.  My legs were just baaareely making it.  I stopped a couple of times and was just done...

I made it back to the sign and definitely agreed with it at that point.  Don't do it!  Hahaha ;)

Somehow I made it back up, but it wasn't easy.  Like I said, overall I really think the uphill was easier than the downhill, but man that last mile was killer.  Never been so happy to sit down in all my life. 

Yeah, that's me, head down.  Just wanted to sleep!  But we finished in record time.  We made it back in just over 3 hours, and that was with a lot more breaks!  Scott was reording the whole thing on his watch, and our actual pace coming up was faster than going down.  

Scott was feeling great.  Me, not so much.

Oh, and to top it off, we still had to hike back to the van.  It was flat and probably half a mile, but that is definitely not what I wanted to do at that point.

I was SO happy to see the van and sit down.  I was bak to being cold and just wanted to blast the heat.  BUT...Scott left the lights on so the van was dead.  Siiiggghhh....

Thankfully someone was right there to jump us and it started easily.

After a quick break to warm up, was drove to the Visitor Center to see what it was all about.

Found a few fun facts about the crazy hike we just crushed:

More than three Empire State Buildings!?  15 miles up and down in 6 hours  That's crazy.

Also, this was interesting:  It had the different points on the trail and how long they should take you.  Skeleton point, which was just about half way, should take 4-6 hours, and the river was *Overnight only.  Ha!

Now we were pretty sweaty and dirty, so a shower was a must.  Thankfully there was a laundromat / shower area right near the visitor center.  $2 for a long hot shower.  Just what I needed.

And when I got back to the van, Scott already had dinner ready for me.

We hit the road after dinner.  Oh and we missed the sunset at the Grand Canyon.  Oh well, showers and food were definitely necessary.

Scott drove until 8 and was nodding off, so I took over and drove us the last 30 minutes or so in to Wal-Mart at Kingman, Arizona

We weren't the only ones camping there that night!  The parking lot was full of campers and vans.

Needless to say, we were both wiped out that night.  Didn't even are that it was still cold and we still didn't have a heater.  Sleep came easy.

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