Grand Canyon kicks my ass, but I’ll be back

I made it to the Grand Canyon! The drive in was beautiful and strange. As I rounded the curvy road and got closer to the North Rim, I drove through acres and acres of burned forest.

Grand Canyon Burned Forest

It turns out it was a controlled burn intended for the health of the Kaibab forest, but still offers up a pretty ominous arrival.

Day one: I watched the sun rise over the canyon, but wet shoes meant stocking feet hiking for my first day out.

JW at GC

I stared and stared at the canyon, then watched the sun set, but I wasn’t really taking it in. It felt incomprehensible and large. Other visitors were saying, “Isn’t it beautiful?”, but it seemed almost like saying, “The Earth, isn’t it just beautiful?” I mean, I guess so, but I can’t even see the whole thing. It felt like I was standing outside of it.

So, after a full day of drying my shoes over the heater, I decided a hike INTO the canyon might give me a more intimate feel.

Day two: Hiking into the Grand Canyon.

JW hiking Grand Canyon

I hiked down about 3 miles. (I think it was 2,500 hundred feet?), but, as I got closer to the bottom, I started to get HOT. The sun was beating down on me, my zinc oxide suncreen felt like a wax coating melting over my body, and dry dust was flying around and sticking to my sweat and sunscreen.  The smell of hot urine and mule shit did not help my increasing nausea and sick fatigue. I was overdressed and my pants, thick socks, and hiking boots were suffocating me.  I have never had heat exhaustion, but as I attempted to climb out of the canyon, I feared I was close. I remembered the warnings about how the emergency medical center treats as many as twenty cases of heat related illnesses each day and could not believe I may end up being one of those naive, inexperienced hikers. I decide that, no matter what, I was not going to have to call for a donkey to carry me out of the canyon!

So, with my half gallon of water and saltines, I made a very slow trek up the trail. Passerbys were asking me if I needed help! I sat down every three minutes at rested for long periods at every rare shady spot. And, after two hours, finally made it out.

I was glad to be out, but I was pissed. I wanted to get closer to this ‘beautiful’ and ‘majestic’ national treasure, and I felt like I just got my ass kicked by it.

So, one day, I am coming back to this canyon and I am going to hike all the way across!

Ugh, Grand Canyon. Not what I imagined. And maybe I am taking away the wrong lesson? Oh well, I’d rather share my real experience than try to feign some spiritual nirvana that just didn’t happen for me.

Off to cool Santa Fe to see David! I can’t wait!

Grand Canyon Bridge from Cocino Overlook

If you can see that red arrow pointing to that tiny little bridge,  you can see how far down I hiked.  At this point, I had about three quarters of a mile left to go to get out of the canyon. (Click the picture twice to see a larger version.)


postscript added October 2010: I was actually very hung over when I tried to make that hike.

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