We’ve Joined the Club: Rim to Rim

May 22, 2017 § Leave a comment

20170519_202112aWe did it!  May 20th, we completed the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike in just over 16 hrs. I read that is about average.  Yesterday and today I am doing the “Kaiabab Shuffle”, so sore, and I seem to forget that I can bend my knees when walking.

We started out at about 6 a.m., and decided to participate in a Rim to Rim hiker study conducted by New Mexico University.  After a few questions, weigh-in (person and pack), biometric reading, O2 percentage,  BP and blood draw (for my sisters, not me–I need to be upright) we went on our way.  I was given a Fitbit to monitor heart rate and and iphone to play two games every three hours to monitor mental fatigue during the hike. There was a device on my pack that monitored temperature and elevation.

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In all my hurry, I left my hat in the car in Utah.  My 10-year-old nephew let me use his hat, bless his heart.  This hat made lots of people happy on the trail. “I love your hat!” they would say smiling as they passed.  I adored this hat and I am getting one of my own. Funny, I hate the color yellow, but minions are fun and I love this hat.  I also left my trekking poles home. Ugh! They would have been helpful.

This was a learning experience of what I will make sure to pack for the next time.

Just to get it out of the way early, I slipped and felt my ankle twist during the first mile. Walk it off.  The ankle was great, but the knee started to go downhill and made going downhill severely painful.  Medical sisters to the rescue!  I love them and glad they are medical people; that’s why they make the big bucks.  I brought band-aids and IBU 800mg. Valerie packed an ace bandage and the pharmasister had some super fix-me up cream for muscle/nerve pain and we were off.  It really didn’t feel good at all, but better going up hill, about 14 miles later.  By the end, both knees were complaining.

The South Kaiabab Trail doesn’t change much, so I only took a few pictures.  It’s a whole lotta downhill at a 14% grade.  The temperature was just right and we shed layers and gloves as we went.   A lot of people decided this would be a great day to hike or run the trails.  I met someone who thought he would get out of his Los Angeles comfort zone and ride the mules.  He said, “never again”, but he was still smiling.  I liked him.

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We decided that Grand Canyon is the Happiest Place on Earth.  Everyone seemed to be having a great day.  Everyone was smiling and friendly- not a grumpy person…I still think it was the hat.

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Bright Angel Trail was the first water stop.  Cold, good water.  They chose a horrid time to close the restrooms for cleaning, tho.  So, pressing onward, we ventured to Phantom Ranch where we ate in the shade of trees and rested.  It was at this place we met a man and his dog, Charleston.  We would cross paths with them frequently for the rest of the hike.  He works for LVMPD as an IT guy, and does Search and Rescue.  We had that in common, anyway.

The longest 6.5 miles of the entire trek were next.  They tell you to avoid the “box” during the hot afternoons for very good reason.  I didn’t have short sleeves and it was sometimes horribly hot.  Shade was a very welcomed treat on the trail.  We’d quiz people along the trail to see how far Cottonwood campground was.  Every person we talked to said, “2 miles”.  We felt like we were on a treadmill going nowhere.  Clay and I ran out of water just before the campground, so when I asked the ditzy blonde girl she said, “What campground? Oh, about 2 miles.”  REALLY!?! There were some intelligent looking people not far behind her that pointed just ahead.  Hallelujah!  Fifty yards away was some bless-ed water and bathrooms!  We bandaged, taped, medicated, took the bandage off my knee, snacked and rested for a while.

Arockbubble3.jpglong the trail there were a lot of squirrels, lizards, a few bridges to cross, and a newly formed water feature in the middle of the trail (probably a broken pipe) that made the ground vibrate.  We were amused and Valerie thought it made a great foot massager.

A Rim2Rim2Rim hiker told us it wasn’t there earlier in the day.  We didn’t meet many people after Cottonwood and almost seemed to have the place to ourselves.  Going up the North Rim is BEAUTIFUL!  Much better scenery to enjoy.  Yucca, cactus and a lot of other flowers bloomed.  So pretty.

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Valerie walked faster than this gimpy sister, but I wasn’t too far behind her.   Caroline and Clay walked and rested.  I’d keep an eye out for them.  Clay was probably the youngest person I saw on the trail.  He did pretty well for a 13-year-old.  We are all proud of him.

About 5 pm we were out of the sun for the rest of the journey.  Sooooo much better!  Off came the shades and hats and temperatures cooled down as we ascended.   Some of the best features were in this stretch.  Next time, I will try the Bright Angel Trail to North Rim.

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Caroline and Clay arrived at my rest spot after I’d had dinner consisting of salmon in a pouch, some cliff bar and peanuts.   Yummy!

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Remembering to eat was difficult.  I eat when hungry, and in this heat, I wasn’t.  Caroline reminded me to eat something just after I hurt my knee as she handed me a handful of chewy Sweetarts.  That second game I had to play for the study was evident I was not eating enough, so I became pretty vigilant about self-assessments.   My brain was on the fritz.  It’s amazing that a body burns the amount of calories it does on this trip: a whopping 5,000 minimum.

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As it got dark, it got colder, so we dawned our headlamps and layers.  Pretty soon, it was really dark and we four hiked together.  It was cold enough to see your breath!  It’s really different, hiking in the dark.  You have no sense of where you are, only what’s in the beam of the headlamp.  I hope to see the rest of the North Rim on the next trip.

We arrived at the last water stop and soon a group of Chinese people came along, listening to the Carpenters of all things, so we had a little sing-along, and then Jeff and Charleston made it in a few minutes later.  We kept hiking and hoping to see a tunnel that let us know we were less than 2 miles away from the top.  That tunnel took forever to show up! Caroline told me and Valerie to hike ahead and find her family to tell them we were doing okay.   So, off we went.  I kept stopping and waiting to see their flashlights on the trail or calling until Caroline could answer me.  I started to get worried and didn’t like leaving them behind at all.  Valerie traveled on ahead of me.  Stopping to take a break, I noticed a broken branch just hanging in a bush, so I walked with my staff and it was so much better for my knee.  I knew then I would NOT forget my trekking poles next time!

The stars were so bright and clear.  The constellation of Scorpius seemed so large at that time, and Antares was so vibrant.

North Rim “steps” are harder.  No going fast! The grade incline on the North Rim is 20 percent and I am used to 15 percent.  I stopped to get into my pack and met a man coming down the trail looking for his friend.  He told me I was only 10 minutes away from the top.  I was elated!  On the way out, I also passed a sign that said, “No Pets on Trail”.  I wonder if that was why the Ranger asked us if we’d seen “a man with a dog” at Cottonwood.  Ooops!

20170522_065611.jpgI gave the university students their equipment back, finished my last games and took their survey.  Caroline and Valerie finished their testing and we loaded up to go back to Utah.

Brent gave us all a nice surprise as we got into the car, t-shirts for our accomplishment!

We’re in the club!

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