Grand Canyon View

From the first time we stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon, we looked down and wondered, "What’s it like out there?  What’s in the bottom of the Grand Canyon?"  As our love for the Grand Canyon grew, we knew we had to spend more time there... with it... in it.

This story is written two years late due to Hurricane Katrina.  Although it is a part of the story, we don't want to elaborate about the hurricane since that's not what this is about.

Our love for the Grand Canyon has grown from our first visit in 1998, to our wedding on Moran Point in 2000, and continues with our return every year since our anniversary.  We've stood in many places along the north and south rims and each time felt a need to go down into the canyon.  We decided for 2005 to make a four-day trek across the Grand Canyon from the North Rim to the South Rim, staying at a campground each night.  This would give us the opportunity to "experience" the Grand Canyon, not just look at it from the rim.  We essentially hiked a total of 23.5 miles descending 5850 ft. from the North Rim to the river and ascended 4460 ft. to the South Rim.  

Up until then we were day hikers.  Rim walkers.  This was mountain climbing in reverse and we wanted to do it right.  We trained mentally.  We studied trail maps and hiking guides to gain all the necessary information.  We purchased an ultra-lightweight tent and other lightweight backpacking gear paying close attention to what we would bring along.  We trained physically by climbing stairs and cycling to build stamina.  And so we prepared ourselves for the greatest adventure of our lives.  We knew we were ready for the challenge.

In the few days before we left, we paid attention to the forecast of the hurricanes. Not to take it lightly, but it is part of the every day weather forecast during the summer on the Gulf Coast.  We knew of Hurricane Katrina, but the odds of it hitting New Orleans were low, so we decided to go on our trip anyway.  By the time we arrived in Phoenix, we learned Katrina could be headed for New Orleans.  We called home to determine the severity of the situation and whether we should return. Our son had taken care of the preparations at our home and business and was headed out of town. There was nothing we could do, so we decided to continue with the vacation plans.

We arrived at the Grand Canyon with as much anticipation as we did the very first time. Although our time was over-shadowed by watching every newscast we could, we took in the grandeur of the canyon.  On the evening of our wedding anniversary, as we do every year, we revisited Moran Point, reminisced our wedding moments and then enjoyed an anniversary dinner at the El Tovar Hotel.  Just as getting married on the rim of the Grand Canyon changed our lives, we felt the experiences of the next week would do the same. We had no idea just how much.

The next morning we awoke to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.  Our immediate concerns were for our family and friends.  We spent the morning finding them by phone while watching the news broadcasts to see the pictures and assess the conditions where we lived and worked.  Over the next 24 hours, we were able to learn that our home and business were fine but no one was being allowed back into the city.  The decision was made to stay and try to enjoy our trip.

After spending a couple of days in and around the South Rim acclimating ourselves to the higher altitudes, we pared down our backpacks, equipment, clothes and food necessary for a 4-day hike into the Grand Canyon.  This resulted in each backpack weighing about 30 pounds.  I was also carrying another 10 pounds in digital camera equipment and lenses on my hips in a waist pack.  

Our trip started with the five and a half hour Trans-Canyon shuttle bus ride from the Bright Angel Lodge on the South Rim to the Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim.

The sunset that evening was extra special as we looked down into the canyon from Bright Angel Point knowing this is where it all started with our first visit seven years before.  We climbed out onto the ledge above the lookout, as we have done so many times before, and spoke in whispers while reverently viewing the splendor of the sun setting over the canyon.  Tomorrow, we would finally embark on the journey we had so often dreamed of.  We stayed in a cabin that last night on the rim, knowing it would be a few nights before we would again sleep in a real bed.  After a wonderful meal in the lodge dining room and a final check of the packs, we got a good night's rest.

Day 1 of the Hike

In spite of the recommendations in the hiking guides of hiking either very early in the morning or late in the afternoon, we chose to step back and relax from all the anxiety that led up to this point and get a better state of mind for our adventure.  We waited until the lodge restaurant opened, sat down by one of the big windows over looking the Grand Canyon and enjoyed a hearty breakfast.  

We picked up our packs from the cabin, and hiked up the road reaching the North Kaibab trail head around 9:00 a.m.  It was funny that we were about to head out on a 23+ mile trek but it bothered Mike that we had to hike an extra couple of miles to the trailhead just to get started.  It just seemed to stand out and was quite hilarious. Actually, it was a very nice early morning walk in the trees and a little warm-up before hitting the trail.        

On the first day, we would be hiking only 6.8 miles, but descending 4080 feet and knew we'd be hiking mostly in the shade.  The North Kaibab Trail would take us down through Roaring Springs Canyon before it turns and continues through Bright Angel Canyon.  We figured there would be plenty of time to reach Cottonwood Campground for our first night of camping and not have to rush through the hike.  We even allowed extra time for photo stops which is why I brought the camera equipment.  

After posing for a few pictures at the trailhead, we adjusted our packs and started down the winding, sandy trail through the thick forest of Aspen, Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine.  The morning views were fantastic.  Feeling very spry, we talked to everyone we met on the trail.  Some had only hiked a short way down and back while others started at dawn from Bright Angel Campground at the bottom of the canyon.  

Stopping often to look back and up to where we started gave us a feel for the steepness of the descent. After descending about 500 ft. below the rim, we reached the Coconino Overlook, a great place for viewing Roaring Springs Canyon.  The coconino sandstone and many other layers of rock are visible here. A trip down into the Grand Canyon is like going back in time and is considered to be the best opportunity to see formations of rock layers that date from 270 million years at the top to 1.8 billion years at the bottom.

After the many switchbacks that twist and turn through Roaring Springs Canyon, we arrived at the Supai Tunnel where the rock formations and the sand turn red.  Drinking water and toilets are available here making it a popular stop for the mule riders.  It was a good time for a 20 minute break to rest, snack and take a few more pictures.  As important it is to drink plenty of water, it is equally important to eat foods with enough carbohydrates and calories to keep up with what the body is burning due to the demands of extreme physical activity.  We brought plenty to drink and shared some with some un-prepared hikers.

After passing through the small man-made tunnel, the trail narrowed, the trees changed to pinyon and juniper and we were hiking in the direct sun.  We kept a wet towel handy to refresh ourselves as we continued the descent on the steep switchbacks until we crossed the Red Wall Bridge.  

Our second break was in a shady cove along the wall towards the bottom of the Supai layer.  It was time for some lunch and to rest our feet.  We took off our shoes and socks to let our feet cool off and re-apply the glide stick that keeps your feet from rubbing in your shoes and creating blisters.  The reality of the hike was setting in.  The packs were heavy, our feet were tired, our legs hurt, and we really did not know how much further it was to Cottonwood Campground for our first night’s rest.  Although we felt like we had gone a long way, there was still a good bit of trail to be hiked before we would get to the campground.

The narrow trail began to wind around red wall limestone cliffs with steep drop-offs.  Our pace had slowed and we stopped more often to rest.  From shortly after the Supai tunnel, we had been hiking alone, not meeting any other hikers.  All of the cross-canyon hikers were ahead of us and few day hikers go very far past the tunnel. This also added to the insecure feeling of how tired we were getting.  Somewhere between lunch and Roaring Springs, Mike realized he had grown a blister on the big toe of his right foot. He started to favor his right steps adding to the demands of the hike.  I had been tired since lunch and we were beginning to lose the enjoyment of this trip.  It was more like trudging along.

The views looking out of Roaring Springs Canyon towards Bright Angel Canyon are gorgeous and the roar of the springs below can be clearly heard.  We paused several times to take pictures and rest at the same time. Our knees were taking a beating on the trail and I wished I had bought hiking poles.  I made a mental note for the next time we do a hike like this.

We finally reached the offshoot trail that leads to the rest house at Roaring Springs.  Although we could see from a distance that Roaring Springs is a beautiful waterfall, we didn't feel like we could physically hike the extra half mile round trip and decided to continue on the trail.  The sounds of the long cascades of water down the canyon walls and the mist in the air added a little freshness to the hike.  

After a while, the fact that we were hiking alone seemed to play on our psyche.  Even though we gave each other moral support when we seemed to be struggling, there were times when we each thought we would be statistics and that we weren’t going to make it.  At one point, I was ready to lay down on the trail and let the vultures pick the flesh from my tired bones, but Mike refused to give up.  Obviously, our attitudes were suffering because we were tired and hurting.  We tried hard to keep each other going with idle chatter between us.  

While mindlessly hiking along, one must remember to always be aware of the surroundings and be on the lookout for wildlife which comes in many shapes and sizes.  When Mike called back over his shoulder the word "SNAKE," I snapped to attention and immediately responded, "WHERE?"  He turned and pointed to an area on the side of the trail that was in the shade of the rock overhang.  There it was.  The Grand Canyon pink rattlesnake.  It blended so well with the dirt and rocks that it was almost indistinguishable against its background.  With an "if I don't bother it, it won't bother me" attitude, I began to walk swiftly past it.  I even considered taking a photo since the camera was in my hand.  As I got closer, the snake raised up its head.  Yes, it would have been a great photo, except that I ended up running hoping the snake wouldn’t strike at me!  Yikes!  Gotta remember to watch out for those in the future!

Shortly after Roaring Springs, we arrived at the home of the pump house operator and world-renown artist, Bruce Aiken.  Water was available there and we were able to take extra time to rest.  This is another good rest stop on the trail.  Mike removed his shoes and socks to check the blister on his big toe and decided to walk down the steps to the creek to enjoy the cold water.    

Meanwhile, I was nosing around, investigating the area and looking for any activity at Bruce's house.  I guess I got his attention because he came outside and started fumbling around the wood pile.  I walked closer to the fence that surrounded his home and yard and thanked him for the water and resting place.  He motioned me to come into his yard and visit.  Mike came out of the creek looking around until he found me in Bruce’s yard and joined us there.  After re-applying the glide stick and putting his socks and shoes back on, he joined us and took a couple of photos of Bruce and I with the walls of the inner canyon as a backdrop.  Bruce graciously showed us around and we shared our love for the canyon with him.  After being dubbed "Canyonheads," we promised to e-mail him upon our return home and left feeling refreshed knowing it was only about a mile and a half to the campground.

Finally!  We trudged into Cottonwood Campground about 5:00 p.m. and found an available site to pitch our tent and rest for the night.  But we had work to do first.  I had to refill the water bottles, unpack our food, and make dinner while Mike pitched the tent and got us set up for the night.  Mike, close to passing out on his own, was blowing up the air mattresses with what little energy he had left.  We packed military M.R.E.s (Meals Ready to Eat), purchased from an army surplus store, because they have their own heat source and were easy to prepare.  (Little did we know, once we returned home to the devastation from the hurricane, we would be eating them on a regular basis for weeks to come, provided at no charge by the U.S. government.)  We forced ourselves to eat because we knew we had to.  We could hear the Bright Angel Creek flowing nearby but it was too late to try to find it.  Our legs were destroyed and it was painful to move around the campsite.  We had also figured out that starting each day’s hike early would allow more time for rest at the end of the day. We set our alarm clock and fell asleep quickly, waking often to the noises of other campers.  Sometime during the night, we found ourselves awake and staring up through the mesh screen of our tent at the millions of stars in the sky.  You can't see that in the city!

Day 2 of the Hike

We awoke at 6:00 a.m. and found that we were pretty much alone in the campground.  The last of the other campers were heading out as we were stirring and trying to get our legs moving.  Our muscles were so tight that we moaned with each step.  After a hurried breakfast and a dose of ibuprofen for the sore muscles, we broke camp, packed our stuff and hit the trial.  We were starting at 7 miles and over 4000 feet below the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and had approximately another 7 miles and more than a 1500 ft. descent before we would reach Phantom Ranch.  We decided that not eating enough the previous day contributed to how bad we were feeling.  So, we stuffed our pockets with jerky and food bars and ate as we hiked. 

The canyon stayed shaded until the sun rose high enough to break the rim of the inner canyon.  The landscape seemed to open up before us.  The trails seemed wider and flatter as we hiked through an area with large patches of beaver tail cactus.  There were no blooms yet, just the red "apples" on the ends of the cactus which made for a nice photo.  Ribbon Falls, a 100 foot waterfall, was only 1.1 miles from the Cottonwood Campground and was visible from the trail, but we couldn't make the .6 mile short round trip hike on a side trail to visit it in person.  Instead I took a picture using a high powered zoom lens.  We soon found ourselves in The Box surrounded by high walls and crossed another bridge, this one crossing directly over Bright Angel Creek. 

We passed a National Park Service Ranger who stopped to chat with us making sure we were doing OK.  We told her about our hard first day, that Mike was still nursing the blister on his toe, and I had developed some pain on my toe.   She had me take off my boot and sock to look at my toe and diagnosed me with "canyon toe" which is the formation of a blister under the toe nail separating the nail from the nail bed.  I declined her offer to lance it as I still had 3 days of hiking ahead of me and figured I'd make do.  She also offered me her hiking poles that I could leave at the ranger station in Phantom Ranch, but I again declined and we continued on our way.  She gave us some positive things to think about and, although I was too tired to pull my camera out of my waist pack to take any more photos, we had a better attitude for the rest of the hike to the bottom of the canyon.  

We soon found ourselves hiking next to Phantom Creek.  It was uplifting to realize that we were coming into the area around Phantom Ranch and our steps seemed a bit lighter.  Claiming a picnic table outside the cantina, we rested and drank plenty of cool water from the fountain.  We entered the cantina and ordered glasses of their famous homemade lemonade while checking with the clerk to see if a cabin was available.  We had already reserved a campsite at Bright Angel Campground and meals in the cantina, but really needed the bed and shower.  Luckily, there had been a cancellation and we were able to stay in an air conditioned cabin.  After taking showers and a nap, we spent the rest of the evening before and after dinner using the pay phone trying to reach family members to let them know we were still alive and to make sure they were okay as well.  I had not been able to locate any of my family on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and decided not to dwell on that fact as I would need all the positive attitude I could muster over the next couple of days.

The hiker's stew dinner was tasty and we ate it all, especially the chocolate cake.  It is an expensive luxury to have dinner in the cantina, but worth it as opposed to backpacking an additional meal.  All meals are served "family style" with everyone seated at long tables and passing large bowls and platters of food around the table.  You can meet people from all over the U.S. and other countries at your table.  The one common denominator is the love of the Grand Canyon and the desire to hike it.  We were very touched by the outpouring of sympathy expressed by those who learned we were from the New Orleans area.  

After dinner, everyone is shooed from the cantina and the doors are locked while the staff cleans up.  They re-open for the evening serving refreshments and allowing visitors to socialize, play board games or just hang out and read a book.  We walked back to our cabin to get our gear ready for the next day.  

Realizing we did not need some of the clothing and gear that we packed down with us, we thought it would be a good idea not to have to haul the extras back up to the rim with us.  We took advantage of a service available to hikers and visitors to Phantom Ranch by paying a fee to have one of our backpacks brought back to the rim via pack mule.  We rearranged the packs and put everything we no longer needed into one pack and dropped it off at the designated location behind the cantina.  The backpack would be waiting for us at the mule barn on the South Rim when we arrived there in 2 days.

We were feeling pretty positive about the hike again and, after taking another dose of ibuprofen and getting a good night's rest on a real mattress, we knew we would be feeling better in the morning.

Day 3 of the Hike

Our breakfast call for the hikers was for 5:30 a.m. and we were up, packed and ready to go.  Our legs still hurt, but not as bad as the day before.  We ate another hearty meal in the cantina.  This time it was all the breakfast standards, including eggs, bacon, pancakes, biscuits, juice, coffee, and milk.  We ate our fill and headed back to the cabin to grab our packs and get started.

The mules were being brought to the staging area by the wranglers while the riders who came down on them the previous day were having their breakfast in the cantina.  Soon the riders would be mounting up and heading back up the trail to the South Rim.  The mules were looking as excited as we were about hiking back up the trail.  The only difference was that it was all new to us.

We began the day’s hike going through Bright Angel Campground, which sits on the edge of the Bright Angel Creek nestled in under a canopy of cottonwood trees, leaving Phantom Ranch behind us with the realization that only a small percentage of people ever travel to the bottom of the Grand Canyon by foot.  We stopped briefly to chat with another couple we had met at dinner the night before.  They were staying another day at the bottom.  We wished each other a good, safe hike to the top and headed on our way.  We would be hiking about 5 miles to Indian Garden climbing 1320 feet in elevation from the river.  

Coming out of the campground area, the trees thinned out and roar of the Colorado River got louder and we found ourselves hiking alongside of the river approaching the silver suspension bridge that crosses the river.  While crossing the bridge, Mike and I were walking in step with each other about 6 feet apart, and the bridge began to bounce in time with our steps.  That made me nervous!

I stopped to take in the view of the river looking back towards the black bridge which is crossed when approaching Bright Angel Campground from the South Kaibab Trail.  The morning sun was just breaking over the rim of the inner canyon walls and the river area was being flooded with light.  After taking a few photos from the middle of the bridge, I continued on.  Mike already exited the other end of the bridge so there would be no bouncing.  I looked down and noticed that the footpath of the bridge is nothing more than steel grating.  Stopping again to look down through the grating at the fast rushing current of the Colorado river below, I was a bit mesmerized.  Suddenly feeling a little nervous again, I hurried off the bridge to join Mike on solid ground on the south side of the river.

The hike had actually become enjoyable since the first night when we felt so bad and thought we would end up being another statistic in the canyon.  We hiked along enjoying the coolness in the early morning air and feeling very positive about our trip.  

The trail climbed steadily, winding in and out of the sunshine.  I was amazed at the colors on the rock walls next to the trail.  I even took a “self-portrait” of my shadow as I walked along.  As we came around a bend in the trail as it wound around a rock wall, a young fawn was coming towards us, alone on the trail.  It was coming at us briskly and we could see another hiker on the trail behind him. Seeing us, the fawn stopped, turned and trotted back up the trail but was heading back towards the other hiker.  It turned again and came back towards us and was very confused.  Because we were afraid the fawn was going either charge one of us or jump off the cliff edge because he suddenly found himself cornered, we chose to sit on a rock on the outside edge of the trail turning our heads away from the fawn so as not to make eye contact.  He ran past us down the trail heading towards the bridge.  The other hiker approached us saying he really didn’t know where the fawn came from.  Thankfully, the fawn was able to go on his way without incident.

We quickly lost sight of the river as the trail turned and started to head up the canyon.  It wasn’t long before we reached the River Rest House, a shelter without water source, located a little off and above the trail to the right.  Pipe Creek ran swiftly next to the trail rushing on its way down to meet with the Colorado River.  We continued the practice of eating and drinking while we hiked to minimize any ill effects.  We were actually feeling pretty good!

The trail was starting to climb pretty good and the flat, elevated trail was turning to stair steps.  It wasn’t long before we came to an area with LOTS of switchbacks known as the Devil’s Corkscrew.  The hike through the switchbacks was pretty steep and we stop about every second turn because I felt like I needed to catch my breath.  That was a hard area to get through!

We found ourselves hiking next to a creek, known as Garden Creek, as we got closer to Indian Garden.  The foliage was becoming more and more lush and almost tropical.  We found a little nook off of the main trail to rest and soak our shirts and bandanas in the cool waters of the creek.  Feeling totally refreshed, we continued on our way into Indian Garden Campground, a beautiful shady area filled with cottonwood trees.  It was late morning when we arrived in the area where the mule trains stop to rest on their way to Plateau Point or Phantom Ranch.  The signs pointing to Plateau Point show the hike to be only 1.5 miles.  It is supposed to be a nice day hike with great panoramic views of the Colorado River, but we were too tired to even attempt it!  We took a short rest and refilled our water bottles before scouting out a site where we would camp for the night.

The campground area was pretty quiet at this time of day, giving us the opportunity to pick a prime site not too close to the main trail with a flat area for the tent.  While setting up our tent, a group of mule riders passed near our campsite on their way back up to the South Rim.  The breeze rustled the leaves of the cottonwood trees as we stored our food and decided to rest for a while during the hottest part of the day.  History tells us that Havasupai families still farmed at Indian Garden around the turn of the 20th century and the corridor trails we were traveling were once traversed by ancient Indians.  We gazed upward to what looks like the rim but is really just the top of a cliff of the upper canyon.

We met and chatted with other campers nearby.  A couple of young athletic-looking guys arrived in camp complaining about their legs, which made us feel better about our condition.  There was also a family from Atlanta, Georgia, who, like us, were heading back up to the South Rim the next day.  They were friendly and eager to share hiking stories.  We fixed our dinner, M.R.E.s again, stored our food in the ammo boxes provided for each campsite, and got ready for another night on the air mattresses.  The sky was clear and starry and we stared upward picking out the constellations until we fell asleep.  

Sometime during the night, we heard loud noises in the brush nearby.  A little startled, not knowing if it was a person or an animal, friend or foe, Mike grabbed the flashlight and shined it outside the tent.  Not ten feet away was a huge buck munching on the tender green grasses near the base of a nearly dead tree.  With the light directly in his eyes, he stopped eating and moved away.  Mike turned off the flashlight and we settled down to go back to sleep.  Within a few minutes, the deer was back and now there were two of them!  Mike shined the light at him again but he seemed to be ignoring us.  The folks from Altanta joined in with their flashlight and the deer finally moved on.  We had read that Indian Garden is home to a small herd of deer which explains why the some of the trees have cages around them.  It prohibits the deer from eating the tender bark and destroying the trees.

We settled down again to try to get some sleep only to be awakened hearing voices in the distance.  A check of the clock showed us it was about 2:00 a.m.  Who could be out there at this time of night?  We peered out of our tent into the darkness and saw strange lights bobbing up and down on the nearby trail.  What is that?  We heard voices again.  It’s people hiking in the dark!  They must be crazy!  How do you enjoy being in the canyon if you are hiking through it in the dark?   Obviously, this is a different type of hiker mentality that we don’t understand.  But they are hiking in the coolest temperature of the day or, rather, the night.

Day 4 of the Hike

Soon the alarm was going off.  It was 5:30 a.m. and time to get up, eat, break camp and get on our way. With water bottles full, we headed out of the campground.  Since there were water stops along the way to the rim, we didn’t have to carry as much water as before making our packs much lighter.  The hike on this last day was only 4.6 miles climbing 3,060 feet to the Bright Angel Trailhead and took about 4 hours.  We left the lush, green oasis of Indian Garden behind us as we continued to hike up the Bright Angel Trail, where we saw a small herd of deer grazing on the grassy hillsides along the trail.  Looking back, the skies were clouding up over Indian Garden.  Soon a rainstorm could be seen in the distance.  We focused our attention to a series of tight switchbacks known as Jacob’s Ladder.  The trail was like long, steep stair steps.  

The Atlanta crew soon caught up with us and we hiked together for a while stopping at Three-Mile Resthouse for a short break.  We snacked a bit and refilled our water bottles before climbing on toward the Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse.  Being the main corridor trail that most visitors day hike, the trail is very busy with people.  We talked and visited with those we passed, making the time pass easily, unlike the first day when we were so alone.  By the time we reached the point where the trail split to go off to where the toilets and resthouse were located, a fine mist was in the air.  The mist quickly turned into a light rain making the trail to the resthouse slippery.  We decided to wait there until the showers stopped.  Being the friendly, outgoing people that we are, we met more people who were sympathetic to our plight of not being able to return home due to Hurricane Katrina.  I explained to one young woman that everything would be fine for us.  “We were on one adventure and would simply make our way home to begin another.”  While waiting, we looked back across the canyon and shared a feeling of sadness over leaving behind the thing we had longed for over the years - the chance to spend time deep within the Grand Canyon.

The rain cooled the air making the temperature much more comfortable for the rest of the hike.  The sun was full on the trail by the time we reached the lower of the two tunnels on the trail below the South Rim.  For us, it was a sign that we were getting closer to the top.  Although we could see Kolb Studio, it was apparent that we had to follow the half circle rock wall through a couple of switchbacks before we would actually reach the top.  We passed through the upper tunnel, stopped for a few more photos and continued on before I remembered the petroglyphs that were supposed to be on the wall above the trail just below the tunnel.  Believe it or not, I turned and walked back down the trail to investigate and take photos of the ancient pictographs that are said to have been drawn by the ancestors of the Havasupai Indians who traveled the natural fault line of the canyon to reach the springs of Indian Garden.  The drawings appeared to tell some sort of story of deer, some with large antlers, ladders, criss-crossing lines that resemble switchback trails, and slanted lines that could represent stick tallies or rain.  Who knows what that story really is?

We were so happy to be so close to the top!  We greeted everyone we passed, giving trail information to some and encouragement to others, telling them that it was worth the effort to reach the Three-Mile Resthouse.  We took the last few steps to the top reaching the trailhead sign.  Mike and I hugged and congratulated each other.  We made it!  I quickly looked around and shoved my camera into the hands of the first person passing by.  A young couple from Ireland pushing a stroller were nice enough to take our photo while we explained that we had just completed a four-day backpack trip across the Grand Canyon.  They were so excited for us!  

We walked along the path towards the El Tovar Hotel to pick up my jewelry and our other valuables which were left for safekeeping.  We stopped to look out at the canyon stretched out below and beyond us.  Mike and I discussed the new vison of looking into the Grand Canyon from the rim. We no longer saw a deep, large expanse of rock walls and colors. We now saw creeks and waterfalls, forest and wildlife, and a rare group of people taking the time and effort to experience nature in a grander form than anyone can explain.  Now, after getting a glimpse into the world below the rim, we already knew that this wouldn’t be the last time we would take a hike like this.

We had a room reserved for the night and were anxious to get to our room, drop the packs, and take a shower.  We ate a late lunch in the dining room at the Bright Angel Lodge.  We found ourselves ordering things we couldn’t get on the trail, like big hamburgers with fries, salad, iced tea and orange juice.  Afterwards, we took a walk to the mule barn to pick up the backpack we sent ahead of us a couple of days before.  On our way back towards the Bright Angel Lodge, we stopped for a minute, took off our boots and socks, placed them on the rim wall, and took a “victory” photo.  We had the luxury of a television in our room and I took a nap while Mike got caught up on hurricane news. 

We realized that we were out of ibuprofen and it was getting dark.  We walked to a shuttle bus stop and rode the bus to the Grand Canyon Village grocery store.  As the bus pulled up into the parking lot, the driver told us that the store would be closing any minute.  We couldn’t believe it ourselves, but we started to run!  We moaned and groaned all the way across the parking lot to get in the store before it closed.  Mike even hurdled a bench near the doorway!  We really needed that ibuprofen!  That little jaunt did us in.  We waited for the next shuttle to take us back to our hotel so we could rest again.

Now it was time to look ahead to our next adventure - post-Katrina New Orleans.  We had no doubts that we would be fine after our experiences over the last four days in the Grand Canyon.  First, we needed to make our way back home. . . but that’s another story!

Looking Back

In retrospect, the hike was not only a physical challenge, but a mental and emotional one as well. Had we not been so worried about the situation back home resulting from Hurricane Katrina, it might not have been so emotional and we may have been able to enjoy more of the trip. We have been told that there is virtually no way to train for hiking in the Grand Canyon because there is such great variation in terrain, temperatures and environment. We stretched the limits of our physical abilities and mental attitudes. Staying positive with each other was definitely the key to a successful hike. There are those that hike the canyon and swear they'll never do it again. Us? Hell yeah! We will do it again, and soon!

Mike & Patty Poupart
(Date of Hike: August 31 - September 3, 2005)

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