The view will change your mind
The hike will challenge your heart
The finish will transform your lifeSasha
The journey started with a 6 hour drive north from the hot 106 degree southern desert. Stopped for a few snacks and off we were on the open road. My thoughts started to wonder if whether or not, I had everything with the temperature well over 100 degrees, all I thought about was water. Let it be noted, a close friend insisted I have a gallon of water for the hike, “AT A MINIMUM” I should have. From there my mental checklist continued, boots, socks, sunscreen and pack! I’m good.
On the drive north, we enjoyed some good country tunes and traffic flowed pretty nicely. Usually in Phoenix the holiday traffic is congested but considering we were leaving town a couple days from the holiday weekend starting, we made great time. Soon we started to see ‘Dook’o’oosłiid’ in our view with the tall northern pines. This place and this time of year brings me back memories of running the 100-mile relay last year with our Team Dilwo’. This is a must stop with welcoming views, people and wood fire pizza! Yum!
After dinner, we made the drive towards “The North Rim” (you got to say this in deep voice… atleast that is how I hear it in my mind, haha) We found a great place to car camp. Once we parked, it was already 8 o’clock which meant we had less than 6 hours until our time of arrival. We planned a 3 am meet up which meant, hurry and get my butt to bed.
Ever have those moments when once your head hits the pillow and your alarms goes off? This was one of those mornings and it was time to move! The group was already waiting on our arrival, whoops, guess we slept in. We grabbed our gear and loaded into the truck. Honestly, I did not have a clue where we were going, so tried to get comfortable in the middle back seat but the anticipation was too much.
Back on the road, the views became a mixture of dense pine trees, various layers of sandstone and petrified wood. Then a buffalo roaming not far from the road was a pleasant surprise, it felt like a quick glimpse of Yellowstone. Forgive my astonishment in this moment but I had never been to this side of the Grand Canyon. So in sharing my random thoughts of how to describe the scenery. Also, I could have used a little more sleep as well, haha.
We arrived! My mental checklist started firing off once again and my nervous excitement had interrupted the groggy feeling I had. Each one of us were speechless getting out the truck, packing and tightening our gear. There was a sense of urgency and familiarity, this was about to be the second epic hike this year, the first was a 3-day trek to Havasupai.
Within minutes we headed to the trailhead, no picture and off we went. I wasn’t in much of a hurry since this was my first time on this trail. Also, I’ve ran a marathon before, so I should be there before sundown or so, I thought. Anyway, by the first mile, I was already down two layers and yes, it was a bit much since there was an excessive heat warning. Lesson learned, one extra layer will do just fine, not two.
When I stopped for several minutes to take this photo, my eyes wondered rapidly in every direction, trying to seal into my memory every mile, color and texture of the captivating canyon that was right at the foot of my feet. Now looking at this breathtaking picture, its perfect. Faint but pronounced, the peaks in the backdrop referred to as ‘Dook’o’oosłiid’ is sitting perfectly, high above the canyon walls, mighty and unwavering. So be it no surprise it is known as one of the Navajo sacred mountains. In my awe inspiring moment, this view is breathtaking, powerful, healing and a beautiful beginning to our hike.
As we followed the miles of trails that weaved through the canyon and the river flowing effortlessly over rocky riverbeds added a relaxing tone to our trek in the heat. In many sections of the canyon, it felt like we were walking through a blow dryer and our sweat dissipated before we could notice. These canyons were the perfect setup for feeling baked in the sun and with each sip of water or electrolytes our bodies absorb with a quickness. The heat wasn’t letting up and slowly I could feel my energy levels draining.
Our longest stretch of miles was about 15 miles, if you take a waterfall detour like we did but this happen during the hottest time of the day. I also made the mistake in not filling up one of my hydro-packs which we had run out of water 2 miles from where we were going to rest. Lesson learned, don’t forget your portable water filter.
Well by the end of this long stretch, one of our group members surprised us with some ice cold lemonade, OH MAN that was refreshing! I say, it went along nicely with the ramen and sardines we packed for our re-fuel meal, Jen and I offered to the others but there was no takers. After our meal, we headed straight for the river and it was ice cold. Just what I needed after that long stretch in the heat to reduce the inflammation in my legs.
As the sunlight crept below the western sky, the lively bright canyon walls and clear running rivers were overtaken by the calm dark shadows. The sudden cool breeze made for a refreshing evening. This was one heck of a hike and still was not over. Finally, our body temperatures dropped back to almost normal after enduring one of the hottest days of the year. Sluggish in our steps, faint in our speech and stress on our hearts, we were determined to make the last stretch.
So here I am at mile 20, the wall is what I am going to reference this to. I have ran two 26.2 marathon races to date, I have hit “the wall” around mile 22 and my times reflected that. This was no different, this wall is known as the Devil’s Corkscrew and it’s a 2400 ft elevation vertical climb with switchbacks winding from top to bottom. Not sure where the reference of a corkscrew came from but THIS last stretch tested my mental and emotional toughness.
Random thoughts stampeded my mind, my emotions were ready to release fear to my heart and halt my tracks. Those last moonlit miles seem to unravel forever, every mile turned into another hour on the clock. Our headlights reflected off piercing eyes along the trail, I was not ready for the night and the moonlight had only increased the shadows from the rim of the canyon walls. Doubt tried to turn my words to giving up and with my physical exhaustion, my endurance was already pushed to its limits. “What the hell am I doing?!” This was not part of the plan. None the less, an adventure through and true.
At this point, my watch and headlamp had lost battery life, my guess it was about 10 pm. Luckily we still had light for our pathway. I was slower, fatigue and it seemed I had a heightened level of hearing because every sound seemed to echo through the canyon. I could feel my adrenaline and although I had become hesitant in my steps, we kept moving. At this point, Jennifer’s back started seizing up, so I a took her pack and gave her my pole in hopes that would help her to keep moving with me. We passed signs showing us we were getting closer and so once we saw the siding of a house in our path! I was so relieved!
Physically drained and mentally tested! At the finish, all my emotion ended the adventure with a gratifying “We made it! Rim-to-Rim!!” Hiked 30 miles within 24-hours! Lesson learned, these miles of hiking is NOT the same as 26.2 miles of running. Cheers to being added to the 1% who have accomplished this hike!
Thank you for your time in reading our blog and stay tuned for Jennifer’s Grand View!