Episode 63: Rim to Rim THE Experience Part 4Jul 04, 2022
When I say I am not an avid hiker, I sincerely mean I don't hike often. I love to explore the outdoors with my family but more often than not I am in an ATV. So when I set the goal to complete the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike I was setting a lofty goal. This hike is a 26 mile adventure full of steep rocky trails, a river crossing on an unsteady suspension bridge, dessert wildlife and extreme heat without a significant amount of shade. I knew going in that it would push me physically, mentally, and even spiritually.
Not Everything Went As Planned
Two days before the hike, my brother looked up the weather for the day of and there was an excessive heat warning. It was going to be 120 degrees at the bottom of the Grand Canyon with a UV index of 150 degrees. It also included a warning to not be hiking between 10 and 4 pm. This would take up a huge amount of time in our goal of hiking it in one day. We were not sure if we were prepared for that type of heat, if we had the correct gear, or would we even be allowed to hike during that time.
The night before the hike we arrived at the lodge on the north rim and settled in by eating dinner and driving to the trailhead. We wanted to see it in bright daylight as we had planned to begin the hike at dawn. We understood the warnings but felt we could continue our hike as planned. Which was to leave at 4:30 a.m. At the trailhead we encountered other hikers who had just completed the hike from the south rim of the Canyon and it was definitely not a coincidence. They recommended we leave earlier and so we decided to leave at 3 a.m.
As we gathered at the trailhead we were surprisingly really cold. Another unexpected surprise was that my one brother had not checked the batteries of his headlamp so his died and my other brother, who is 6'4", had brought a headlamp that did not point downwards. His light was about 30 feet ahead of where he needed to see. Luckily the light from other's lamps led them through.
It Felt Like It Would Never End
The middle portion of the hike is called the Devil's Corkscrew. It is the portion of the hike between two "resorts" called Phantom Gardens and Indian Gardens. When we left Phantom Gardens I felt rejuvenated even though my sandwich and the lemonade tasted terrible. But the intake of calories and electrolytes were just what I needed to keep moving forward. Although, this portion of the hike truly felt like it would never end.
The bottom of the Grand Canyon is home to the Colorado River which has to be crossed by walking on a suspension bridge. This bridge sways back and forth and bounces up and down as you walk. To top it off it is completely made of metal so you cannot even hold on to the rails. I kept my hands out to the side to grab ahold as I felt certain it could fall.
After surviving the bridge we climbed up hill in deep sand. Luckily it didn't last too long but at that point there isn't any more water to wet your cooling rags or cool off in so you just have to keep going. The portion between the two garden stops is only about 4 miles but the heat was beating down on us which made it feel as though it was much longer. It was torturous. The shortest distances felt like they took so long to complete. When we could see an upcoming shade spot it seemed unbearably far away.
After leaving Indian Gardens where were able to eat, rest, and cool off in a stream we began the steep ascent to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The climb is 3000 feet up in what we thought would be 4 miles. My mind was ready for 4 miles.
I was feeling fairly overheated at this point so as a group we decided that I would lead for the first 1.5 miles to the next resting point so that I could set the pace. I was definitely struggling. I had already hiked farther than ever before and was also struggling to take in calories. The heat and dryness of the air made it difficult for me to consume any food and my body was feeling it.
At about 3/4 of a mile into the ascent some much needed clouds began to move in overhead. We knew there was a zero percent chance of rain so we wondered why they would suddenly move in. We were immediately grateful as the temperature dropped about 20 degrees the moment the clouds covered the sun. Right after the clouds moved in we began to hear thunder, see lightening, and the miracle of rain began to fall. It was the most refreshing feeling that cooled our hot clothing, soaked our cooling rags, and refreshed our bodies and our minds. This miracle gave me the assurance that I could in fact complete my goal.
I Hiked the Grand Canyon
Last October when I set out to complete this difficult hike I knew that it would push me. I knew that is was something beyond my ability at the time. So I prepared myself to do it. I hiked, I walked, I exercised and did what I needed to do be prepared for the circumstances I was heading into. I was ready.
Then as the day of the hike came there was an unexpected difficulty and we didn't even start the way I had planned out in my mind. We left early with less sleep than I had wanted. The hike itself took me longer than I thought it would. But as it turns out, leaving early made it possible to achieve my goal of doing it in a day.
Throughout the hike I was sometimes overcome with exhaustion. The heat was worse than I had expected. I couldn't consume calories the way I thought I would want to and absolutely needed to. My drinking water would not stay cool. The electrolytes turned into a "hot tea." The cooling rags dried out. The last leg of the hike was longer than my mind was prepared for. It didn't always feel possible.
Then the miracle of unexpected rain and reprieve from the sun gave me what I needed to continue moving forward just when I thought I couldn't. I was able to put one foot in front of the other to ascend the canyon wall and attain the goal I had set so many months before. I did something that only 1% of Grand Canyon hikers do. I hiked rim to rim, in one single day.
For more details about my experience and the spiritual lessons I learned as I prepared for this adventure listen to the previous episodes here:
Episode 45: Rim to Rim, My Spiritual Experience Part 1
Episode 52: Rim to Rim, a Spiritual Experience Part 2. With Abi Ayres
Episode 59: Rim to Rim, My Spiritual Experience Part 3
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