Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Grand Canyon: Day 2, Part 1

I woke up early the next morning. My little fleece mummy bag was more than warm enough, and I slept well after making a pillow out of my shirt. I am not a breakfast person, but I somehow managed to force down four delicious packs of strawberry oatmeal before setting out on the trail around 6:30.

Before I even made it out of Phantom Ranch, I found my first bit of company on the trail. Two does and two fauns blocked my path for about ten minutes as they casually grazed just ten paces away from where I stood. There is something extremely peaceful about mornings at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The weather is warm, but not hot. The people camping next to me barely stirred as they slept off last night’s revelries. I could really feel the presence of the L-rd in that quiet place.

Shortly after crossing the Colorado River on Bright Angel trail, I encountered another pair of Hikers, a father and daughter hiking the Grand Canyon together. The father is a surgeon, originally from the Middle East, but now living outside Washington D.C., and the daughter, Marian, is a fifth year senior, studying physiology in Los Angeles. It was the daughter’s first serious hike, but as we walked she asked my advice about other hikes in different national parks that I would recommend. She talked about forcing her friends to do more of this kind of thing, and also about a triathlon that she wanted to compete in with her friends.

For the next mile and a half we walked together, discussing travel, bikes, jobs, and anything else that came up. Her father had a lot of good advice about not wasting time.

“If you don’t know what to do, just try something. Then you will know if you want to do that or not.”
“Time is the most precious thing that we have.”
“Life is like a one hundred dollar bill. If I gave you a hundred dollars, you would spend the first ten carelessly, but you would be very careful about how you spent the last ten. You should spend the entire one hundred as carefully as you spend the last ten.”

I was really enjoying my new hiking companions, not to mention Marian was very beautiful, but it seems that G-d had a different hiking companion in mind for me. After about a mile and a half, we met up with Carol, a lady that I had met in the campground earlier. Carol looked like she really needed some help, so after talking to her for a moment, I offered to help her carry her bag for a little way. Carol is in her sixties, and was having a very hard time forcing herself to eat and drink so the going was slow.

After a short time, I told Marian and her father to go on, that I would catch up with them later. Me and Carol continued to hike for quite some time while she told me her story.

“I read all of the literature before I came out here. Everything that I read said that normal people can make the hike down the Grand Canyon and back. I figured, I am in good shape, why couldn’t I do that? So I spent some time talking to different people who were doing the hike, some overweight, some very old, and I thought, surely if they can do it, I can do it, so I set out with my backpack, some snacks and water, a jacket, and my hat.

“Twelve hours later, I was finally in sight of the bridge crossing the Colorado River, but I absolutely could not go on! I sat there, in sight of the bridge, for a long time until a couple came by. Their names were Angie and Jake, and they gave me some water. Then Jake helped me to walk, while Angie force fed me trail mix. Finally I arrived at Phantom Ranch where the rangers put me in a bunk house.

“I slept all of Saturday and Sunday, occasionally trying to eat a few bites of whatever they were serving in the canteen. Ranger Mandy asked me what I had been able to eat, and I told her I was able to eat the eggs they served at breakfast, so she scrambled me a bunch of delicious eggs, then later, ranger Ed gave me a bag full of snacks and Gatorade, and told me that if I could stand and talk, I could hike out.

“Ed told me to start very early in the morning and to hike as far as Indian Garden where he would give me a place to sleep, and a camp stove so I could have a hot meal. He told me not to worry about the hike, that he would pass me on the way up, and that there would be 180 other hikers out that day who would help me. And here I am”

To Be Continued…

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