Needless to say, I was relieved when I awoke for the fifteenth time to see that the sun was finally rising and I could see well enough to use the bathroom and start breakfast. While I ate, I saw Carol walking around, and I called her over.
“Why don’t you take some trail mix and water, and leave the bag with me. I will catch up to you in about thirty minutes and we can hike together some more.”
“Andrew, I know how much you wanted to hike fast after talking to those guys yesterday. You don’t have to wait up for me. I don’t want to hold you back.”
“Nahh, its fine. As long as I am out by noon, I will be happy.”
After our short exchange, we set off. It seemed like every person that we passed, including a park ranger, we would stop so that Carol could tell the story and then try to give me credit as though it was hard for me to hike slower and carry an extra eight pounds of gear.
She was irritated that Ed had not been able to make it to Indian Garden because of a shift change, and that ranger Ken had been very unfriendly and unhelpful, but she seemed to be in overall better spirits than the day before.
She was finally able to eat more food, and was encouraged by how far we had come, and as we slowly made our way to the top, I could sense her getting more and more happy. She was also becoming more open, telling me much more of her life story which was fascinating, though sad at times. I have learned over the last few years that there are very few people in life who have not faced some sort of serious trials and hardships in their life, and Carol was not the exception to that rule.
The trail gets very steep, and passes through several short stone archways as you get very near the top. The trail also becomes much more crowded. I began to see many of the people that I had seen at Phantom Ranch passing us by. I saw the group that I met on the bus ride a two days before. I also saw my neighbors from Phantom ranch, when I was within a quarter mile of the top.
My excitement was building and I started to push Carol harder, until finally the end was just one switchback away. My adrenaline was really pumping as I crossed the last couple of feet and was finally surrounded by tired hikers and tourists gawking at the canyon that I had just descended and ascended. I was in a great mood as I said my good byes and headed to my truck.
I felt so good for the rest of the day that I went to the Laundromat in the campground and did all of my laundry, cleaned and completely reorganized my truck, and got a shower which was supposed to last 8 minutes, but due to some blessing from G-d, did not turn off till I eventually got bored, quite a feat when you have not had a shower in a week, and turned it off of my own volition.