An Answered Prayer – Grand Canyon Rim to Rim
My best friend of 26 years, Dottie, heard about a great challenge: hiking the Grand Canyon from rim to rim in one day. That’s 25 miles! She didn’t know the group she’d be joining, who mostly reside in the Phoenix area, so she asked if I’d like to join her. We both knew that this would be quite a training challenge for me, living in the plains of the Midwest. So to address the training issues, I contacted Coach Joe of Experience Triathlon for assistance. We began the training in June for my hike that would be Oct. 7th. It seemed like we had enough time.
I would receive an email each day describing my workout. I went up and down football stadium bleachers. I hiked a big snow hill at Blackwell Forest Preserve. I did the stair master at the health club. I did incline work on the treadmill. In addition, I put many miles on my feet just walking – anywhere and everywhere. When the time came for me to fly to Phoenix to begin my adventure, I felt physically ready to take on this challenge. I had some butterflies in my stomach about things like weather, drinking water, and restroom availability, but all in all, I was ready.
The weather had gotten chilly but fortunately there was no precipitation on the day of our hike. We began before the sun was up in 29 degree temperatures at 6:20 a.m. on the North Rim. The downhill portion of this hike continues for about 14 miles until you hit Phantom Ranch. We had hoped to be there between 11:30 and 12:30. Unfortunately, we arrived at Phantom Ranch at 1:20. Other than going to the bathroom and refilling our “bladders” for our camelback drink containers, we had not stopped. I was much slower going downhill than I thought I’d be though because of the uneven terrain. I was being careful about my footing so that I did not twist an ankle.
As long as I’ve known Dottie, she’s always been a fairly competitive person. It was bothering her that we hadn’t seen anyone from our group in a long time. I kept telling her that it wasn’t a race and to just enjoy the beauty of our surroundings, but her mind was elsewhere. Finally at Phantom Ranch, she made me promise that I’d leave all picture taking to her and focus solely on hiking. I said that everyone says it takes about 12 hours to do this hike. She finally got me to realize that would be true if we had been going at a faster pace. Dottie was doing the math and realized that we were going to be hiking out of the canyon in the dark for a few hours.
I stayed in a pretty good mindset, although my body was beginning to get tired. At a bathroom stop prior to beginning our uphill climb, Dottie served as my “pit crew.” She told me to go to the bathroom while she refilled my water, got me a bar to eat and took a few things out of my backpack trying to lighten my load a bit. She sent me down the path as a mother would her child going off to school and told me she would be there soon. In about 10 minutes, she caught up. For her, it felt good to be able to finally get a little speed in her step.
We were going uphill for a while through a part known as the Devil’s Corkscrew when I said a prayer. I asked God to please help me finish this adventure. I said I needed an attitude change, or a physical boost or something, because I was running on empty.
As the sun began to set, Dottie was a bit ahead of me and saw two antlered deer. She thought for sure that this would cheer me up. It didn’t except for the fact that I got to sit on a rock for a couple of minutes in hopes that they would pass us. But they didn’t, so away we went – Dottie realizing that we were going to be hiking in the dark for two to three hours with only one headlamp. She didn’t have the heart to break that news to me.
A man was out on the trail with his big 35mm camera and tripod capturing the canyon’s beauty at sunset. He and Dottie had spoken when she noticed the deer. Since then he had kind of been watching us. As dusk fell, he came up beside us, and Dottie offered to let him pass. He said that he was fine going at our pace for a while and would walk with us. Then he said to me, “You look like you could use a good story.” And boy, did he ever have the stories to tell. The funny thing was that his stories took my mind off of my woes and aches. He eventually admitted that he leads groups on hikes and outdoor adventures all the time with the Sierra Club. He said that he recognized the signs I was showing of someone who had given up. This wonderful guardian angel stayed right by my side shining his light on the path for the next three hours. His legs were fresh, by the way, so he could have made it back up to the top much sooner. This allowed my friend to go at her own pace for a while. She kept backtracking, however, to make sure she was always in ear shot. She said that she had a flash of her having to call my husband and say, “Sorry about Kim getting pushed into the canyon! He seemed like a nice man!” By the next morning when I was in a better frame of mind, she said that she believed this guy was an answer to her prayers as well. For had he not come along when he did and she had had to walk that slowly (1 mile/hour) behind me carrying the light, she might of pushed me over or taken a header herself! We laughed and laughed about that…
I think the Grand Canyon hike taught me perseverance and taught Dottie patience. And we both know for sure that God does answer prayers! In case you were wondering what time we made it out of the Grand Canyon, it was 8:40 p.m. So rather than 12 hours, it took us (really me) 14 hours and 20 minutes.
I am “one and done,” but I think Dottie’s ready to meet the challenge again next year.