Grand Canyon Ups and Downs

    800 600 Terri Rylander

    I giggled to myself with excitement when the plans were confirmed. We were crossing the Grand Canyon again!

    Karen, Gary, and I set a date, or rather the availability of rooms set our date for late October. Just after the North Rim closed. Given my health issues this past year and how I had been feeling, I was anxious to prove I was still ok. Also, I was anxious to show my new friend Karen the Canyon as a one day trip. She had backpacked across previously but never done a single day crossing. She wasn’t sure she could!

    We decided to camp out the night before at the North Rim campground. Karen got there first and saved a spot. Gary and I drove up together, arriving just after her. We set up camp, then wandered around the campground and visited the lodge. Looking across the canyon, I anticipated the next day’s crossing. I was sure it would go well.

    My trusty companions

    We started just after sunrise, about 7am. It really wasn’t cold and we had a nice jog down the first few miles. That is, until Karen took a spill and powdered her face and cut her hand. She was ok and we continued on. It was a pretty day and mostly uneventful down to Phantom Ranch where we stopped for a snack and drink.

    From there, we started up the hill. Bright Angel trail is a beast and the day was warming up. I soaked my shoes in every stream crossing but they dried quickly. I was doing really well…until I wasn’t. With four miles to go, at Indian Gardens, I started falling apart.

    It was like all of the sudden I had nothing. Nothing but a gut ache. I had no energy left and felt nauseous. Karen and Gary were a ways ahead but then would stop and wait. I would take 10 steps and was out of breath. With three miles to go, I threw up but there was nothing there but the remains of the water I was sipping. I think it took three hours to go three miles. It was sheer misery.

    Having waited for quite a while at the top, Gary came back down to look for me and coaxed me up. It was long after dark. Just out of the canyon, I had to throw up again so crouched by the sidewalk trying not to be noticed. We waited for the bus to take us to the lodge, but when it came, it was packed. I tried to wave it on, but the people on the bus offered seats. I prayed I wouldn’t throw up on the bus.

    I made it through the 20 minute bus ride and we got checked in. Unfortunately, it was another half mile or more walk to our room. I suggested we get food at the cafeteria before heading to the room. I sat with my head on the table while Gary and Karen ate. A wave of nausea hit me again and I threw up on the table with my head in my arms, hoping no one would notice. Once I got back to the room and laid down, I started to feel better.

    Grand Canyon never disappoints!

    The next day I was totally fine. We had a nice breakfast, except for the horrible service. It was so bad, I complained to the manager and she comped our meal and gave us lunch free too! We toured the canyon having a completely enjoyable day. Karen and I even earned our Junior Ranger badges!

    Spectacular sunrise on South Kaibab

    Heading down the canyon on South Kaibab at sunrise is always a treat. The views are spectacular and you feel one with the canyon. I did my best to stay hydrated, even chugging my water bottle empty as we approached Phantom Ranch. I avoided their lemonade and drank another bottle of water instead. As we geared up, my stomach suddenly felt ill. I quickly ran over to the bushes and threw up again!

    Crap! Now what? There is no way out except up. And, I certainly didn’t want to hold back my companions. What the heck? After sitting for a few minutes, I felt better. But now, I was angry. Why me? Why do I have that body? I offered to take Gary’s hiking poles and then stormed ahead. I hiked fast and hard. It’s funny what anger can do. I stayed 10-15 minutes ahead of them all along Bright Angel to the ranger station.

    That’s where the climb really starts. I have always done fine here, surprisingly. This time was fine too. A little tougher but ok. The last two miles were tough and they were out quite a bit before me, but I made it. We hit Jacob’s Lake for dinner and a room with a shower.

    Overall, it was another wonderful but challenging crossing. Karen did excellent. Gary was strong and supportive as always. Me? I’m still a work in progress.


    Terri Rylander

    All stories by: Terri Rylander