Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Rim to Rim to Rim. On A Whim.

Photo creds: fellow tourist
     After trudging through snow in pouring, freezing rain, I had called it quits on a long run attempt, which I intended to make good on the next day. It had been the X long run in a string of soaking, snowy, awful weekends with no end in sight. I wanted, nay NEEDED, sunshine. So, as soon as I got to my car, I booked a trip to Phoenix for the next weekend; I had decided I'd run the Grand Canyon. Spontaneity or Stupidity?
I guess it's okay.
     Ordinarily, people spend months planning and training for this bucket list goal. I, on the other hand, googled maps and winter conditions that week on my lunch breaks. Quickly I discovered that winter running would actually be difficult and that a major storm was passing through during the week.

Hitchhiked for a ride. No dice. 
     The night before (classic) I packed everything I thought I might need to run and camp for the weekend. With 20/20 vision in hindsight, I overpacked things I didn't need and missed the things I did. Rookie seemed to be a trending theme.

     Saturday I flew & drove uneventfully to the South Rim. I arrived right at sunset and joined the tourist flocks in gawking. I greatly underestimated the raw, insane beauty and true grandiosity; I was shocked. That night I slept uncomfortably and freezing in the car I had rented. Tourists pouring into the parking lot at 6:40 woke me up. Rattlesnakes. My alarm did not go off. I rushed in getting dressed and slurped down some PB & bananas while driving to what I thought was the South Kaibab trailhead. Wrong.

    I set out and had to run a whole extra 0.86 mi to the actual trailhead, along the rim, on an already long day. I was a little glad I had woken late as I got to revel in the glorious sunrise as I tumbled down the steep trail. I wore microspikes as the trail was covered in a sheet of ice. Olympian skeleton bobsledders would be afraid to practice on this. I also, in my cold rush to get ready, decided to wear my puffy and full tights (le-gasp, me in pants?!) as the pre dawn temps were 17F. However, the snow soon gave way and the rising sun started to bake. I ditched my puffy and long sleeve at the bottom by the bridge as they wouldn't fit in an already full pack with my winter mitts. I did not know the conditions on the north rim, so I supposed bringing the spikes and mitts would probably be a smart idea.
lol. K, South Kaibab.
     The trail meandered along the river and I passed by a sleepy Phantom Ranch. I was able to get into a good groove and the miles clicked by. At one point I paused with an outstretched arm towards a doe standing on the path. I knew the day would be a good one and considered petting my spirit animal to be a good omen.
    The sun was starting to cook and this Seattlite began to sweat profusely in the 50-60 degree temps. I regretted wearing the tights, but thanked god I didn't have a fleece lined option earlier, as I would've surely chosen that. At least I got the heat training I sought? If I had worn bun underwear, I would've stripped the tights off without hesitation. Alas, running half naked though was probably not kosher.

Accurate description of how I felt about
turning around at the North Rim
     The trail to the North Rim went from gradual to steep, real quick. I whipped out my poles as I ran out of water around mile 17.5. I was power hiking and felt relatively good, so I figured I'd be at the North Rim in no time, since blogs I had read said it was 21 ish miles. I was wrong on so many levels. The trail became steeper and consisted of either snow or red clay mud that stuck to my shoes like bricks. I was losing steam after so many fakeouts and trudged until I finally got to the rim (at mile 23 by the way). All along, at the little camp huts, the water was shut off or frozen solid. I would have known this- and that it was off at the Rim, too- if I had remembered to pack the maps and notes I printed...

     I had passed some hikers a half mi from the top and ran back down to them. I asked where they were headed. I wanted to forget this whole mess and steal a ride back to the South Rim (there wasn't a soul in sight up top). Unfortunately, but fortunately, they weren't and kindly filled me up with water. I graciously thanked their Texan hospitality and was on my way running (read: dancing) down again. It's amazing what a lifeforce water is. I returned back half because I really had no choice, and half because my spirit was rejuvenated and this adventure excited me.
Stairs on Stairs on Stairs
     Loping along the canyon floor again, I didn't see nearly as many hikers as before & I was grateful for the solitude- not only could I sing unabashedly to Destiny's Child- but I truly felt the power of Nature. Evolution was etched into the vibrant lines stratifying the canyon walls and I was transported into a limbo of time, sharing both the present but also experiencing the past. I was proud to be a resident of a world that could be so diverse and beautiful. With all the thousands that visit this national monument, I was genuinely shocked, and pleasantly surprised, at how Leave No Trace was stringently adhered: I only picked up two wrappers in all 46 miles.

     The way back seemed to go by more quickly. Before I knew it, I was back at the Black Bridge at the base of the South Kaibab trail. I knew it would be a few more hours, but I hoped to top out before sunset and avoid using a headlamp.

     This side seemed more grueling than the North side. Perhaps it was the 38 miles on my legs? That my watch died and I had no gauge for time? That my subconscious wished the adventure would never end? The trail carved out steep switchbacks spiralling up for miles. I leaned into my poles, wishing one of those mule trains I saw earlier would carry me up.
Oh lookey! the only flat section
     After what seemed like eons, I ran (exaggerated term) the final switchback to top out at 6:21pm, right as the sun cast purple hues across the sky. I looked back at the 46 miles, thousands of feet and raw adventure I had experienced in the last 11 hours 1min. I had not only run, but cherished the canyon. I can't believe I actually freaking did it. I sat in delirium leaning against the trail sign without a single thought in my head- only one emotion prevailed- true satisfaction. I made a lot of mistakes but succeeded in my mission. But soon my sweat dried and I hustled to the car to eat my heart out. The day was done and so was I.
Sunset finish
Here's what I carried with me vs What I wished I carried:
Omg I actually did it.
- TNF Ultra vertical shoes
- Salt tabs & 25 gels (only ate 17)
-Kahtoola microspikes
-SPOT Gps (my worried family & friends loved this)
-TNF Motus tights (wish I wore shorts)
-Squirrel's Nut Butter lube (TG)
-puffy & long sleeve (wish I just had arm warmers and sucked it up)
-Petzl headlamp (booyeah didn't need it)
-my redesigned Salomon vest & 1.5L bladder (that I should've filled more often when I could)
-VSD buff & wool headband (wish I just brought the buff)
-TNF MT mitts (thick but light gloves would suffice for just the beg & end)
-I totally spaced on bringing printed maps marking the available water spots
-Garmin watch (died and missed last 6 mi, but here's my Strava)
-ipod full of jams & my phone to take 1,001 pictures
-A good attitude and grateful heart to experience & love on this land
Neature is neat.
Aptly named.

#NeverStopCheesin #TheyCallMeQueso

Another boring picture

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