It seems like forever ago that I was waking up in New Mexico before the sun came up to drive to the Grand Canyon. It has been close to two weeks ago and I feel like I have so many new memories that some of them are starting to fade. I’ll try my best, though. Towards the end of our relaxing week spent at the Pirkle residence after our adventures in CO and UT, Jon and I went on a gorgeous day hike to Pyramid Rock. We drove west on Route 66 for about 15 minutes and after a small casino was the left turn for the trailhead. Immediately I asked Jon what he thought about us going to the casino that night. We both have a “When in Rome…” mentality, so of course he was down so I’m sure you can guess where we all went that night. Anyways, we took our left turn and drove around a rodeo arena that was big enough to be a football stadium with two or three smaller rodeo arenas beside it. I have never seen anything like it. There were Native American paintings on the outside of the stadium, bull stables all over the place, and tall red rocks/ mountains that surrounded it that, during a real rodeo, probably acted as an amplifier for the roaring crowds coming out of the arenas. I could imagine this place being very much alive. I envisioned nervous bull-riders situating themselves on a bull behind the gates and anticipating the wild bucking of these beasts. I could see recent hoof imprints in the dirt and I imagined riders looking like ragdolls attached to the back of these animals and slinging in the air and then racing to get up to run and jump over the railing to dodge the raging bull (that’s at least how I picture it from the movies). We drove through taking in our surroundings and made it to the trailhead. I was excited to be doing another hike and it was only about 2 miles to the top so I knew we could do this hike and still be able to grab lunch by noon. After a short but steep hike up, we took in the 360 degree view we had of the reservation, Route 66 and the train tracks that we could see an entire train move along on, and surrounding points that we debated hiking afterwards. After getting lost (as we seemed to do on all the trails we’d hiked so far), we decided against another hike and headed back home. *Before I tell you what happened next, I should tell you about the day before: Jon and I had both been feeling a little restless without any exercise the last few days so we decided to go on a run. We decided to go toward Rachel’s work and back since it was only a couple of miles away and there weren’t many turns so we couldn’t get lost. So we put warm clothes on and headed that way at a decent, normal pace. We ran for about 6 minutes and had to stop because he felt a little nauseous and I just felt completely out of shape. We were dead and needless to say, we didn’t make it. AND, we did end up getting a little lost.* So after the hike, we decided to give our run another shot. We essentially took the same route (without getting lost) and after a little over four minutes we were bent over double trying to catch our breath. We both felt like an elephant was stepping on our chest and we were desperately gasping for breath. I could not inhale all the way and I felt like I had just sprinted the last 400 meters after a marathon. We had not considered the elevation being a problem while out there, but this run made it very clear that our bodies were not acclimated to it. This was a little more assuring that I wasn’t that out of shape. We ended up walking for a while and eventually caught our breath and slowly finished out the rest of the run.
We got back from the casino pretty late that night and were up before 6am to head to the Grand Canyon. After the four hour drive we arrived and walked to the North Rim. I kid you not, my eyes could not register what I was seeing. I was looking at the most incredible view I had seen up to this point of my life! I thought we had just walked up to a large mural because it just didn’t seem real to me. For a long time I just stared and tried to create a reference point to give my eyes a chance to make sense of the enormity of this canyon.
My depth perception was completely messed up and I could tell how far away one ridge was from the next. When I was younger I loved to watch The Brady Bunch, and in one episode they traveled to the Grand Canyon. I remember thinking, “…and now what? How long are they supposed to look at it before they go back home?” I always imagined looking down into a V-shaped canyon, seeing a river at the bottom, and that was all there was to it. I could not have been more wrong and blown away! No picture can capture the beauty of this great American landmark. It goes on and on as far as you can see in any direction. After some pictures and whatnot, we couldn’t wait to go back to the car and get our packs to hike down to the bottom of it and set up camp. On our hike down we saw a Bighorn sheep right above us and lots of deer. We got down to the campsites and it was swarming with deer. They were everywhere and they didn’t seem to mind us at all. So while they continued grazing, we set up the tents and ate snacks. Looking up at the hike we just completed felt amazing. It was one thing to look at it from the top, but going down to the bottom and looking back up was really cool. It was five miles one-way to the campsite with a 5,000 foot drop. We set up camp and then hiked another 1.5 to see the Colorado River–the creator of this enormous gorge. It was dark when we arrived back at the campsite and, had we not known about all the deer being around, this would have been the scariest sight of my life: everywhere we shined our headlamps, there were eyes staring back at us. It was something you see only in a movie. Eyes appeared and others disappeared as deer turned their eyes toward us and acknowledged us and then went back to doing whatever it is deer do in the dark. Even though I knew they were deer, my imagination wouldn’t let me walk too far away from the tent when I had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. That morning, none of us were excited about having to hike back out of the canyon. With every leg muscle aching, we finally reached the top and took one last look at our accomplishment and the beautiful canyon the sun was now beginning to pour into.
The amazing thing about the Grand Canyon to me is that you can’t capture its monstrosity from any one angle. From the rim of the canyon you can see the patch of trees that cover the campsite, but not down to the river. From the point we hiked out to after the campsite, we could see the river, but couldn’t see anything further than the valley we were in. Even a helicopter view from above would not allow you to see the depth. Bottom line, it was INCREDIBLE, and it is a must see! I don’t have the stamina to write about Washington right now but it will come soon! Hopefully I will have an internship with the Knox County Health Department by the time I post the next blog.
Thanks for reading. All comments and questions are welcome! I’d like to know people are actually reading these blogs. Thanks,