Thursday, April 24, 2008

Hanne, my hero at the South Kaibab trail

Ooo-ahh Point
Originally uploaded by bonbayel.
This picture doesn't show Hanne, but it shows the Ooo-ahh Point, where our hearts stopped momentarily. Guaranteed the scariest part of the hike down into Canyon by the South Kaibab trail. Hanne made a great video from this location, which you can see in the collection of pictures. I'm glad she didn't get me in it, because my face was white

But that isn't why Hanne is my hero. That was much later.

We chose this trail over the other option, the Bright Angel trail, because it goes down faster. That meant we'd get further into the canyon in our allotted time (and with our allotted strength and provisions.) There is a great rest area at Cedar Ridge, where the mule trains stop, and there are composting toilets (with solar panels.)

So we had great time getting down. Although I did notice it in my knees, they held up. I think Hanne would have preferred to go about twice as fast, but she sweetly waited for me along the way. We agreed that I would do some R&R at Cedar Ridge, eating some of the sustenance I'd brought, maybe reading some of the Danish book I'd been working on, or taking pictures, and then start back up. In the meantime, she would hike on down another 20 minutes or so (there's a zoomed-in picture of here skipping down the stairs,) and then meet me whereever I happened to be when she got back, which wasn't very far above the rest stop.

I discovered that, although my knees weren't so bad going back up, it all required a lot more energy and breath. I found myself breathing heavily using chest breathing, and would lecture myself to breathe with stomache muscles like we were taught in Chorale. I'd take 10 steps and stop to breathe, and then maybe a few more. I took very few pictures on the way up! If you compare the number of pictures Hanne took and I took, for a change, she was the big photographer!

I met a (slightly younger) couple - from Kansas City - having as much difficulty as I did, and we watched for Hanne for a while, until suddenly, there she was. Hanne quickly suggested that we switch knapsacks. Even though I'd eaten most of my stash (and she hadn't,) there was still my book and camera - and whatever else I had - weighing down. She chided me on not packing properly! So she would walk up a bit and turn around and wait a bit, and was getting worried that I wouldn't make it. When we got to the very nasty switchback part going up the vertical cliff side, she left me with the other couple, taking both our knapsacks, and happily strolled up the hill to the top, where we found her much later happily reading her book! At least Hanne had read that the hike to Cedar Ridge and back should take 3-5 hours, and did it in 3 1/2 (she of course went further and did it in 3!) So she was impressed anyway that I actually did it - even though she ended up with both knapsacks!

Along the way we met some groups who were hiking all the way down to the river, where there is a ranch. At the bottom, it connects up with the Bright Angel trail, and there is even a bridge over the river for those who want to go up the North Kaibab trail to the north rim.

About the same time I arrived at the top, a young couple with large knapsacks also surfaced, after 2 nights at the ranch. They said it was exhausting but a wonderful experience. And old ranger we met at the Ooh-ahh Point said that it was very rare until recently for peole to hike all the way. Most took mules. I saw mule trains with people, and others packed with provisions in and waste out. And all along I had the mule theme from the Grand Canyon Suite in my head.

After that experience, we took the shuttle bus to the Grand Canyon village, where we got an expensive hamburger and then headed back to the hotel for a soak in the hot tub. (There were too many kids in the pool to be able to swim. Dinner that night was at the "Spaghetti Western" a couple of doors down the road from the hotel.

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