Grand Canyon National Park - Day 2 North and South Rims
We woke shortly after dawn, shook the ice from the tent and wondered what to do until the Backcountry Office opened. We drove to the Lodge in search of coffee and perhaps a warm place to occupy. Unbeknownst to me, Michael had other plans.
When we arrived at the Lodge, he went straight towards the restaurant menu and suggested that with so much time to waste, breakfast might not be a bad idea. I could see the biscuits and gravy and fresh fruit on the buffet. I could smell the French toast with walnut butter being served. Weak willed when it comes to good food, I will never be the one to say no to a meal.
An hour later, we were waiting, along with four other hopeful hikers in the cold outside of the office/trailer for a Ranger to arrive. She opened the door, surveyed the small crowd and told us to pile in and get warm. She had “a few” openings for tomorrow. How many is a few? You could see the panic flash in everyone’s eyes. We were all thinking the same thing. With my stomach turning, I suddenly wished I hadn’t taken a second helping at the buffet.
The first two people in line were actually hiking together. Good news. The second hiker only wanted to go in and out in three days starting at the North Rim. More good news. Our turn! We wanted to start from the South Rim, stay at Bright Angel, then Cottonwood, back to Bright Angel, then Indian Gardens, then up and out. The computer said No.
We nearly cried. We offered to switch around the nights, spend two days at one spot – still no. Finally, the Ranger realized there was a three-night limit along the “corridor” the popular Rim-to-Rim trail that we planned to take. The computer was balking at our length of stay, not our choice of camps. We gladly said ok to a shortened trip, paid our $40 and walked away with a prized permit. We got it!!
We packed up camp and drove the circuitous route to the South Rim to begin preparations for the next day’s hike. The mood in the ‘Tima was celebratory, which is a good thing because that drive is lo-ong. Only ten miles apart as the crow flies, the North and South Rim of the Grand Canyon are separated by 215 miles of road.
Before we knew it we had arrived at the South Rim entrance of the Grand Canyon. You hear it all the time, but the view really is completely different than its colder, less crowded Northern companion. As we were admiring the colors from the Desert View viewpoint, I heard Michael meekly say, “Mr. and Mrs. Hill? It’s me, Michael…” After he was smothered with a shriek, hugs and handshakes, Michael explained to me that the Hills had been neighbors of his family. They marveled at his beard and his wife and how time flies. We marveled at how small the world really is – this isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last time we run into faces from home. It is great.
That celebratory feeling that had lingered all afternoon was now turning a little anxious, at least for me. What started as a “wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if” had now turned into a “there-is-no-excuse-not-to” kind of hike. How far is it to the bottom? How hot does it get? We can do this, right? I can do this, right?
Michael tried to calm my nerves by reminding me that we had hiked a canyon once before – the Colca Canyon in the South of Peru. If you ask a Peruvian, they will tell you that Colca Canyon, not the Grand Canyon, is the deepest in the world. We’re not quite sure how that measures up. I do know that, yes, it was a canyon and, yes, I did hike it. But that was years ago. Am I up to it now? Am I up to it tomorrow? Our final dinner of cheese and salami and red wine bought cheap in Boise brought back more South American memories and made me a little less anxious about the morning.