Grand Canyon National Park - Day 6 Indian Gardens to the South Rim
I have been dreading this day. Up and out of the Grand Canyon. 4½ miles, 3000 feet up. The numbers actually make the task seem easier, believe it or not. Looking straight up toward your goal is more than a bit troublesome. But we are ready.
The morning started off rather ominously. The sun had not yet risen and we were already packed up and ready to go. We are going to get this done before the sun starts weighing us down. Just then, Gab turned to me, “Oh my gosh, Michael, there is a big bird on the roof.” “You must be kidding.” “No, I saw it. Go and look,” she vehemently stressed in a quiet manner.
So I stepped out from under the roof which covered our campsite’s picnic bench and lo and behold there was something: a full-grown male Barn Owl not more than two feet from us. A beautiful bird indeed but if I’m not mistaken, most cultures view that as an awfully terrifying omen. Owls = Death. Gab easily shrugged off my fears, “yeah, and some cultures think they’re smart, too. Let’s go.”
So we did.
A few days earlier, at the Phantom Ranch campground, we asked a Volunteer Ranger about the distance and climb of the last day’s hike. He gave the numbers and I said, “so it’ll take only a couple of hours, right?” “Uh, maybe for me, but for you probably about 3 or 4.” The gauntlet had been thrown. Who does this punk think he is? Sir Edmund Hillary? This hike can’t be that hard. Can it?
From the Indian Garden campground, the National Park Service has set up two rest stations, one at the 3 miles to go mark and another at the 1½ mark. The three sectors of the hike are exactly the same. Our plan was to rest and eat our remaining Clif Bars at the two stations.
I made it to the 3-mile mark and then the 1½ in no time at all. We had not yet passed many people, we were shaded from the sun and were in great condition. Only an hour had passed. I can’t believe how well we are doing. This Grand Canyon ain’t nothing. We kept moving.
Our hikes generally follow the same pattern. I’m the hare and Gab is the tortoise. I race out in front, pushing myself, sweating profusely going as hard as I can. Gab goes much slower, at a more manageable pace. She always looks so content when she hikes. And as you know, slow and steady always wins the race.
Gab sings songs to keep momentum. I try but I generally get caught on a Price is Right jingle: the Yodeling Song. The one where the Swiss Shepard is moving on a conveyor belt at a 45 degree angle up the mountain and you have to stop him from falling off. doo do dooo do daaaah dah dee dee doooh do deee deee doooh ad nauseum. That’s what I’m thinking. I don’t want to but I just can’t stop it.
Shortly after the 1½ mark the flood of day hikers coming down started in earnest. One of them must have thought he was doing a nice thing by telling me, “you’re almost there,” when we weren’t even close. Thanks a lot. I am doing my best to convince my body and mind that this is not a big deal but we have a ways to go. You come in and confuse everything. My calves immediately stiffened and my soreness quickly crept into my thighs. They beckoned, “We’re there right? We can relax. That’s what the man said, right?” “No!” I shot back at my body parts, “there’s still a lot of work to do, you can’t let up now, OK?” Their response was somewhere in between. My legs were understandably confused.
At about this time another obstacle coming down started en masse. Mule Trips. In the last 1½ miles, six different trains, at least 50 mules and a steady amount of donkey poop. Just when I had caught that second, third and fourth wind the mules came and I had to move to the side. No problemo. I needed the rest anyway.
After turning a corner around yet another switchback I saw the Kolb Studio. It would not be much longer. Only a few hundred more yards to go. The crowds were heavy but mostly polite. Only a few did not allow me space to come up. I made sure to smile and say hello to everyone, they can’t know how tired I am. Near the top I waited for Gab and we exited together. One hour and 45 minutes after we had begun. Take that Mr. Ranger. We did it!
We threw our bags off and asked the first person we saw to take our picture. We just climbed out of the Grand Canyon. What an incredible buzz. What do we now? Our focus had been only on the Canyon. All future planning non-existent. “Let’s go get a hamburger,” we simultaneously thought. What a great idea. Let’s go.