Hermit Trail

I tried to sleep at the trailhead after parking at 3 am, but all I could think of was whether or not there were mountain lions in the Grand Canyon. Sitting in my car, waiting in the darkness, I remembered that best practice was to never hike alone. I remembered that if you chose to hike alone, then you should let people know when you expect to return, but my people were down in the bottom of the canyon without cell phone service. My thoughts spiraled… this was a bad idea.

Despite these fears, I laced up my hiking boots and hoisted my pack onto my back. I wasn’t going to let these last-minute doubts ruin all the planning and dreaming that had gone into this moment. Walking into the Grand Canyon from the rim it was pitch black except for the tiny beam of light coming from my headlamp. The silence was broken by my shoes crunching rocks, my breath quick. With each step the darkness slowly lifted and soon enough I turned a corner to see the Earth drop away into the depths of the canyon, while the sun grazed the walls rising around me. I continued to hike, following the trail that hugs the canyon wall while slowly descending deeper, and I felt like someone in “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”; a miniature version of myself picked up and placed on a topographical replica of something imagined.

After hiking for several hours, I began to wonder when I would run into Leah. According to our newest plan (hatched over the spotty satellite phone connection), she would start hiking on Hermit Trail from Granite Camp at 4 am. We would hopefully pass each other on the trail, she climbing out, me climbing in, but I left the keys at the car. Just in case.

The moment I saw Leah approach me was the moment I was first able to breathe deeply, and a weight lifted off my shoulders. Maybe this crazy thing was going to work out all along. We exchanged a hug, some snacks and I checked in about the first part of the trip while Leah checked in about my exam the day before. We snapped a selfie and departed in our own separate ways.

The next big hurdle was meeting the rest of the group at the beach before Hermit Rapids. I arrived around 9:15 and sat down to wait; stripping my shoes off and dipping my toes into the cold, clear Colorado River for the first time. It was hard to relax (I wasn’t quite on river time yet), so I paced, applied sunscreen and checked to see exactly how squished the cupcakes were that I brought with me for Garrett’s upcoming birthday. They were only **slightly** squished. Around 9:45, I spotted a single raft at the bend in the river. Then two, three … four. Okay, now I could relax and it was going to be an FA day.

Ice…And Tequila?

Alternative titles, “The Big Ditch” or “The Grand Canyon”.

Our trip down the Colorado River was years in the making, starting with a dream and a group of men, who were once boys at Colorado Mountain College together. As a kid, I got the chance to go on a couple of raft trips. The first was also on the Colorado River, but where its runs through Westwater Canyon in Utah. I distinctly remember holding onto the front of the raft and watching the wall of water, wave after wave, come towards my face, while screams of joy erupted from within me.

Time passed and a little over two years ago, while I was returning from Thailand, I started reading the book, “The Emerald Mile” by Kevin Fedarko. A beautiful and gripping tale of the fastest run through the 300 miles of river that cuts the Grand Canyon. It tells the history of the canyon, a story of exploration, destruction, bravery, redemption and revitalization. As I read, I felt as if I was racing through the canyon myself and I knew that I was captivated by the beauty, power and awe of this place I barely knew.

Luckily for me, my dad never stopped dreaming about another trip on the Colorado River. I can now safely say that if you ever get the chance to row [or ride] a raft through the Grand Canyon do not hesitate. Drop everything and run to Lee’s Ferry.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to share about this adventure and I think I’ll do a mini-series. So, hang on to your hats and get ready to high-side because as they say on the river, “We’ll run her down the gut”.

Waiting for the rafts to all clear Bedrock Rapid. It looks like you can go right or left at the top, but if you go left you end up in deep trouble. You gotta pull hard right and glide through the rest of the way.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Home to dust, cacti, and rocks. Capitol Reef National Park is a little know plot of land stuck between Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Canyonlands National Park. Southern Utah is filled with a collection of canyons and desert and starry night skies. This was our destination as we hit I-70 early one Saturday morning to kick-start our #springbreak2018.

The plan was to car-camp the first night, followed by two nights out on the Lower Muley Twist Canyon. After checking in at the Visitors Center to register and get a permit for backpacking we decided to change our plans. [You need a permit to backpack at Capitol Reef, but they are free and as far as I could tell, there’s no limit on the number of permits that they give out]. The ranger told us that Capitol Reef was at 25% of their normal rainfall for the year. In a place that’s already strapped for water, this means there is even less to go around. She shared with us that Lower Muley Twist had no water – aka probably a bad idea to go there, unless you want to carry three days worth of water! That sounds heavy. The ranger did have reports that the Halls Creek Narrows trail had water, so it was there we set our sights on.

That first night we camped at a small, limited resource campground – Cedar Mesa – where our friends were able to find us after dark. We woke up the next morning, split up our food among packs and drove to the trailhead. The first part of the hike brought us down from the rim of the canyon to the wash at the bottom. From there, the hike twists and turns as it followed the dry river bed. It was so very sandy! Try carrying a pack with your next two days’ supplies along the beach. Despite the extra challenge, it sure was beautiful. That first day, we broke for lunch at this red rock and then kept trekking down the trail until we got to the mouth of the Halls Creek Narrows where the first drinkable water appeared.

With the sun rising on the canyon walls overhead, we cooked up some oatmeal and selected what would come with us on our day hike through the narrows section. The day before we ran into another person who told us that he encountered some deeper water that he had to wade through. So, we left our campsite preparing to get a little wet. Shortly after entering the narrows we ran into another person who said he found water that we all the way up to his neck! This was a very tall man. You bet we were a little nervous because we didn’t know who to believe about how deep the water would actually get, but we pressed on anyway.

In the narrows, the canyon walls loom directly overhead. They make you feel small, your problems insignificant. The quiet echo as your voice bounces off the smooth rock and the trickle of water at your feet. These are the sounds of the narrows.

I’m not sure where one of our travelers found water up to his neck because we never waded past our hips.

The last night of the trip, we camped out beside the dried wash. Stars overhead and sand underneath.

A break from school, a break from the real world, an escape into nature.

IMG_3357.jpgIMG_3361.jpg