Monday, June 19, 2017

Elizabeth's POV: The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad hike at the Grand Canyon

No one has ever mistaken me for a nature girl. I have steadfastly refused to "camp" through 12 years of marriage, much to Ryan's dismay (those early years of Girl Scout camping thoroughly cured me of any desire to sleep, cook or use the bathroom outdoors). Earlier on this trip, Gena asked with obvious concern whether I had even brought sneakers on the trip. (I reassured her that I had.)

Therefore, I was trepidatious about the Grand Canyon leg of this vacation. Ryan kept talking about hiking - wandering aimlessly on trails 6 to 8 miles long in blazing heat. Obviously I survived, but it was a tough day. Ryan on several occasions accused me of "Brooke-ing" it - a reference that likely will make sense only if you watched the 29th season of the Amazing Race.

Early on in our hike. Notice the lack of a smile. 

The National Park Service tells you to expect any hike to take twice as long on the way up. Hike down into the Grand Canyon an hour, and expect it to take two to get back. Inexplicably to me, it gets far hotter as you go down - it was around 87 degrees at the rim Friday but 109 at the bottom. The park was under an extreme heat alert.

We left for our hike about 8:45 a.m. They really recommend that you leave earlier than that to avoid hiking during the worst of the sun (10 a.m.-4p.m.). I didn't really enjoy the way down because I was too nervous about tripping and about how far Ryan was going to push us to go. Fortunately, I think Ryan got some really nice pictures that I can look at later.

A view from not-quite-halfway down the trail. 

The way back was torture. I stopped -- literally -- at every shady rock or after five minutes, whichever came first. Even Ryan admitted afterward that my face was such a vivid shade of red that he wasn't sure I was going to make it.

 I had no idea Ryan snapped this shot, but I remember exactly what I was thinking: How am I ever going to get all the way back up there?
But I did. I'm not eager to do it again, but I did come away with some valuable lessons that I now call "The Indoor Girl's Guide to Surviving the Grand Canyon" (patent pending):
  1. Buy hiking boots. My sneakers didn't give me enough grip on the clay trails, and I slid often. I also didn't have the ankle support that I needed. Alternatively, I might have fared better with walking sticks to improve my balance.
  2. Pack higher sunscreen than you think you'll need. The NPS recommends SPF 50 at minimum. We had that on our arms and legs, but I could have used it for my face, too. Also remember to reapply sunscreen after you get to the top of the trail because you will have sweated most of it off.
  3. Bring one more bottle of water than you think you'll need. We drained 4 bottles, then refilled them on the way back. We ultimately had one left at the top. I had to persuade Ryan to bring the 4th, but even he admitted it was a good idea afterward. 
  4. Make sure your salty snack (to off-set your water intake) actually contains salt. We brought low-sodium trail mix by accident. Gena also recommended bringing Gatorade; helpful advice that we ignored because I think Gatorade tastes disgusting. But we bought a bottle after reaching the rim, and I don't think anything has ever tasted better in my entire life. 
  5. Sunglasses and a hat are essential. Lighter-colored clothes are recommended and would have been nice. I didn't have any, since I almost exclusively travel with black clothes to avoid ruining them with my constant spills. No matter what color you wear, you will be coated in red dust that has mixed with your sweat to form a gross paste. 
  6. Go at 5 a.m. Even though you think nothing civilized happens that early in the morning, you will save yourself a world of pain by being off the trail by 9.
  7. Remember that your Significant Other has many great qualities, even if none of them were on display on this particular day. And hope that your SO remembers the same about you.
    Ryan in his "King of the World" moment at the nadir of our hike. 
  8. Never ever hike with someone training for a marathon. Ryan ran a half in April and is training for the full 26.2 in September. I am in better shape than I have been in years thanks to two months of barre and Pilates classes that have strengthened my legs and core. Still, I did not have the fitness level to go as far as I did, and should have argued more firmly with Ryan about it. His energy and enthusiasm were super annoying - he never sat down once and when we got to the top, we said "Ready to hike the rim trail?" In the blazing sun! For miles! Next time, I'll be sure to invite friends to come with us - one who can go my pace and one who can go his. Otherwise, I fear the result will be either death or divorce. 
Dessert in the desert was the highlight of the day. 
For Ryan's radically different perspective, read this post.

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