This will be a long one, so I’m breaking it up into a few posts. This way, you can take your time sharing each moment as it happened with us- the good, the bad, the sad, the beautiful. Follow along, and add your thoughts if you want! Enjoy!:)
Exploration, healing, faith, friendship….a soul journey… I needed all of it. And, through my recent adventure in the beautiful Grand Canyon and surrounding desert scapes, I found it all in an unexpected way…
Kindred Spirits & Craving the Unknown
Have you ever had a friend in your life that you just mesh well with? Some one that understands your brain with all of its kinks and quirks? I have been blessed enough to have a few very special people come into my life that fit in like a missing puzzle piece. My dear friend, Amber Hanks, is one of those amazing people.
Though both of us share a similar backdrop to the story of our lives- raised in the same small Georgia town, wild and reckless as teens, mothers before we grew up, and addicted to the adrenaline encompassing all things outdoors, and ultra endurance- our friendship goes beyond the superficial, and takes hold somewhere deeper in our hearts. It is sacred, and something that is extremely valuable to me.
So needless to say, through all of the ups and downs I experienced over the past year in my life, Amber was there every step of the way. Though she now lives thousands of miles from Georgia in the far away land of Rhode Island, she still found a way to lend a shoulder, an ear, and a heart during my many times of need. Yet through our many emotional, humorous, and heavy conversations, one in particular will be a chat that forever changed us:
“I’ve got to escape the box, Amber. I’m craving to ditch the daily rut for a life in the wild.” I remember crying.
“I completely understand, I feel the exact same way,” she shared. “We’ve got to get out and have an adventure together. We need to plan something..”
If you read my ultrarunning blog, you might remember a post I wrote about Silke Koester, an adventure seeking woman that ditched her daily life for a year long adventure traveling and running around the globe. Amber and I both craved to be just like Silke- out exploring the world and running the most wicked trails. But we knew we needed to start somewhere small.
“What about the Grand Canyon? Maybe we could do the Rim to Rim to Rim run?” I suggested, “I have several friends that have done it before that could share some insight. What do you think?”
“I’m all game!! Let’s plan it out!”
The Rim to Rim to Rim Grand Canyon run isn’t for everybody. It’s an intense 23 mile trek from the South Rim of the canyon, deep into the canyon floor, to the climb up the North Rim, and back again to the South for roughly 46 total miles. You cross the Colorado River, tackle treacherous terrain, battle it out in rough weather, but witness the beauty of the canyon. It is highly advisable that anyone considering this have loads of survival and ultrarunning skills and experience. It isn’t a fun run, there is no support or “aid stations”. Very fit people die in the canyon yearly! Though Amber and I carry a girly shell, we both hide a deep well of outdoor knowledge underneath. We grew up exploring the forests in the south, were raised by outdoor loving men, and have extensive ultra and trail endurance experience….aka this was right up our alley.
And so the adventure began. If you know Amber and I, you know we had to do this thing right. No frills and cheap thrills- just straight up outdoorsy grit, grime, and girl time. The plan was simple enough: book plane tickets and a couple of nights of camping, rent a car, and explore the Arizona nature scene. And that’s pretty much exactly what we did. Not gonna lie, it’s freakin hard for two ridiculously carefree women to actually plan and book details for a serious trip, but we gave it our best shot. We studied up on our canyon literature, reading maps and what not, packed some gear a couple of hours before the flight, and we were ready to go!
I know, I know.. Enough of the back story! Get on with the real story..okay.. moving on.
North Meets South In The West: FINALLY!
After months and months of dreaming about our girl trip- it was really happening! Holy crap, this is awesome! Yeah.. Not that awesome actually..My flight arrived in Phoenix early in the morning, and the plan was for me to rent a car and go exploring all day until Amber’s flight got in later towards the evening. But,..but.., the awesome rental agency that I reserved with accepted only a credit card to book the ride:
Y’all, I don’t roll with credit. I’m a straight up debit kinda person. It’s the smart broke chick way.
“I can pay in cash… All of it up front. Cool?”
“Nope. Need credit.”
“………………….You know what? You people suck. For real. You suck.”
So seeing as I had all of my massive amounts of gear and I couldn’t exactly run with it or leave it anywhere- I just sat in the airport for an entire day. And basically I wanted to shoot myself in the face. Yet, all was not lost dear friends. Amber made her appearance in the God forsaken place, that is Phoenix International Airport, shortly before I did any serious damage to my fragile mind.
Now while it is true that we are filled with far more testosterone than the average female specimen, that did nothing to prevent a whole slew of girlish enthusiasm that followed!
“Oh my gossshh!!”
“Yayyyy! I can’t believe we’re finally here!”
…and of course topped off with some serious hug action. Believe it or not, it is important to be feminine at times, people.;).
Crap. We Still Need a Car!
But not just any car… Being the feisty females that we are, Amber and I decided to use the rental car fiasco to our advantage. During our entire trip planning, we dreamed about renting a jeep for our adventure- the best ride for an outdoor journey! Only one problem: a jeep was 500 bucks for a 4 day rental. Yeah.. not happening. But we thought that maybe, just maybe, we could use my “dissatisfaction” from the earlier issue, and our feminine charm, to perhaps entice the rental dude to give us the wheels for cheap using Amber’s credit card instead.
Um Hi. I was in here earlier this morning, and I’m back because I’m really pissed. You guys totally ruined my day… my life even…. I’m really upset about this madness. Now here’s how you can fix this…..
Score!!!!! The distressed female scheme worked like a charm. We rolled out of that joint with the 400 buck cheaper “family discount” extended to us from the impressionable young fellow at the counter.
And after all of those shenanigans, we began the 3 hour drive to the grand canyon- screaming loudly and wildly along to Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lil Jon, Foo Fighters, and pretty much anything we fancied. It was intense, y’all. We even developed The Running The Canyon Dance- a skilled move highly fueled by caffeine and canyon excitement. It looked a lil sum’n like this: (Warning. Clicking play unleashes some canyon dance fury and probably other things you don’t need to see or hear.)
Are you all recovered from that display of insanity? No? Me either… Moving on to some calmer portions of our trip.
So we rolled into the campground a little after midnight, but what felt like 3:30am to us East Coast girls. Low on sleep and energy,
we scraped the jeep into a rock, parked the vehicle. We decided it best to sleep in the jeep instead of pitching our tent for the rest of the night. Does anyone want to take a guess at the nice temps here in the Grand Canyon at night?.. Did someone say 28 degrees? BECAUSE IF YOU DID YOU GET A NICKEL! Mannnn that crap was cold, y’all! Even all wrapped up in my brother’s Army grade 40 below quadruple layer sleeping bag, I was shivering a bit and thinking some things…
Daggum soft top jeep. Who thought it was a good idea to have a jeep in the canyon anyway? Some imbecile. That’s who… Not me or Amber.. but someone.
We slept for all of 4 hours, and I woke up looking like death on a stick.
Amber apparently thought it was funny, seeing as she snapped this picture of me while I was obviously entranced by my lack of 3G in the Grand Canyon. Sleepless, Ugly. Whatever. I didn’t care about all of that nonsense, because we were finally at the canyon! Since we rolled in during the dark of the night, we hadn’t seen even an inch of the canyon yet.
It was time to change that and do some serious exploring……
What happened next? Stay tuned, and read chapter 2 of our journey tomorrow:)