(Please read Blooming in the Desert: The Buildup (Ch.1) before reading this post. )
We couldn’t wait any longer, Amber and I had to see this giant piece of Earth we had traveled so far to see. So we hopped in the jeep and set out to find the best view of the South Rim. We drove around, still unable to catch that first glimpse, until we found the sign for Bright Angel Trailhead. Ahh the starting point of our Rim to Rim to Rim run. There must be a view here!…Oh, there was a view all right… A breathtaking, awe inspiring view! It was far more incredible than I ever imagined it would be. You know, everyone told me that I would be blown away by the beauty of the Grand Canyon. I believed it. I expected it. Yet, to be there, to actually experience it was something completely different.
“Man. Man, I can’t believe this. It’s… It’s.. I don’t even know what to say..” I mustered up.
“Yeah….It’s absolutely phenomenal.”
I knew what to do first.. I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment and thanked the Creator of the grandeur before me, “Thank you for this experience. Thank you…” Then I opened my eyes back up- because I couldn’t miss a moment. I had to drink every last sip of it all in.
The sun had just risen. The array of colors dancing across the vast landscape were more alive, more real, than anything I had ever witnessed before. The way the light bounced off of the various rock formations, the flow with which the land moved- it intrigued me.
“Amber, we’ve got to get down there in it. I can’t stand up here just looking at it like its a page in a book. I’ve got to experience it. I need to feel it.”
“I know, Ash. We’ll get to experience more than enough of it during the rim run tomorrow.”
“Yeah, but I can’t wait. We need to go now. I’m feelin’ like a freakin’ kid in a candy shop. Let’s at least hike something. I have to feel this trail.”
“All right, you know I’m up for it! Let’s do it!”
Feeling the Trail
Regardless of our plans to run 46 miles the next day, we filled our hydration packs up, and hopped a bus to the nearby South Kaibab trail, another entry point to the Rim to Rim to Rim run.
We didn’t need to say anything, we both knew what the other was thinking. That same outcome was a very real possibility for us if we weren’t extremely careful.
We let it sink in for a moment, and continued towards the trail.
…it took everything in me not to charge down that trail with a sick running vengeance! I had waited so so long for this. My feet were finally on the canyon earth, and I wanted more than anything to set them free. I knew Amber was feeling the exact same way.
The First of Many Emotional Moments
“Let’s stay smart, we need everything to tackle the rims tomorrow.” She cautioned. We hiked and kept the pace easy, but I had to stop before we really got going. There was something I had to do before we went any further……
My late Aunt Elaine was a vibrant woman. Like me, she craved all things adventure and nature. Her enthusiasm for the outdoors must have trickled down into my blood stream some how. My mother has a picture of her posing this exact same way in front of the canyon. She died unexpectedly at only 44, but lived the best she could up until that point. I always felt a deep connection to Elaine even though she passed when I was young. As an adult, I’ve felt my way of life is one she would appreciate. In this moment, I knew that her spirit lived on..It was so beautiful, and so sacred for me. I will never forget that.
The views were stunning, and our time together, even just hiking, was strengthening our bond. We knew what we were doing during this week in the canyon was soothing the deepest places of our souls- as cheesy as that might sound, it’s the best way I can describe it.
Gotta Be Extremely Careful Tomorrow
During our hike back out, I pondered a few things: A, the canyon was amazing in every way, but it was HOT. And B, the climb back out to the rim was a few thousand feet of quad devastation. Both were things we knew to expect, but again, things we had to experience to truly understand.
We need to be extremely careful tomorrow. I kept thinking. With all of my past ultra race and run experiences, I have learned that mother nature isn’t something you play with. Especially heat. I almost died at Fort Clinch, a 100 mile Florida trail and beach race in the summer heat. That race put me in the ICU with my body eating my own heart. Since, I have never been willing to be too reckless in the heat.
We left the canyon, a bit unwillingly, and headed back to camp to start prepping for the Rim to Rim to Rim run. Due to our new appreciation of the Arizona elements, we knew we needed to spend the remainder of the day giving serious thought and preparation to our journey.
Now when most runners embark on their canyon journey, they do it in groups of 6 or more for various reasons, but mainly safety. Since it was just the two of us crazy blonde chicks tackling the often deadly wilderness, we knew we had to be doubly careful. We packed everything from a couple pounds of waffle stingers and gels, to venom extractors, compasses, knives, flashlights, and safety blankets. All of which were to be placed on our backs. We spiked up our shoes for some serious steep downhill traction, and then settled in for a good night’s sleep.
The anticipation of the day to come was killing us. Hiking in the canyon only fueled a more intense hunger to actually run it. The only way to get to tomorrow was to sleep, so we zipped up in the sub 30 temps, and hoped for sweet dreams of canyons and things.
We eventually passed the heck out, and 4:15am came bright and early. We quickly gathered all of our gear, and hopped into the jeep to make it to the Bright Angel trail head before sunrise at 5. We made it just in time for sunrise, and glanced over at each other with huge grins on our faces, “This is it! It’s finally here!” With heavy [very heavy] packs, and full hearts, it was time to begin our journey…..
The adventure that followed was more than we could have hoped for.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the remaining chapters of our canyon story. Feel free to add your own thoughts! Also, you can follow this blog by entering your email into the box on the right to receive updates. Lots of humor and laughter, tears and troubles, and great stories to come:).