And away we go

12 07 2012

One of the best investments I have made in Arizona is hiking shoes. Sure, once properly broken in and caked with desert dust, they are hardly worthy of a night out in the city, but without them there is no way I would be making any trips into the Canyon.

The blister from my trek to Plateau Point forced me to abandon those trusty adidas running shoes. They were long past their expiration date anyway. In their place, I bought a pair of Columbia low top hiking shoes during a rare weekend getaway to Phoenix with Thomas. Thomas doesn’t want me to mention him in my blog anymore so that weekend in Phoenix will remain a mystery.

I did get some hiking shoes though, a full size bigger for the steep trails I would be traversing — the most challenging of which was yet to come. We would take the South Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch. It’s the shortest route to the river and has some of the more spectacular views of the inner canyon. We would then hike back to the South Rim via the Bright Angel Trail, a popular return route because the trail has ample shade and water.

Desmond wanted to meet at 4:50 a.m. at Maswik Lodge so that we could take the hiker’s shuttle bus directly to South Kaibab Trailhead. The bus left the lodge at 5:10 a.m. and I woke up at 5 a.m.

“Dude, where are you?!?” was the text message I received, which stirred me from my slumber.

Crap. I had overslept. Luckily, I had packed my backpack before going to sleep and all I had to do was grab it and race for the lodge in time to catch the bus. I climbed aboard the bus at exactly 5:10 a.m. It was full of eager hikers ready to hit the trail before the blistering sun climbed high in the sky.

Although we had just met, I could tell Desmond was a little peeved with my tardiness. If he only knew my history, then perhaps he would understand this was par for the course. Early mornings have always plagued me. I remember an 8 a.m. journalism class at Troy that I was serially late for and finally the professor decided to lock the door. When I knocked to enter at around five past the hour, he opened the door, looked me in the eye and promptly shut it right in my face —  to cheers and laughter from the rest of the class.

But Desmond wasn’t laughing. He didn’t say a word on the bus ride to the trailhead. Instead, I listened to a chatty woman from Alaska describe her many hiking experiences. She was headed all the way to the North Rim and her pack was double the size of mine.

When we reached the trailhead, the bus unloaded and the more serious hikers took off in a sprint. Before descending the trail, I stopped at the water spicket and filled my bottles. I asked Desmond if he needed any water and he said he was already carrying quite a lot of liters.

“Do you have enough gallons?,” I asked.

This made him smile. The ice was broken.

We snapped some photos at the trailhead and then began the adventure. The sun was just beginning to peak over the eastern rim as we started our descent, creating a soft shade of blue in the sky. The air was crisp and there was a slight breeze. As we set off, Desmond underscored what we were about to attempt.

“Remember,” he said. “Going down is optional, Coming up is not.”

 

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2 responses

13 07 2012
Margaret Webster

Wahooo! What an adventure!
Can’t wait to hear the rest of it! Thanks again for the great dinner conversation (and the preview of this story). We look forward to seeing you in the Fall.

22 07 2012
David

I love that you found such a great hiking partner.

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