It's been awhile since I've blogged about the MotM trip, and now that it is long over with, my memory may be a tad rusty, or very rusty even. But I don't think I did too bad of a job actually.The Trip Nears An Ending (Days 7-10)Monday, January 3rd, 2008
Today we set out to go casually view the Grand Canyon. We would not be hiking down it but rather taking some pictures of it, from well, the area where you have a lot to look down at. I recall as we drove there that one of the team members who had previously been to the Grand Canyon told us that you could drive right where the Canyon is, without even noticing it until right when you get there because of how they go straight down like a giant hole. "You may not be aware of this, but if you look to your right, there is a giant hole" was said over a walkie talkie by someone in our group behind us in the car. I look, and sure enough I start to see it. And just wow it is hard to put words into how amazing it was. From the start we split up, a few of us decide to take a bus tour of the Canyon, while the majority of us including myself went on a trail around the rim of the Grand Canyon. I was constantly awed. Some of the team members made a few risky moves to get good shots of them that would make you wonder, how did they get all the way over there? I was not gutsy enough to do so myself, or maybe I was just too smart, depending on how you look at it. I got very excited to be there, for once in my life I was somewhere where I felt very exhilarated. We eventually headed back to our hotel. The internet at the hotel was horrible. I still managed to send a few messages to some friends, being very excited to share some of my excitement with them. Eventually I got together with a few others and we started discussing the possibility of hiking down the Grand Canyon. It was suggested by someone that perhaps we could hike down the entire Grand Canyon, see the Colorado River in front of us, and go back up. The total distance of hiking would be 16.1 miles (although at the time I thought I heard it was 16.7 miles). And honestly I didn't know what I would expect. I haven't even done much hiking in my life, let alone know exactly how safe the trails would be. But I jumped on the bandwagon quickly. Initially it was planned to have two groups, one group of us would go about halfway down and then back up, while the other group would go the whole way down. I wanted to know how many people would go on each one and frankly figured I would go with whichever one had more people committed to it. I wanted to spend my hike with a lot of team members. I was more than a little nervous when I promptly declared I would hike the entire distance, but was extremely excited at the same time. Late that night we went to a little grocery store to get some food. We tried to get plenty of salty food. I went to bed anticipating what very likely would be the wildest day of my life.Tuesday, January 4rd, 2008
The day had arrived. I had to wake up fairly early so I would be able to eat a decent breakfast. I had a bagel, some juice among a few other things. Not too much later we left, a group of 7 of us, all planning to hike all the way down the Grand Canyon and back up in the same day. Would we all make it? We didn't know for sure, but all of us had been told to not let pride get in our way. If we couldn't go any further, we had to say something. I couldn't even begin to describe how I felt as we started the descend down the South Kaibab trail to begin our long day of hiking. I was nervous, excited, and scared all at the same time. I felt safe however, being with several people I trusted very much. The beginning of the trail was actually one of the worst parts. It was icy at the top, and rather narrow. But as I got a little more calm just a few minutes into it, I started to really get happy and excited. I would run down parts of it when I deemed it safe enough to do so and when no one was directly in front of me. I started taking pictures, but it was dark so they didn't come out that well at first. We continued our descend down the trail. Our goal was to rush down the Grand Canyon, because we knew the way back up would be much more difficult. We were tight on time, we did not have much time to waste. Breaks weren't all that frequent. I still took a lot of pictures. A lot of them I even took on the move, although many of them didn't come out that well. Not many of the others seem to take many pictures, but that didn't stop me from doing so myself. I wanted to try to share part of the experience I was about to have with my friends and family back at home.
As we got closer to the bottom, we ran into a few hikers going up the trail. We also came across a group of people riding mules. The mules looked dishearteningly sad, but they are basically that way by their nature. One person passed us on our way down, and she looked like she knew what she was doing much more than us, as she flew by us with hiking sticks in both hands. None of us brought any sticks. In fact the most we brought was ourselves, layers of clothing that we could strip off as we got closer and closer to the bottom, food, and two backpacks that held several bottles of water. Near the bottom, we started to see the Colorado River, snap snap I went as I took some pictures of it, a few miles away from when we would actually be standing right next to it.
Eventually we made it down to the bottom! We crossed a bridge and took a short break at the bottom before venturing back up. I was already somewhat tired but all and all was in pretty good shape. The view of the Grand Canyon from the very bottom was very beautiful, I continued to take many pictures. The hike back up was as expected, tedious. We easily got separated into two to three groups as we had varying paces going up. After a few miles up the front group which I found myself in for the entire way up would take a 5 to 10 minute break to let the others catch up with us. One of the team members was having a difficult time by this point, he had many cramps. I was worried for him and feared that he would likely run into further problems as we got closer to the top.
When we reached the 4.5 mile mark to the top, we took another break. This was a pleasant break, with a water fountain to refill our water bottles, a bathroom outhouse as well as benches to sit on. At this point we encountered a wild deer who we were able to get very close shots of, as well as a cute little bird that probably came inches from my feet. This would be the last time that my group would wait up for the three that had been quite a distance behind us. From here on out, it would be us 4 in the front, determined to make it up before the sun would set, and then 3 in the back. I was almost one of the 3 that would stay in the back, but someone else offered to stay behind with the one that was struggling and I decided to accept the offer. The 4 of us moved on, and the trail up got progressively harder as we got higher and higher up. We met two male hikers and had a conversation with them, told them about our software and told them about our situation with how we split up into two groups. We would keep running back into them, at some points they caught up to us, and at others we caught up with them.
By the 3 mile point I really had to go to the bathroom, but because I hate going outside I held it in. This was extremely painful. It did not help that I was limping quite a bit, my left knee hurt a lot so I tried not to bend it much. When we finally made the 1 mile point there was fortunately a bathroom. The hike became much easier after I was able to pee, but the pain I was experiencing became worse as we moved on. The last mile seemed very long. It was much more narrow, and much more icy. It was a lot of work for me to do. I kept expecting that we were about to reach the top, only to learn that we had a little more ways to go.
But eventually, we made it! That is the 4 of us in the front. Unfortunately the one team member that struggled simply could not go on futher, plus it was getting dark and none of us brought flashlights. So they backtracked their way back to a camping ground to spend the night. I was very much guilty that I wasn't there with them.
As it got dark, I agreed to go out with a few of the team members to a pizza restaurant. There I got some pizza but declined to drink any beer. The walk over to there was very difficult for me because I literally could hardly walk. They offered to drive me there, but I figured I could handle the walk, and I did, even if just barely. The walk home would prove to be that much worse. As I got back to the hotel, one of the team members noticed how badly I was limping. They examined me a little bit and asked me some questions. In the end it was determined that it wasn't anything too severe. When I got to my room I took a nice shower. I then went to bed an extremely tired yet proud man. I roomed with jerm for the second time of the trip because both of our roommates were still down at the Grand Canyon. Wednesday, January 5th, 2008
I knew that it would hurt a lot getting out of my bed that day after a 16 mile hike. I had not improved all that much over the night. Today I would like to call a "Rescue Mission" where those of us who were back at the hotel would drive back down the Grand Canyon to wait for the 3 team members who spent the night to come back up. Little did I know how long the wait would be. We got lunch at the Bright Angel restaurant, since that was close to where they would be coming up. We spent our time waiting there. The weather was really bad. It was snowing, raining, and you could hardly see anything. It would have been a really bad day to view the Grand Canyon, and had it been the day we were going to hike down it, we would have not been able to. Yet the 3 down there had a few miles to go. It did not seem like an easy task. Two members started to head down the trail to meet the 3 on the trail. I really wanted to go, but it hurt an awful lot for me to walk, so for me to attempt to hike in my condition with how bad the weather was, would probably have been close to suicide.
We ordered lunch, and eventually the others returned. I was very excited to see them! The one who had the problems going up was extremely good natured about it all too. He did not complain or feel embarrassed, and I was pleased of that. Our "family" was at last back together. We spent the rest of the day driving back to Tucson, where we would spend one final day at the same hotel we were at the majority of the trip. The ride was I believe around 5 to 6 hours. We got back probably at around midnight. We stopped by a Jack in the Box and had dinner there. It was my first time there, and I thought the food wasn't bad for fast food.
The next day we would all be leaving home, so we took some time to reflect on our trip, all of us gathered in my room this time. We discussed various things which would include things like what was our biggest fear about going on the trip. It was a very heartfelt moment, and I am glad it happened. I went to bed extremely late, leaving just a couple of hours of sleep before I would have to wake up and begin my long journey back home.Thursday, January 6th, 2008
If I thought my travel to Tucson was rough, this one would not be much better. We were running late that morning. When we got to the airport, to our shocked surprise, we were too late to catch our flight. I was no longer going to be flying at all with the 3 people I was with. One of us got on the next flight to Dallas, the other one got on the one after that, and the last one got on the flight to the same place awhile after that. They were all heading to Dallas, I was now going straight to Chicago. I originally was suppose to go to Dallas as well, but as it worked out I would get to fly on one fewer flight. After Chicago, I would be able to go straight to my final destination airport. From there I learned, I would go on an hour and a half drive to my home with my brother and a friend of his.
So for awhile it was just me and Harro waiting for our flights. I was leaving quite a bit later than the other 3. Poor Harro had to rebook his entire flight to Belgium, would have to spend overnight and over 24 hours in New York City, and be over a day late coming back to where he lived. I felt really sorry for him, but at the same time couldn't help to be concerned for myself. We were all put on standby, and I was a little worried I would have trouble getting out of Tucson. If I did get the flight, I would be able to get on the same plane home as originally planned. I eventually learned that it looked like I would have very little time to catch my plane home because my departure flight from Tucson was delayed about an hour. This of course got me more worried.
Shortly after Harro left, a bigger group of team members arrived to the airport. I had to leave shortly after they arrived, but it was nice to see them and say goodbye to all of them. I felt kind of funny, like I was some important person with all these people saying goodbye to me there.
Away I went on the flight to Chicago. I eventually arrived of course, and didn't have quite as many problems as I expected I would have catching my flight from there. I ended up with over an hour of time to catch my flight even. Eventually we landed! I was finally back home! I was relieved, exhausted and anxious all at the same time. By the time I got home it was just about midnight. I set up a little display of something for my mom to see when she woke up that included two rocks I got from the Grand Canyon, and other little SMF goodies I was given on the trip with a small note included with it all. I went to bed, about to go back to my routine patterns of everyday life.