I perched at the rim, soaking up the magnificent vistas that seemed to march into infinity. There were vertical cliffs interspersed with sloping plateaus. Colors of red, orange, and yellow splashed across the rocky scenery, confusing the mind. Well, it was going to be a long haul to hike from the South Rim down the South Kaibab trail, Up the North Kaibab trail to the much higher North Rim, back down to the river, and finally up the less steep Bright Angel trail back to the South Rim. With that in mind, I hauled up my backpack and marched into the Great Ditch.
Now, I had been studying at college all winter and needed to get away for spring break, but little did I know what a challenge lay ahead for my winter softened muscles. First was the long downhill pitch. Mile after mile each step was not a normal step nor a slight downward step, but a long jarring one. Each (pound) step (pound) was (pound) a (pound) jar (pound) to (pound) my (pound) knees. Slowly it added up. At first, I stopped to enjoy the scenery. For a bit longer, I pretended I was stopping for pleasure. Finally, I saw nothing but a place to recuperate. Still, I must forge on to attain the river and the place of repose. Finally my knees gasped in relief as the river hove into view, before the shades of darkness descended, the last time I was so fortunate.
After the gentle recuperation of a nights repose, I set off early, full of a vision of a powerful self snapping my fingers at the challenge of the North Rim. This hike was a boon to my abused knees, since it was a longer, less steep, and all uphill trail. Slowly I conquered each level, carefully rationing my food and especially my water in this hot desert. As I approached the section known as the Red Wall, a cliff that wandered all through the canyon with the longest vertical drop, worry began to rear its ugly head. The day was edging toward dusk, but my manly ego said, “You can get to the top of Red Wall before dark.” I have since learned that my manly ego is never right. Not only was the trail carved into the edge of the cliff no wider than two people, but it is longer than one expects. I was half way up when dusk deepened enough to make hiking difficult. Fear of that long drop just inches from my feet had me hugging the wall on the other side of the trail. Exhaustion then started making my eyes droop. I was desperate to sleep, but visions of slumber on the trail and rolling off set my feet into panic mode and to keep walking. Somehow I managed to keep my erratic stumbling to the trail and finally cried in relief when I spied the top. Soon I hauled up at a ravine (One that I couldn’t roll out of) and pitched my camp.
The next day, I studied the map, considering my options. Finally, I convinced myself it was just a short haul to the North Rim. Taking just food and water, I left my camp, and with my fresh legs, trotted to the Rim, a lonely parking lot since it was still closed for winter. Quickly, having attained my goal that no one would ever care that I made, I trotted back to camp and an early lunch. Shouldering my pack, I tackled the Red Wall by daylight. Besides the occasional gasp at what an idiot I had been the day before, I scurried safely down that section. Still, though I was hiking faster downhill than up, I knew I had a long stiff journey before I returned to the camp beside the river. Once again, darkness caught me on the trail, but this time, I was hiking at the bottom of a valley along a creek. As I strolled, I sang to my poor bedraggled feet a “keep moving, just a little farther” song. Then, to my amazement, as I walked, I followed the flights of many bats, swooping after the feast of mosquitoes that I was attracting. I swear that they even sped between my slow moving legs. Of course, by then my exhaustion had spread to my brain, so ….
Once again, I could barely consume my nightly nourishment before a dreamless slumber collected its due. In the morning, I arose and was limping on both legs. Knowing that I was camping without a permit, I needed to withdraw from the Phantom Ranch camp early, but my legs voted against my brain. Soon I was informed I was being hauled up before a judge in a couple of days. Still, I needed to finish my journey first. As I set off, I found two young ladies hiking with the same dead swift speed as I. We let the Jackrabbits speed past us and just encouraged one another to keep going. We made our goal of the Indian Springs for lunch. We decided to cool off our burning feet in the little stream as we ate. After a bit, one lady shifted her feet to discern something wiggling where her foot had been. A closer inspection discerned a leech. Suddenly, our feet leapt out of the water and back into the safety of the shoes where they shook at the thought of their narrow escape. Upon hearing leeches were everywhere, the feet decided to leave and we perforce had to follow.
It wasn’t till deep dusk that we finally emerged safely and parted company. In a couple of days, I appeared before the court. Chatting with other invitees, I found one had hauled off and hit another. A second tried for a great haul at the market, but instead would soon be hauled off to jail for shoplifting. Thankfully, The Judge called me first to dispose of the simplest case, and levied a small fine. Now, I tell people that the worst thing I was ever arrested for was camping illegally at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Furthermore, just like that Judge, I have come to peaceful terms with God, my fine having been paid. I have no fear of being Hauled away to the place of torment.