Hiking Grand Canyon
A lot happened over the past few weeks in The Village. Not just hiking either, although, we hiked a majority of the trails too since my last blog post about the Rim Trail following Hermit’s Road. With a month of living in “Victim Hall” (Victor Hall) and working at “Asswik Lodge” (Maswik Lodge) I realized that seasonal work attracts all types of people, travelers, homeless people, and the fair share of crazies. While dishwashing in the lodge I heard all kinds of stories, blowing up equipment sheds, strangling the handicapped, homeless in Seattle, setting off nitroglycerine in national forest land and starting a forest fire, the list goes on and it only gets more interesting. Some of these people work in the Canyon permanently and will die here. They do not hike, or get out much, so I do not see the appeal, but The Canyon attracted them to stay for whatever reason. The stupid hole in the ground attracts many employees and tourists and if you do not hike, well, you drink, or do both. Two employees at Maswik already got canned in my first month for “no-call, no-show” or simply coming into work drunk and singing at the cashier’s counter while ringing up customers. Every KU with the exception of me and the younger employees all give the crazy vibe with their Einstein hairdos, and melancholy expressions of hopelessness from Xanterra sucking away their souls over decades of time. Xanterra hires everyone and when I mean everyone, well, I mean any person off the street, which I think is great, but they do not use wits and judgment. Any person with or without limbs, mental stability or on the verge of grim death works here in the kitchen or any other shitty, minimum-wage position. Fights break out in Victor Hall a few times a week or NPS arrives because of noise complaints, which happens from partying and tipping your elbow a bit too much. However, Xanterra does not do background checks. If they did, most the people working here would be no longer. So as I sit in my closet dorm, with two beds, a speech-impediment, Bible Thumping, slob of a roommate, I wonder what crimes each person in my building committed in their past. At least it’s not the 90’s where people were getting shanked and shot in Victim Hall, which is how this place got its name. The partying here is like any other small town of transients. It is crazy! I stick to beer and nights out with the boys playing “Cards Against Humanity,” listening to Mike and Graeme jam out or just relaxing throwing a few back in the lounge, but when I’m not drinking or working my dead-end job to nowhere I hike everywhere.
In the past few weeks we hiked Grandview Trail, Cave of the Domes, Waldron Trail, Dripping Springs, some of Hermit’s Rest, Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point, Tonto East, South Kaibab and we plan on doing more. The views out here are incredible and the terrain gets exponentially more difficult as I wade away from the tourist pit trails.
While slipping and sliding down the steep switchbacks on Grandview Trail we slid on our asses a few times digging our naked hands into the icy snow banks trying to locate a cave. Now we thought this cave might be a simple, low-key cavern like an igloo, but boy, were we far from right! Once the red rocks at the base of Grandview changed to green endless miles of scenery we diverted off the trail to the gulley which shot down towards a valley in the Canyon. This unmaintained washout looked like a trail taken by many avid hikers looking for spelunking opportunities. We reached the first cave, which despite its huge opening was a false cave and as we scampered onward we found a tiny crack in the wall that opened up to an enormous cavern. We wandered around inside for an hour bouldering over sloped sections of rock or crawling under tight openings to travel further into the warmly interesting environment of stalagmites and stalactites. As we roamed further into the cave it felt endless and we approached a section where rappelling looked necessary. Since we lacked a rope and appropriate climbing gear, we turned around and continued our explorations elsewhere.
Dripping Springs dripped its drops from the far end of the canyon walls as we sat our asses on a slick, smooth cliff listening to the pitter patter of the splashes against the Canyon floor like the sound of light raindrops in a drizzle. We sat and gazed out at the cloudless blue sky thinking of our next hike, which we decided on Waldron Trail.
In order to get to Waldron or Dripping Springs we hiked down the steep, unmaintained Hermit’s Rest trail. By now my legs felt mastered to the steep, rocky terrain and strenuous miles of hiking multiple days in a row, but we added an unknown variable into our Waldron hike, lack of sleep. That night we partied until 7:30 AM. I planned on having a beer or two, but it never works out that way. Mike nodded off at 6:30 AM and we slapped him in the face a bit to wake him. Then we hit the road for 8 miles of pain. Hiking steep terrain in itself is miserable. Regardless of how fit one is, one hits a point where one wants to capitulate and question why they started hiking in the first place. Maybe it’s the lower back pain from the 6,000+ feet of elevation gain from the base of the Grand Canyon to the rim or maybe it’s the constant, repetitive motion of lifting one’s heavy boots out of the pact snow. Normally 8 miles is nothing for me, but at points I wanted to collapse in the middle of the trail to shut my eyes and lay in the warm sun for a quick sleep. We kept chugging along like the little engine that could. Mike sprawled out on a fallen log at the trailhead of Waldron and fell asleep. He would not budge, so we left him there and continued onward hiking through the narrow switchbacks away from the canyon. Adrenaline pushed me to power up the gradual climbs through the snow and rocky patches of trail. Eventually we roamed through forest consisting of the bitter sweet smell of sage and pine needles. We stumbled upon Horsethief Tank, a reservoir, which looked completely empty and covered with snow. After 2.1 miles of desensitized zombie walking through the woods we made it to a sign for the Waldron Trail next to bright ponderosa pine trees with their orange brownish trunks perched tall like giant beanstalks. I tried climbing one, but their branches started too far up the trunk so instead I just gazed at the green pines cast out overhead in awe of their beauty and immensity.
We turned around and ran back down the steep slope we just climbed shuffling about in the snow. Running took less effort than slowly planting each foot firmly against the ground for a stable footing. My legs churned from exhaustion and sleep deprivation, as we made it out of the snowy woods to the log which Mike lay across snoozing with his hands interlocked across his stomach. The three of us continued onward up Hermit’s Rest dreading the steep, rocky climb to the trailhead. As we approached the top I almost gave up, but once we made it to the car I sipped on my cold coffee before completely passing out in my room for the rest of the night.
My most impressive hike came a few days after Waldron when I decided to solo hike Bright Angel Trailhead to Plateau Point to Tonto East and up South Kaibab back to the Green Route Bus. 18 miles with 6,000 feet of elevation gain, no snacking and a few five minute breaks quickly excited me for my next long hike, which I plan to do towards the end of the month when I hike Rim 2 Rim and back on a long 48-mile trek over the course of a few days. This hike tested my limits, leg strength, stamina and toughness both mentally and physically. After all this hiking and training I want to hike the Appalachian Trail. The most satisfying moment of this day came on a rock overlooking the Colorado River. My feet dangled thousands of feet from the rapids taking in the views both east and west of the river as it meandered through the canyon. The thunderous sound of the river echoed through the canyon walls and reminded me of standing at Pima Point overlook. In that moment I wanted to adventure through the canyon by kayak on an unknown journey through level 5 rapids and I still do. Maybe that lies ahead in my future after April 3rd. With the right gear, I think I can do it. It would be the experience of a lifetime.