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Brian Cray - Hitchhikin', Trainhoppin', and Wanderin'

Wanderin' the world, at will, by any means

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Grand Canyon

Havasu Falls

Havasu Falls, Permit Not Available

Havasu Falls Day Hiking

Little Navajo Falls

Little Navajo Falls

So I really want to do a blog entry on my wedding in Arcosanti with my beautiful wife Kelly Donaldson, but I am waiting on the pictures to come in and I really want to put some time into writing the post. I plan on doing it once Juan, our photographer, sends us the wedding photos since I have some down time between now and my next job.

Little Navajo Falls

Swimming in Little Navajo Falls

My last few days in the Canyon are finally here as I leave on the 25th. I plan on hitching a ride with Randolph while he gives me some tips on hopping trains out of Flagstaff. I have two months to roam around and visit people, and potentially find a short gig before skydiving season starts.

Little Navajo Falls

Little Navajo Falls

But in the meantime I hiked Havasu Falls with Graeme in a day and without a permit. We woke up at 4 AM to head to Supai on a long ride around the canyon and back to the trailhead. With not much sleep we slammed down a few energy drinks to keep us going for the long 27-mile hike, which we thought was only 20 miles at the start. Just like any other hike, the start sent us into the Grand Canyon as we hiked down a flat, gravelly path, towards Supai Village.

Supai Village

Supai Village

Nothing really changed much compared to the other hikes in the Canyon until we reached Supai Village, where the Havasupai Native Americans still live to this day. Tons of spring-breakers waddled their way up the trail with huge packs fit for hiking Denali or living in the woods for a week, yet they only camped overnight. We laughed as we strolled through the canyon towards Supai Village. I heard the village looked depressing with trash scattered everywhere and unfavorable living conditions, but I did not see it that way, either did Graeme. Of course, a few homes looked dilapidated and abandoned with broken windows, boarded windows and doors, trash and clutter thrown about around the yards, however, the quiet breeze, fresh sunshine, calm mules grazing and beautiful scenery made it peaceful. I stood there in an envious manner wanting a simple life similar to the Havasupai. Packing in and out on mules, playing with a myriad of little doggies, lounging around and tending to gardens of vegetables and other food. It reminded me of a better version of the old run down mining towns along the TransAmerican Bicycle Trail.

Havasu Falls

Havasu Falls

After a few miles we finally made it through Supai Village. I carried a small satchel with oysters, apples and sardines, sporting a gallon jug of water in my hand, alternating ever so often and Graeme carried a day pack with minimal items as well. The scenery really took a change past the village. No longer did we wander through a walled canyon with a gravelly, wash-out, susceptible to flash flooding during monsoon season, instead we meandered along Havasu Creek, admiring its bright blue tint from its high concentration of lime. We stood there in awe of its beauty, staring straight down to the bottom floor, which in some areas covered in granular pebbles and others it just looked like a crumbling texture of plaster. As we walked the blue hue became more prominent as if someone poured a huge quantity of blue Kool Aid into the creek and it never dissipated. Then we reached the most eye-popping view, Little Navajo Falls. Havasu Creek trounced over little walls of rock a few feet in length, its bright blue complexion vibrant from the rays of the sun, with a white sea floor seen clearly from the shore. We scrambled and took off our shoes quickly, walking into the brisk water as we tiptoed across the rock walls. Tiny waterfalls ran over our toes with a rough texture scraping and rubbing against the bottom of our feet. It felt like clumps of plaster digging into my feet as I walked out to the middle of Little Navajo Falls. We basked in the beauty around us for about a half hour before we continued down to the other falls reaching Havasu, Mooney and Beaver Falls all in a day and trekking back for a long day of hiking, lack of sleep and driving. We stayed up 20 hours, hiked 27 miles and drove 8 hours. It took a lot out of us.

If you enjoy hiking Havasu Falls in the West part of the Grand Canyon you should also check out the following hikes.  In Flagstaff I recommend hiking Mount Humphrey’s Peak. And on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon I recommend hiking Rim 2 Rim.

Mooney Falls

Mooney Falls

Goodbye Canyon and Crazy John

My days in the Canyon are shortly numbered as I approach the end of my contract. I hoped to stay until April 4th, 90 days into my contract, to request a transfer to another national park, but honestly I knew I would not make it. Xanterra is one of the worst companies I ever worked for and I just want to wander free again until work picks back up in New York for the summer.

My life will change in a few days as I get hitched on Saint Paddies Day to my lovely Kelly. Once her contract ends in Arizona for teaching she will join me at WNY Skydiving in New York for a summer of jumping, packing and wandering the area then it’s off to either London or South Korea teaching English, Structural Analysis or Science classes. I look forward to our future endeavors together, whether we end up in the same place or not, I know we will find ourselves running back to each other. The canyon will always have a place in my heart for the warm people I met, along with its crazy nights of partying.

I hiked a ton of trails on the South Rim while I worked here in the Pizza Pub and as a dishwasher along with hiking Mount Humphrey and free climbing Red Mountain near Flagstaff. Despite the robotic tasks of pizza making, pressing dough, pulling it out to a nice 16” circle on the pan, stuffing it with custom toppings and slamming it into the oven for some nice burn marks against my forearms, I will truly miss all of you clowns. As much as I hated the pub life working my ass off for minimum wage, minimal tips and dealing with the rudest, stereotypical tourists, I did enjoy the night life, partying and making new friends all over the world.

I met some interesting cats here, some of which I will never see again, but seasonal work builds some of the best friendships that will last a lifetime. Irish Mike and Graeme, I will miss you both, with our many drunken nights wandering to the Peruvian parties, tangoing with chicks from Peru and Thailand being the only white folk who spoke English. We always partied the hardest, starting 10 minutes after our shift until 7 to 8 AM in the morning.

Many nights I woke up with 3 to 6 hours of sleep feeling hungover as shit for work the next day at 4 PM going into work with pigtails and smelling of cigarette ash and stale beer, but this was a daily occurrence. I remember nights wandering to Kim’s house to eat Thai food before my drunken stupor home across the railroad tracks. We always woke up and did it again, taking a few rest days from drinking, but it came with the industry of Food and Beverage.

Some nights we dabbled in, “Cards Against Humanity” tearing up the common room of Victor Hall by learning you cannot pour a bag of popcorn into an empty bag of Cheetos. Other nights we spent partying at Tye’s Cabin playing King’s Cup, posing for ridiculous pictures. Each night had its own story as we all embraced alcoholism after a hard day of work.

Some of the best nights started off with absolutely no plan other than some PBR and American Spirits. Maybe Graeme passed out in the bushes or on a neighbor’s porch across from the Peruvian Cabin right next to Maswik. Maybe Peruvian Richard shouted to me in a cabin full of Spanish people to speak his language and I responded with my perverted sentences of:

“Besa en mi polla.”

“Me sudo en el polla.”

“Me gusta las tetas y culo.”

It all happened. Piecing it all together was the hardest part as each night felt like a coma of experiences, like a dream. We experienced so much in such a short period of time it almost felt imaginary. Certain nights happened that if I told you, you would not believe me. I always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or maybe it was the right place?

Wandering down to Anson’s room after a few beers, circling around the room was me, goofy Travis, Irish Mike, Angela, Boston Steve and Yoselyn. I did not clash well with Boston Steve since on all of his drunken occasions he acted like a complete jackass and that night was no different. I came inches away from smacking his face with a nice right hook until our crew broke it up, but this was not the first of nights where potential fights, stabbings or mishaps needed broken up.

No. No. No. It was just one of many. For Irish Mike’s 34th birthday we all gathered around in Victor Hall and sloshed back a few beers between several shots of whiskey. In our drunken states we managed to hold my man down for birthday spankings, open hands thumped down on his ass, leaving perfect red hand-prints on both cheeks. He did not mind as we pushed it further, each slap smacking his bare ass harder until we lost count of the number. Then out of nowhere, Stephanie, flashed her big, pierced tits to the entire room. Making a great night even better, but it already started to get out of control with noise, and sloppiness. Old folk came by banging on our door with pissed expressions of anger. But I always swooped in before words sprung out of their mouth and solved everything with a shot of liquor or a beer. That solved everything and keep NPS and security off our back despite most of the top floor of Victor Hall hating us for partying every night into the early hours of the morning.

What it did not stop was violence. That shit was unpredictable, but it always found us. After mediating altercations with some other folk in the dorm by coaxing them with alcohol we found ourselves on the balcony, smoking, laughing and talking loud non-sense. The birthday spanks turned into birthday slaps across the face, until Stephanie took it too far and whacked Irish Mike across the face with a wind up swing enough to stir up war. Irish Mike immediately broke out into a thick Irish accent stomping on a cowboy hat in a rage fit for a bull, but he calmed down within minutes. Verbal attacks between the two ceased and everyone dispersed back to their houses as the three of us stood there smoking cigarettes. I peed off the balcony and heard the static sound from a Walkie Talkie off in the distance then the flash of a light searched through the brush. We all paused, looked at each other and instinctively ran through Victor Hall out the back entrance away from NPS.

We tripped through the dark stumbling on loose rocks and sliding down small dirt inclines until we crossed the railroad tracks headed towards the Canyon where Bright Angel Trailhead links up with the South Rim Trail. Beer in hand, we bumped into Katie and Kim who tug along as we wandered off the trail a few feet overlooking the dark Canyon cast before us. We drank PBR as the wind blasted through the Canyon screeching against the walls. My hands chilled from the cold breeze. All of us sat there seeking warmth as Kim and Katie locked onto each other in a shivering hug. We gazed out into the copious stars sprinkling light down on us waiting for the sun to rise in the early morning hours. Kim and Katie left after several attempts to gain warmth, but the three of us remained, throwing back beers for hours until Irish Mike pulled out his lighter and the true mischief began. We propped up dead wood against a few rocks, ripped up some cardboard and sparked the lighter. Then we all huffed and puffed until the fire caught dead leaves, dry debris and cardboard, kindling bright orange embers in our drunken stupor. We slouched there until sunrise in the early morning and realized just how close to the road we actually were and the fact we stayed out of trouble, not facing jail time, job loss and hefty fines. Irish Mike’s birthday was a success and I spent another day at work hungover with pigtails again, hating my life, but loving my friends and the moments we shared on the Cliffside.

We drank pretty much every night after I started working in the Pizza Pub, not by choice, but to wind down and because of a pure hatred for our jobs. Graeme drank to have fun, since the Recreation Center crushed any food and beverage job in the park. A new influx of people hit Xanterra in those few weeks bringing more crazy people into the canyon and we experienced it first hand when a 300 lbs. Native dude with a friendly vibe started hanging around Victor Hall to hang out with the boys. He recently suffered a divorce and battled for custody of his three kids as we found out through a few nights of partying and consoling him. But the night that stands out in particular was day 1 of my bachelor party. The night remained a blur for the most part as we all lounged around tossing back beers and shots like no tomorrow, but it quickly turned unexpectedly when Irish Mike popped a “fear boner” while hugging big Eric, the Native man who looked like a house with a bulldog face. Irish Mike reached in for a simple hug and the man flipped shit as the two of them entered a silly slap battle, which shortly escalated into Eric choke slamming Irish Mike to the floor. Anson jumped in separating the two of them, but the man kept wobbling about like a bowling pin on its edge, until he pulled out a knife threatening Irish Mike’s life in that instance and the following day. We kicked him out of the room, literally. Me, Graeme, Mike and Anson all stepped in removing him from the dorm, but he refused to vacate trying to ram his way through like a linebacker in an effort to grab a few more beers. It was obvious he could not handle his liquor. Graeme pulled him aside to talk in the stairwell while I hid behind a corner watching his every move, ready to shank him if he stabbed my friend. The guy stood there in a drunken state, completely unstable and unpredictable and then it happened. He tackled Graeme, putting him into a headlock against the ground. Graeme feared being squished like a fly trying to squeeze out from under this man and in that moment of struggle NPS was called. Six officers showed up within minutes and the lot of us all filled out similar reports of Eric’s threats, choke slams, headlocks and violent nature, which all stemmed back to a simple, “fear boner.” The best part was a few days later he still walked freely among Victor Hall, and maintained his job, exemplifying that all you need to get a job at Xanterra is a name and proof of who you are because apparently assault charges and threats are not enough to lose your job with this great corporation.

After months of partying, working and losing my mind I left the canyon to get married in Arcosanti, but not before a brief streak down Bourbon St. with Katie. My ass will forever be remembered as the little engine that could. If you end up working for Xanterra remember that food and beverage is not just about, “Drugs, Sex and Serving,” but fending for one’s life through slap battles, fights, and potential stabbings. I will miss the village and the crazy stories that came along with it.

Rim 2 Rim

Rim 2 Rim…Not a Porno

Rim 2 Rim

Rim 2 Rim

The Penis Cactus hiking Rim 2 Rim

I awoke fairly early Thursday morning to set out on an intense, Rim 2 Rim, hike that tested both my mental and physical conditioning. Since I started working in Grand Canyon Village a few months ago at the start of the New Year I became somewhat of an avid hiker in the backcountry. I started off with a 16.7 mile hike to the river and back my first weekend here and nearly spent the last few miles crawling on my hands and knees pleading to finish and relax. After weeks of hiking Bright Angel, Tonto, South Kaibab, Dripping Springs, Waldron, Hermits, River Trail, Grandview, and the Rim Trail I can now add North Kaibab to my list of hiked trails. The mental and physical exhaustion I experienced on this two-day backcountry excursion tested my limits to maximum capacity. The winter months made the climate less harsh and easier to hike, but hiking 22 hours over the course of a 48-hour period with 25-30 lbs. of gear made me send the pain below. I focused and continued hiking without turning back, actively resting, ate minimal food and drank minimal water. The willpower and ability to test one’s true limits came with a price. My knees wobbled like jelly with every step as I inched closer to the North Rim. My stomach gurgled and growled for food from lack of consumption. My lips cracked and the lower corners filled with a crusty residue from dehydration. My shoulders and back slumped from the additional weight. But in the end, despite the pain, wincing, anguish, emotional instability, feeling of distraught, anger, suffocation and most of all fear, tiny episodes of happiness, perseverance, and determination sprouted from within as I trekked deeper and deeper into nature’s beast, the Grand Canyon.

Bright Angel Creek

Bright Angel Creek

Two days in the wilderness, completely alone, really made a man think about his life and its direction. I felt like I fast forwarded the first 15 miles of the hike, mainly because I spent two other times traversing the Bright Angel Trail to the River, but also due to the downhill descent and gradual climb into the Canyon on the North Kaibab Trail. Hours passed as I hopped down the trail like a jackrabbit, avoiding ice patches, and loose rocks as I roamed closer to the river. I did not spend much time enjoying the beauty of the canyon, but instead thought about life and where it led me to this point. The past months of my life changed as I came back into society living in an apartment in Goodyear with a little doggy and my Kelly. As much as that lifestyle killed me I don’t think I would have it any other way. My fear of the future and what it will bring is deafening with a race of thoughts going on in every direction in my mind. I try to focus in on one idea that will work for both of us, but in the end, regardless, it will work out. Much of my hike through the canyon felt like a race against myself with constant thoughts of failure and almost succumbing to the pains in my knee joints and blistering toes, but I kept going. One of the only thoughts that kept me motivated to continue was the reward at the end of this 50-mile, 2-day hike. What was that? None other than constantly repeating the phrase, “Chicken Wings!” over and over again. I thought about drowning 24-wings in BBQ sauce, dipping them into bleu cheese and ranch dressing as I ripped each morsel of meat off the tender bones. The wings melting in my mouth as I chewed through them fervently, shredding the meat to pieces like a lawn mower. This thought dwelled in my mind for the duration of the 22-hours of constant travel.

Coconino Overlook Rim 2 Rim and back

Coconino Overlook Rim 2 Rim and back

Once I hiked past Cottonwood Springs Campground I noticed the climb changed from a gradual elevation gain over 6.4 miles to, “Oh fuck, with just 8 miles left I need to climb another 4,240 feet over the next 8 miles…” It seemed doable and easy on paper, but throw on boots, a 25 lbs. backpack with (2) gallons of water, some food and cold camping gear and the only easy parts about it were the rests. I took several of them as I wandered up the steep grades on the North Rim. They only spanned a few minutes in length, but every break helped pushed me forward to my destination, Rim 2 Rim. I saw a few hikers in the opposite direction, but in my 2-days of hiking Rim 2 Rim, I did not see anyone take my path, which felt rather heartwarming. As I roamed through the open Canyon the rock formations began to change drastically with more limestone and Bright Angel Shale present. Erosion never ceased in these parts with many sections of the trail covered in fallen rock and broken debris from rock slides. When I reached the junction for Ribbon Falls I veered left and bush-wacked along the corridor of Bright Angel Creek until ending up back in the direction of North Kaibab Trail. My mind felt disoriented and fuzzy from the heat, but I continued my steady pace towards Manzanita Campground and eventually stumbled upon Roaring Springs. Here I saw a Helipad and what looked like a ranger station outside of huge waterfall that splashed against the mountainside of the canyon walls dripping its freshness into the creek below. The day felt endless as I watched the sun rise and dance around me as I descended into the canyon and now ascended closer towards the North Rim. With each step I re-positioned my toes, curling them or walking on the outer portions of my feet to avoid constant rubbing on my big toes where blisters and calluses formed. This made hiking more bearable as I continued my “Chicken Wing” chant up to the North Rim.

4 P.M. rolled around as I walked by a ranger headed for the next station. I inquired about the distance to the North Rim. With just three miles from the next bridge and 1.75 miles from Supai Tunnel a smile of relief broke out across my face and suddenly the pain and anger turned to joy. My mouth watered for food and my imagination began to dominate my thoughts as a buffet table of food lined the top of the North Rim or at least that’s what I told myself. I hiked, took a rest, hiked, hiked and hiked some more, by this time the sun dipped down below the South Rim casting its rays along the canyon walls showing the vibrant colors of rock as I hobbled up inching closer to the North Rim. I past the bridge and before I knew it I reached Supai Tunnel with just 1.75 miles left and daylight fading I booked it into overdrive. The grade became even steeper as I approached the last switchbacks before reaching the North Rim. Pact snow and ice meandered around the bends in the shadows of the shrubbery with muddy patches of trail in sections exposed to the sun. I felt like I slithered my way up to the North Rim with all the switchbacks as darkness began to present itself as I reached Coconino Overlook, from there I saw Mount Humphrey, the peak we climbed the week prior in Flagstaff. I made a decision then to stop as the temperature dropped 40 degrees and wind speeds began to pick up to 20-30 MPH. Dropping my pack, I frantically searched through my gear for Underarmour, gloves, a neck gator and my snow pants. I took off my clothes and my naked skin dried instantly in the chilling breeze as my nipples hardened and body began to shake from the sub-freezing temperatures. I changed out my sweaty clothing for dry clothing and nestled myself into my 0 degree Dri-down Kelty sleeping bag. My fingers felt immobile in this weather from the frigid cold and I began to lose circulation in my toes, fingers and nose the longer I stayed in the wind. I secured my belongings outside my camp site, setting up my sleeping pad behind a rock and wiggled my body into my bivy bag, zipping it over my head for a night of intense winds and near hypothermic conditions. My body shook from cold chills as I dozed in and out of what felt like a hallucinogenic trance. Sometimes only ten minutes passed as I looked at the clock. Other times hours passed and I wondered if I even slept or just waited out the cold roars of the Earth to calmly come to a subtle halt so I could continue my hike back to the South Rim. Despite the unfavorable weather at least it did not snow or rain and I was finally able to rest my aching quads, knees, hamstrings, toes, and feet as I stretched out inside my sleeping bag wondering what the next day would bring?

I awoke at 8 AM neither feeling rested nor sleep deprived and immediately threw all my gear together into my backpack to get out of roaring winds. I won’t rehash the hike back from Rim 2 Rim, but you can guess the anguish and exhaustion I felt the first day so multiply that by an intensity of two and you can catch the gist of it. For most of my hike back I bumped into the same ranger from the previous night, Dan Solmon, and we exchanged information to hike in the future. Instead of taking Bright Angel I decided to hike back North Kaibab to South Kaibab Trailhead and take the bus home. The 3 less miles and steeper climb made it more favorable for me to reach the South Rim before dark despite climber about 1,000 feet per mile. Like I said before, the only thing that kept me going was, “Chicken Wings” and I stuck to it savoring their taste all the way to Maswik Pizza Pub where I indulged in 24 BBQ Chicken Wings after hiking about 50 miles over 2-days on my Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim hike. After 22 solid hours of hiking I did Rim 2 Rim and back in 2-days and at this point in my travels in the Grand Canyon I am ready for a change of scenery, a new adventure. I look forward to ending in April so I can hit up Flagstaff and hop a freight train to New Mexico or wherever it takes me.

(I will upload more pictures tomorrow. I am having trouble uploading them at the moment due to this shitty Internet connection).

Ponderosa Pines on Waldron Trail

Drunk Hiking Grand Canyon Shenanigans

Hiking Grand Canyon

Dripping Springs

Hiking Grand Canyon: Dripping Springs Trail

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.

Grandview Trail

Hiking Grand Canyon: View from the Cave on Grandview Trail

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.

Grandview Trail

Hiking Grand Canyon: Entrance to the false cave

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.

Cave of the Domes

Hiking Grand Canyon: Cave of the Domes

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.

Cave of the Domes

Hiking Grand Canyon: Cave of the Domes

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.

Tonto East

Hiking Grand Canyon: Tonto East

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.

Plateau Point overlooking the Colorado River

Hiking Grand Canyon: Plateau Point overlooking the Colorado River

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.

Ponderosa Pines on Waldron Trail

Hiking Grand Canyon: Ponderosa Pines on Waldron Trail

Grand Canyon Hermits Rest Road

Xanterrorist Park & Resorts

Xanterra Park & Resorts Seasonal Work

So you want to see the National Parks in the USA, but you cannot afford to visit all of them? Why not look into working for Delaware North or Xanterra Park & Resorts? Seasonal contracts are offered at most of the parks with a minimum of a 90-day contract along with many extras. I think most people look past this, but despite making minimum wage if you look at the overall profit margin of living where you work you can still save money for your next travels while you work and enjoy the National Park of your choice. At the moment I am working in Grand Canyon Village. What amenities does Xanterra provide its employees? Well, first off, most people complain about the living conditions and call Xanterra, Xanterrorist, but after working around the USA and living in some pretty shitty conditions I disagree with them. Although Victor Hall is not the classiest of places it’s definitely livable. I live in a small dorm setting with a community shower, among other community amenities such as a television, fridge, microwave and bathroom. Xanterra takes out 45 cents per hour worked for our housing arrangement which is next to nothing to live here and we get 50% off of the food in the Bright Angel E-Café along with Maswik Lodge. Aside from all the free day hiking available we can take buses to Desert View Tower, go on tours and even take the Grand Canyon Train from Grand Canyon Village to Williams for free. In the winter buses come by the shuttle stops every 15 minutes meandering around the blue route or the green route. We can venture to the General Store to buy ridiculous priced food and beverages, hit up the post office or maybe go to the library to check out free books. The Recreation Center is available to employees for a small $10.00/month fee to access computers and the weight room, however, most of the time I just go there to utilize the free WiFi. Free WiFi is available in the library, General Store and Recreation Center. I get a minimum of 30 hours per week and some weeks during busy season go above and beyond 40 hours. My job is extremely easy and the best part about working here is after my contract is up I can apply for a transfer to another resort or park, such as, Yellowstone or Glacier National Park. While I am here I plan on hiking as much of the trails as possible while saving up money for my next adventures. If you are an avid traveler looking for seasonal work I would highly recommend checking out this company. After taxes and expenses for food and living I project to save $2000 – $2500 for working here on my 90-day contract. So check out Xanterra or Delaware North. Do not let the negative stigma from employees sway your decision. Work is work and merely a means to provide food and money to travel.

Apply for Seasonal Work with Xanterra Park & Resorts Here!

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