Well, the site has been down for quite some time. One of the plugins deleted the posts table for WordPress and completely messed up the database or someone hacked the site? Either way it’s back up and running smoothly. I moved to the Grand Canyon on January 5th after spending three days in Flagstaff, Arizona with Kal Emery from StP. We spent most of our time camping in the woods and roaming around on the mountain tops in the National Forest outside of Buffalo State Park. We managed to squeeze our bodies through the openings in the boulders to climb to the top of a mountain overlook. From up there we looked down on the whole city of Flagstaff and saw the snowy peaks of Mount Humphrey. We roamed through the woods exploring the vast forests of Flagstaff and ate our meals at the lovely Sunshine Rescue Mission. I met a few people at the mission who waited for their jobs to start at the Grand Canyon as well, a few old heads named Roy and Stephen. Roy ended up working for the same company as me, Xanterra, and Stephen, ended up down the road at another local competitor, but I heard he quit after three days spending his time homeless on the road.
Despite coughing up phlegm and yellow snot I stuck to the chilly woods waking up to morning frost and a snow covered bivy sack. Kal and I hit the mission one last time for coffee before I hit the shuttle for the Grand Canyon for the real adventure.
For $28 bucks the AZ Shuttle took me to the Human Resources Department where I squared away my paperwork and drug testing before orientation.
My room looked like a square shaped box college dorm measuring 10’x10′. Two beds pushed up against opposite sides of the wall with dressers facing each other nestled into the small space. On my side of the room lay a backpack, blanket and pillow. My roommate’s side on the other hand resembled a frat house floor. Musty clothes lay scattered across the ground, table and bed with empty plastic wrappers of snacks thrown all over the place. The room smelled of trash, stale beer and masturbation judging from the “Love Help” books stacked on the end table coaching him on how to get laid by women. I laughed and shook my head not knowing what to expect since he worked while I moved into the dorm.
I wandered around for the rest of the day locating the rest of the buildings in Grand Canyon Village. I found the library where I applied for a public library card and dove into books by Bill Bryson and Louis L’amoure. Much of the next few days I spent reading, and writing between working my monotonous shifts as a dishwasher for Xanterra and living in seclusion as I tried making new friends in the community, but fell short.
Despite living in the Canyon most of the workers in Maswik Lodge had one foot on a banana peel and the other in a grave. With long careers at Xanterra wrapping my head around why one would live in the middle-of-nowhere without avidly hiking puzzled me. But after talking to a few people I found a few young guys around my age who hiked, partied and adventured, Mike and Graeme.
I woke up early Saturday morning and hiked the Bright Angel Trailhead to the Colorado River and back up to South Kaibab. The whole trip totaled about 18 miles, but I respectively took my time along the river and dedicated that moment to Chris McCandless who inspired me to my life of wandering. Trekking in the snow down the steep, narrow trail slowly discarding layers as I reached Indian Gardens in the Canyon, I basked in the beautiful vegetation and wildlife surrounding me as the atmosphere switched back to desert and beach. Rapids rushed along the river as my boots left sandy footprints along the shore of the Colorado. I opened my first can of sardines and refueled with a cliff bar before continuing on along the river trail, which meandered along the corridors of the Colorado. Passing two bridges, and Phantom Ranch I hiked the next hours behind pack mules, as I stopped occasionally as they needed rest.
As I plodded up South Kaibab Trail I surged through most of my water supply with six miles of climbing laying ahead. The soles of my new boots stuck to the muddy, red clay of the narrow trail. All the snow from the morning melted as the position of the sun spread its bright rays through the depths of the canyon. Normally I hiked at ease, but the sticky conditions made each step extra tiring and filled me with exhaustion. Each person I passed by gave me a different estimate on the mile marker until the trail head so I gave up asking. As I reached the last mile I felt like crawling on my hands and knees through the snow. I added all my layers back on and swished around the last quarter of a gallon of water in my mouth. My legs trembled, knees buckled and shirt stuck to my back with puddles of sweat dripping down every limb as I approached the last few steps. Snow made the last steep steps extra slippery, but at last I reached the top feeling accomplished throwing my hands up in the air in victory. That night I slept like a newborn baby.
But what’s the best part of Grand Canyon Village aside from the hiking? The wildlife! Why? The deer and elk graze fearlessly close to humans. Many days walking to work I stood inches away from six to ten deer, mothers, babies, fathers, and unless threatened they continued eating and barely moved. The feeling of closeness to nature in the protected lands of the national forest truly made it a once-in-a-lifetime experience.