Thursday, October 4, 2018

Grand Canyon R2R2R 2018

Joe and I just got back from a wonderful trip to the Grand Canyon with the Rockhoppers.  A bunch of us did the rim-to-rim-to-rim journey.  It was my second r2r2r, and Joe's first -- in fact, his first trip to the Grand Canyon, period.  I love the desert scenery of the canyon, and it was fun being on those trails again, and especially fun to get to share the adventure with Joe this time around.

Going into this run, I was only about 75-80% sure I'd be able to finish it -- it's a real challenge, and I haven't been feeling very fit lately.  Since my expectations about my ability level were pretty low going into it, I'm even more stoked about whole thing.

You can read Joe's report for more relevant (and probably more accurate) information. My report will mostly focus on the things I personally found entertaining.

Inauspicious Start: South Kaibab
The day got off to a rough start when our drivers pulled into the South Kaibab parking lot -- led by Rich, right past the "Do not enter" signs -- and we all got yelled at by the park ranger.  He commanded us to all get back in our cars and drive back to the road.

Here's a typical portrait of the differences between me and Joe:
My reaction: I got back in the car.
Joe's reaction: "Get your stuff, dude.  Get out of the car!"

Everyone scattered into the bushes, and we started down the trail.  It seemed like there were two or three other large groups starting at the same time as us.  It was crazy crowded for a couple miles, which was annoying.  It was very different from the last time we did r2r2r, in 2014, when we were the only crazies out there at 4am.

The number of people all around us made it hard to relieve ourselves, which was an urgent need.  This resulted in us having a version of Paul McCartney's song in our heads for most of the day: "Pee on the Run."

Possible verse:
"When you have to go, so you go in your clothes,
in front of everyone . . .
And you pee on the run"

*Note: This verse is not representative of what actually happened.

Adventure-filled Middle: South Kaibab to North Kaibab
I accidentally left my poles by the water spigot at Phantom Ranch when we filled up there.  I didn't realize it until we'd left the area, and I didn't feel like backtracking.  I wrestled for a moment with the worry that they'd be in people's way, versus the relief at not having to carry them through the relatively flat stretch of the box canyon.  In the end, it worked out perfectly: I didn't have to carry them through the box canyon, and they were still there, exactly where I'd left them, when we returned to Phantom Ranch on the way back.  I had them just when I needed them, for the hike back up to the South Rim.

Random thoughts from this stretch:

Best comment from passerby:
"You could beat us going down.  But I could beat you in an arm wrestle."
-Mustachioed, cowboy-hat-wearing mule train driver to Joe

Most memorable conversation related to a tunnel:
"There's some shade!  We can rest!"
"That's Supai Tunnel."
"I'm gonna Supai the shit out of that tunnel."

Most-used phrase by Joe: Bony old Behind!

On our way up to the North Rim, we ran into MJ, who entertained us with her story about picking up hitchhikers on her drive to the rim.  She, along with Jeanie and numerous others, were Good Samaritans who helped a lot of people over the course of the trip.  It was nice getting to catch up with her, as she used to live in our neighborhood but has recently relocated to Colorado.

Joe and I topped out at the North Rim around 12:30pm.  I ate a good meal of a sandwich ball (in ball form because of its position at the bottom of Joe's bag), chips, and a big cookie.  We had fun catching up with the Rockhoppers who were already resting at the rim, and cheering for each new Rockhopper who arrived while we were there.

Friend-filled Finish: North Kaibab to Bright Angel
On our way down from the North Rim, at Coconino Overlook, a ranger named Beth asked me how far we were going.  When I responded that we were going back to the South Rim, she looked really sad for me and told me, "You don't have to do that."  Despite her concern, we forged ahead.

Somewhere around Supai Tunnel, Stefan and Edward decided to slow up and run with me and Joe.  Together, we waited out the three mule trains coming back up to the rim, dodged the enormous pools of mule piss, and trotted back down to Manzanita Springs.

Coming into the springs area, the wind picked up.  It was blowing my floppy hat right off my head, blowing my hair all crazy, and blowing dust into our mouths and noses.  But it was so fun.  The whole experience -- to be running with friends, out in this beautiful landscape, and sharing it all with my husband.

By the time we got to the springs, we were quite warm, so we took a dip in the springs as Joe helped filter and refill water bottles for some hikers that had only brought 16.9-ounce plastic water bottles into the canyon for some reason.

Other ways Joe was a super hero:

  • He carried (and ran with) a full-size backpack for 50 miles.  In the backpack, he carried my sandwiches, as well as a full-size bag of chips.  
  • He let me run and hike ahead and set the pace.  He never left me behind, even though he is much faster than I am.
  • He filtered all our water throughout the hike, so I didn't have to bother with bringing my own filter.
Places we soaked in the cool water on our way back to the South Rim:
  • Manzanita Springs
  • Cottonwood
  • Ribbon Falls (I soaked my head only)
  • Phantom Ranch (where I got my trekking poles back -- a r2r2r miracle!)
Each of these water stops was refreshing, as even in the shade of the box canyon, it was quite warm.  The heat seemed trapped in the canyon, with no breeze.  In between, we mostly jogged.  Edward and Stefan would pull away, and then they'd sit and wait for us to catch up.  I was fueled by my SnackzelTM -- a conglomeration of melted chocolate-covered pretzels that had fused together into a log.  Brought to me by the makers of SnacklogTM, which was Edward's invention during Bigfoot 200.

I was eager to get to the Colorado River before dark, and we made it just in time.  I love watching the water roll past under my feet while walking across the silver bridge.  The glow of the setting sun on the mountain was pretty magical, too.

At the Colorado River, Edward and Stefan pulled well away from us.  Joe and I slogged through the sandy trail up and back down, and then up toward Indian Garden as darkness set.  It seemed to take forever before we made it there.  By that time, the stars were out, and they were incredibly brilliant.  We took advantage of some benches, refilled, saw Edward and Stefan take off, and then headed toward the next landmark, the 3-mile hut.

At the 3-mile hut, I wanted to sit and rest a moment, but Joe was raring to go.  "Let's get this shit over with."  So we continued power-walking to the 1.5-mile hut, where we saw Stefan recovering from a bonk.  This time Joe wanted to stay lying down, looking at the stars, but Stefan mentioned that the pizza place at the South Rim was open until 11pm, and it was only about 9:15pm, so I made Joe get up and get going.  Joe, Stefan, and I stayed together until the Bright Angel trailhead, where of course, Jeanie was waiting for us.  It was about 10pm; the hike/run had taken us 17 hours and change.  Jeanie stayed up all night greeting Rockhoppers as they finished, bringing us into her warm room, feeding us, and driving us back to our rooms.

Joe and I went straight to the pizza place.  We enjoyed trying to convince the people at the table next to us that we'd done a double crossing of the canyon.  They'd smile and nod, and then ask us again a couple minutes later, "So you went all the way to the river and back?"  After a bit, Rob and CJ joined us, and Rob took over the task of trying to explain to them the silly thing we'd done.

The real end of the story came the next day, around noon, as Rich, Don, and Janet finished, to the cheers of all the Rockhoppers who were gathered at the Bright Angel trailhead.  It was incredibly inspiring to see this group of 60+ years-young runners who had persevered through the heat of the canyon, the unending climbs to the rims, and a sleepless night to finish this monumental task.  I sincerely hope Joe and I can be as strong and full of life as we continue to age.

At the end of r2r2r, as soon as we finished, we agreed that we'd never do it again.  "Good job!  Now let's never speak of it again."

But never say never, right, Joe?

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