RIM 2 RIM

Despite being a little groggy from the fun night at the lodge and being up at 3:30 am you could feel the excitement as we packed up and left the cabin for our rim to rim of the Grand Canyon adventure.  The temperature change from the top of the North Rim to the bottom of the canyon is dramatic.  When we left our cabin it was 30 degrees.  By the time we would reach the Colorado River it would be over 100 degrees.  Now that we have "thin" Arizona blood we were dressed for winter at the start!
 
We brought a coffee pot and a microwave with us!  There is a few things Max is passionate about;  coffee and breakfast.  He made a bunch of breakfast burritos before we left Scottsdale that we microwaved and ate on the drive to the trail head.  I don't know if either of us could have faced this challenge without our rocket fuel and just a granola bar.  With coffee and two breakfast burritos I was ready to conquer the Grand Canyon.

We officially got started at 4:45 am.  We estimated it would take around 11 to 12 hours.  We were unsure if we would have cell service to check in with Pops, so we told him to be on the other side in 10 hours.

Looking across the canyon it seemed impossible we would be on the other side by sunset.  It looked so far away.  Could we really hike 25.1 miles and nearly 11,000 feet of elevation change in less than 12 hours?

We were going to find out!  At 5:20 we made it to the Supai tunnel.
Going down was fun at first.  The temperature was cool and the views incredible.  The North Rim is by far prettier than the South Rim.  The cooler temperatures allow pine trees to grow and the contrasting red rock with the deep green is stunning.

We were all giddy after our first hour down.

I was in awe as we silently marched.  Beauty overflowed every direction you cast your gaze.

We made it to the first bridge of many we would cross.  I anticipated seeing more hikers.  But once we got past the tunnel we ran into only a handful of hikers.  We had the canyon virtually to ourselves for over half of the hike.
 Since it was Memorial Day I felt strongly about honoring those who had given so much to keep America free.  Because of their sacrifice I am privilege enough to enjoy the freedoms of our great country.  Along the day I often thought of the soldiers and their families.  I thought about how my one day of a physical challenge was many soldiers daily challenge but in hostile lands.  I thought of my grandfathers who both served in WWII.  My mother's father was a part of the last active Calvary unit. My father's father was a decorated Colonel that was awarded the silver star and purple heart for liberating Dachau concentration camp.  He was also a rescued POW.  I also thought of my uncle who died in Vietnam and imagined if I was the mother who lost her son.  Freedom is expensive.  I am proud to be American and I only hope to honor those who have and are serving with gratitude and respect.
Max and Aimee get a little skittish around cliffs.  There were a few spots along the way that we were really on edge!


About two hours into our hike the sun started to light up the top of the North Rim.  The sun and heat were our worst enemy.  Heat exhaustion killed 130 people in Arizona in 2016.  Hundreds of people are rescued out of the Grand Canyon each year due to over heating.  I did not want to be part of either statistic.
Seeing the sun put a little fire under us to keep moving at a quick pace.  The hardest part of this hike was not having any idea how our pace was.  
Max put together a map to give us a guideline for our pace.  We could track our distance and elevation as we hiked and reached specific landmarks.
In all previous hikes we tracked our distance and time with GPS tracking apps.  Until we got to the Colorado River we would not really have a great idea of our pace.

It seemed like we may never reach the bottom.
My toes were jamming into my shoes and my knees were jarred so much that with each step they reminded me how much down we had done.  Max's hamstrings began to tighten up about 3/4 of the way down.
I just about tripped while crossing the water.  Bill brazenly stomped through and got his feet wet.  This would prove to be a bad decision as his wet feet gave him blisters on the way up.
Nearly four hours down and we were still feeling pretty excited and happy.
I was not looking forward to being on the other side in the sun.
We reached Phantom Ranch at 9:20 am, less than five hours.  We had gone 15 miles down.  I was worried that our pace was too slow.  We still had 10 miles of straight up to go in the hottest part of the day.
We had heard there was a place near the Colorado River to sit and put our hot feet in the water.  We passed through Phantom Ranch and crossed the river looking for a beach to take our lunch.

We were disappointed to not see any easy accessible beaches.  We were all getting very tired and in need of a rest so we opted for a spot in the shade just on the other side of the river for lunch.

We packed Arizona brewed beers for our lunch!  Nothing like a cold one by the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon!
Mixed with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Cheez-its we were fueled up for our big climb.  It felt so nice to sit and take our socks and shoes off and rest for a bit.  However, the ever nagging danger of the heat and time on our feet was always pushing us to keep moving.

If I were to ever do this again, I would want to spend the night at Phantom Ranch.  It would be possible to leisurely hike down the beautiful North Rim, spend the afternoon enjoying the river and then leave early the next morning before the sweltering sun broke.
At 10:30 it was already 100 degrees!  It was time to get up and out of that canyon.

A mule train passed us and I day dreamed of catching a ride up.  It would be so easy.
 As the physical demands became grater, our enthusiasm diminished as did our number of pictures.
 Our group also began to hike each man for themselves.  There is saying with hikers in the canyon that you have to go at your pace.  Disrupting your rhythm can be very difficult.  I prefer to go hard and stop and rest while Max and Aimee like to go continually steady and not stop.  Max's hamstrings began to really tighten up on the way up and stopping made it very hard for him to get moving again.  Aimee was lagging behind on the way down and found up was easier on her joints and took the lead. Bill was struggling with wet feet, blisters and a twisted ankle.  I was just hot and tired.
 Nothing like a little encouragement.  The sign reads:  Hiking to the Colorado River and back in one day is not recommended due to the long distance, extreme heat, and nearly 5,000 foot elevation change.  If you think you have the fitness and expertise to attempt this extremely strenuous hike, please seek advice from a park ranger at the Backcountry Information Center.  Cheers.
 After that encouraging note I decided it was time for the 5 hour energy shot!  It helped me so much the night Max and I attended the gala after hiking 16 miles, I figured I would see if it could help me up the final 5 miles of switchbacks.
They are called the switchbacks from hell.  It is fiery hot, dry dust blowing in your face, occasionally pungent smells of donkey pee and poop, and worn out hikers littered across its 3000 feet of elevation gain over 4.5 miles.
 I just kept looking at the top of the rim and thinking there was no way it could only be 4.5 miles.  It seemed endless.
 Near the 1.5 mile rest house we saw a young 20 something man experiencing heat exhaustion.  Right as I came near him he began throwing up.  He looked pale green and I was worried about him.  I asked if they needed help and they said no.  I told him he was having heat exhaustion and should lie down in the shade and rest.  Another hiker came along and assisted them to the rest house where they were able to call for help.
Another encouraging sign in the bathroom at the rest house.  After seeing the young man and this sign I was more eager than ever to get off the trail.
 It was indeed the most difficult 1.5 miles I have ever walked.  Everything hurt and I was so hot.  White cakes of salt covered my shirt despite continually dipping my bandana in water and dunking my head at every water station.
 At 3pm we made it to the first tunnel.  Less than a mile to go!  Let me just say it was the longest mile ever!
 The trail was becoming much busier so I knew we were close.  People were looking at us like we were zombies as we dredged right through pictures and people in our way.  I had lost all care or concern about being rude.  If you were in my path I was not slowing down or taking one extra step to move out of the way. A bit of anxious psychosis began to set in about reaching the top.  As we leaned  heavily on our poles and Bill nearly used his has crutches, Aimee told me how much she loved the poles!  After months of abuse and taunting for using my grandma hiking poles, I was vindicated!  Poles for the win! :)
Finally, I saw Pops at the top and tears started to trickle down my cheeks.  I was surprised I had any reserve fluid in my body.  I was so relieved to be done!
Looking back across the canyon I could hardly believe that we had just hiked all that way in 10 hours and 30 minutes!  We arrived on the top of the South Rim at 3:20pm.
 Bucket List check!
I am so grateful to my best friend Aimee who is just as wild and crazy as I am.  She will do any challenge and challenge me to be my best.   She is tough as nails, funny and wants to live life to the fullest.
None of my accomplishments would mean anything without Max by my side.  He makes everything better, even my hurting body felt better leaning into him.  I am the dreamer and he is the one that makes them all come true.  He gives me strength and confidence to try anything.  With each adventure I know I can do it as long as he is with me.
Here is our pace throughout the day.  It was one of the most grueling physical things I have done.  I definitely do not feel the need to be part of the team that does Rim 2 Rim every year.  I feel like I can completely cross this one off my list, however, I am not done with my adventures in the Grand Canyon.


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