Have you ever wanted to do something that would stretch your capabilities, but would empower you once completed? I did just that when I was able to hike the Grand Canyon, with some experienced hiker friends of mine!
Now I have done day hikes around Arizona my whole life, but the last time I camped was probably in Girl Scouts, many, many years ago. This hike would involve backpacking, hiking and camping in a tent for 3 nights in the bottom of the Canyon. There would be no showers or makeup. Could I do it?
The plans for the trip began over a year ago. We were given a list of needed items, and I slowly acquired the items on the list. REI became my go-to location for my hiking needs. My husband became my hiking buddy for the many training hikes before the BIG hike, though he was not going with me on the Grand Canyon hike. There were 6 of us going: 2 experienced GC hikers and 4 of us newbie GC hikers. I knew a few of this group vaguely from dental seminars, but felt slightly out of my comfort zone, having no close friends hiking with me. But I had always wanted to hike the Grand Canyon and figured this was as good a time as any to go! What an opportunity to experience this hike with people who had done it many times before and were willing to put up with beginners!
The government shutdown almost derailed our plans when they closed the National Parks, but the Grand Canyon was reopened in time for our late October hike, thank goodness! David and Yoko Madow were super organized in their planning of this trip. Not only was I physically prepared, but I also felt mentally prepared and totally confident due to their comprehensive organization and planning.
On the first day, we hiked down the South Kaibab trail 7 hours to get to Bright Angel Campground, near Phantom Ranch. Hiking 5000 feet down, carrying a 35 pound backpack was hard on my feet. My hiking boots that had been great on flat desert terrain at home, were not so comfortable for the long downhill stretches in the canyon. I couldn’t wait to get my boots off that first day! And I had no problem sleeping in my cozy 2 person tent with Barb! When the sun goes down in the canyon, it gets really dark! I think we went to sleep by 8 pm, worn out from the hiking.
The next day we hiked 13 miles to Ribbon Falls and back. I love taking landscape photographs, my favorites being sunsets and waterfalls. The Grand Canyon did not disappoint! At Ribbon Falls, you are able to hike up behind the waterfalls. It is a special place.
To hike out from Bright Angel Campground, we went on Bright Angel Trail through Indian Gardens to the South Rim. This segment took us 9 hours. There were a lot of switchbacks on this trail, but it was manageable with taking breaks as often as needed. My biggest injury was to my feet…blisters and bruised toe-nails. Our Grand Canyon hiking team all made it down and back out, thanks to great planning by the Madows and careful coaching along the way. When we were close to the Bright Angel Trailhead at the top of the South Rim, I felt emotional. Any doubts about my ability to make it had been erased. The beauty of the canyon was captured in my photos. I came, I saw, I conquered… and I emerged a better person because of it!
Yoko and David Madow, Lee Buzard, Barbara Vugteveen, Elizabeth Fleming and Glenn Ulick: The fabulous CG Hiking Team!
The icing on the cake was when the National Geographic Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center posted one of my pictures as their photo of the week, and asked me to share my experience on their website! Talk about being on cloud 9!!!
Have you ever had an experience like this? Share it with us!
Elizabeth J Fleming, DDS and the staff at Desert Ridge Smiles