“Hey dude. Scratch Fremont. I’m going to grnd canyon with matt & katelyn. Wanna come? We leave tomorrow at 4 and get back sunday night. Camping the whole time”
-Tyler, text message
10 hours later I found myself parked outside of Matt’s house with a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and a duffle bag. As I walked up the driveway Tyler came out with his backpacking backpack slung over one shoulder.
“Are we going to the bottom?” “Yeah,” Tyler said “Seriously?! I need to go back home and get more stuff, I just thought we’d camp and drive around.”
I borrowed one of Matt’s backpacks and swung by my house to grab my boots and a few extra layers. We then headed south on the 101 as I counted my granola bars. I had three, the only food I had on this trip.
By 10 AM we stood outside of a gas station just east of the California – Arizona border. We went inside to grab some snacks and relieve ourselves. As I stood in line for the restroom the guy in front of me noticed my Field Notes notebook and asked me about it. I casually told him it’s where I store ideas, quotes, and just general thoughts. He asked me “does it say Obama sucks in there?” “No.” “Well, you should write ‘Obama Sucks’ in there.”
I wrote down, “Obama Sucks.”
On the road again we made it to the Grand Canyon with about an hour until sundown. It had been well over a decade since I was last at the Grand Canyon, the perfect amount of time for me to forget what constitutes a GRAND CANYON. As we approached the edge I couldn’t help but laugh in excitement at how TRULY GRAND THIS CANYON IS. I tip my hat to the naming committee.
We explored the rim for a few more minutes then drove around until we found a campsite. As the last rays of sun poked through trees we pitched our tent and got a fire started. Eventually the flames dimmed to embers and it was time to call it a night. The temperature had to be in the high 20s, we were sure to have a long night ahead of us.
The next morning came quickly and the cold had set in. As Matt breathed some life into the fire, Tyler, Katelyn, and I busied ourselves to keep warm.
The fire took shape, bagels were toasted, and our breakfast was consumed.
We broke camp and caught a bus to the trailhead that would take us seven miles straight down to the bottom of the Canyon. Looking out at the tourists from the back of the bus we realized that nobody else here was going to the bottom, and most seemed as if they were just there to soak in the views from the rim.
We made it to the trailhead and past a sign cautioning ice sheets and recommending crampons. I wasn’t prepared for this.
We started the trek with a hop in our steps. We’d pass families on the trail and they’d ask us if we were going to the bottom and we’d answer with a resounding “yes.”
About midway down we took a break to eat a little and shed some layers. The temperature rose the deeper we went. As I took a few steps without my backpack I realized the beating my knees were taking. Aches had found their way deep into my knees and showed no signs of giving up.
Packs on we continued, one foot in front of the other, slowly. We passed the time telling tales and discussing the importance of grace. Shortly the Colorado River was in view. A milestone. Our pace increased a little, and eventually we found ourselves on a bridge about 40 feet over the mighty river. From there we found a campsite, and spent a few minutes apologizing to a ranger for not getting a permit. Ranger Della took pity on us and said that she wouldn’t give us a fine if we paid the $30 permit fee on our way out. The importance of grace. Thanks Della.
That night was spent eating cuts of salami and sipping hot chocolate at the tiny restaurant at Bright Angel. Sleep came easier this night.
I awoke to Matt and Tyler doing their best to finish off the salami and cheese. Nobody wanted to carry any extra weight up the same trail. Katelyn had hit the trail about 20 minutes before I awoke, and took along some breakfast, snacks, and plenty of water in hopes of beating us to the top. Matt left shortly after breaking camp, and Tyler and I dilly-dallied around until we were completely ready. We took some last pictures and started our trek.
After about an hour we deduced that going up was a lot easier than down. Tyler and I made the halfway mark in about three hours and despite our tired legs, the look on the faces of tourists when we told them we had come from the bottom helped keep us moving.
It would be about six hours before Tyler and I made it to the top and saw Matt and Katelyn. The day had been good to us all, and we stood triumphantly on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
The drive back was long. Our tired legs did not do well crammed in a car. But between naps and a much-needed In N Out stop we made good time. The sun set and we still had hours to drive. By 10 pm, Tyler was doing his best to finish the last leg of driving, imagining the car in front of us was the white whale and he Ahab.
“YAW! YAW!” he’d yell as we swept through turns. He yaw-yawed us all the way home. About 4 AM Monday morning, 72 hours after we left, we parked Matt’s car back in his driveway, unloaded gear, shook hands, and separated.
I made it home and buried myself in a tomb of blankets, exhausted, but victorious. I had conquered the Grand Canyon.