I slowly got up and wiped the dirt off my pants. Sitting down at the picnic table in the near-dark, I aimed my headlamp at my foot to get a good look at my big toe. The red nail polish was scuffed off part of the nail but it otherwise looked fine – no scratches and, more importantly, no bleeding. I breathed a sigh of relief and went back to the business of drinking my cup of hot chocolate as Marisa, Chris, and I waited for the others to wake up.
It was about 3:45 a.m. on the second day of my rim to rim hike through the Grand Canyon with Wildland Trekking.
And I had just tripped over a large rock between the picnic tables at our campsite, stubbing my toe in the process.
We were up much earlier than planned because our guide Drew’s iPhone had somehow changed to Utah time (an hour ahead of Arizona) and when he thought it was 4:15 am., it was really only 3:15 a.m. Our goal was to be on the trail by 5:00, arriving at our next camp at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon by 9:00 or 10:00, escaping as much of the canyon heat as possible.
As we ate breakfast and packed up our stuff, I soon forgot about my stubbed toe. As somewhat of an afterthought, I put a blister bandage on it for extra cushioning before we set off, but I didn’t think too much of it. I was more concerned about my knee, which I discovered was scratched up and bloody nearly an hour after my fall (I’d been wearing long hiking pants and I’m amazed they didn’t rip at all). Despite rising so early, the size of our group meant we didn’t get everything together to actually leave camp until after 5:30 a.m. Needless to say, by the time we got going, I was really anxious to hit the trail.
Day two was another mostly downhill hike, although much flatter than day one. Early on, we made a detour to Ribbon Falls, a small waterfall tucked away several hundred feet off the path. I was kicking myself as we got to the falls because I had decided to hike with my zoom lens on for day two, but photographing the waterfall would have been much more effective with a regular lens. I think I got some nice shots nonetheless. I also encountered a pile of stones that was reminiscent of those we found on the way up to Gokyo Ri in the Himalayas and I couldn’t help but wonder if there was any distant connection.
We alternated between shade and sun and followed mostly red dirt paths through the canyon. The scenery continued to amaze me with its diversity and the rocks continued to change as we descended further into the canyon. I smiled at the sight of sparkly quartz along the path – such a contrast to the rough limestone and the red dirt.
The final leg into Phantom Ranch and to our campsite at the Bright Angel Campground was the toughest because it was the hottest. We later learned it was 104 – in the shade! Luckily, our campsite came with a stone shelter so we quickly dropped our packs and took off our shoes to relax in much needed shade as we waited for Drew and Greg to prepare lunch. As we did, I checked out my toe, which was suddenly throbbing as I remove my shoes. Under what was left of my red nail polish, I saw that the nail had started to turn a grayish purple and the skin surrounding the nail had turned red and puffy.
And then I realized I couldn’t bend it at all.
It suddenly occurred to me this was more than just a stubbed toe.
Luckily, Phantom Ranch has a cantina so Drew was able to buy a bag of ice for me to ice the toe a bit. Our campsite was also near a creek so I could sit on the edge and soak my feet in the cold water. Because we arrived so early, we had the whole day free and I took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy some alone time – for an introvert like me, it was much needed after being around ten other people for the previous 36 hours. The family all headed to a nearby beach area to enjoy the river while I hung back at camp before heading to the cantina for some air conditioning and lemonade. Then I returned to camp to read, snooze and ice my toe some more.
Even though it was just the second day of the hike, it was a much needed day of relaxation and rest for the uphill climb that would start the next day. It was also a chance to enjoy a little bit of luxury as Phantom Ranch had “real” bathrooms, with flushing toilets, sinks and mirrors. We wouldn’t see those again for two more days!
Stay tuned for day three of the hike…or read more more about day one…