I awoke on day four with a sense of nervousness and excitement. This would be it. The last day of my Grand Canyon rim to rim hike with Wildland Trekking. The day that we would finally make the tough hike up out of the canyon.
That’s the tough thing about hiking canyons instead of mountains – the hardest part arguably comes at the end, when you are the most tired and you have to go up to get to your destination.
We were up once again by about 3:30 a.m., eating breakfast, packing up our gear for the last time and getting our feet taped up. Several others had blisters to be tended to and I had my big toe, which did not seem to be improving at all. Wrapped in moleskin again to provide some cushioning, it was still incredibly painful to squeeze it into my hiking shoe. The first few steps as we set out to hike were excruciating. Luckily, it got better.
The hike seemed to fly by. With rest houses every hour or so, we had landmarks to look forward to that broke up the hike a bit. At our first stop, I noticed it was already close to 80 degrees, even though it was barely 7 a.m. I also noticed a hole had been gnawed in the side of my backpack! Squirrels! It wasn’t large, but noticeable enough and I struggled to figure out when it happened. I hung my pack off the ground all night and I thought I had been next to it throughout the day when it was on the ground.
By the time we reached the second rest house, we were starting to pass day hikers on their way down the canyon. I envied their light loads, with many just carrying a camera and bottle of water. I was also annoyed by their lack of path etiquette as they rarely stepped aside to let those of us going uphill pass. We also encountered our first horses and mules of the trek which, unfortunately also meant stepping around a lot of smelly poo on the path. Despite all of the distractions, I got into a nice rhythm and just focused on taking one step at a time, slowly but surely. It was hot and the sun was beating down, but I was feeling okay.
And then, suddenly, it was all over. I was almost a bit sad when Greg announced that we only had about twenty minutes left to the top. It almost seemed to pass too quickly and physically, I felt like I could have hiked another couple hours. When we finally did reach the top of the South Rim, I didn’t even take my pack off right away – I barely noticed that I still had it on. Go figure!
After a group photo by the sign for the Bright Angel Trailhead, we headed to the lodge for some vending machine snacks while we waited for Greg and Drew to get lunch together. Then, it was back to Flagstaff and a much-needed shower!