From November 5 2009

So, What's the Big Deal with this Big Hole in the Ground? Read On..

So, what is so special about the big hole in the ground, 90 miles NW of
Flagstaff, AZ?

Once we left the heat and level terrain of Phoenix we headed north to Prescott.
The roads became hilly and we climbed to an elevation of 7200ft. The night time
temperatures dropped to 24 degrees while we camped. We were heading to the
Grand Canyon!

The Grand Canyon is one of the "seven natural wonders of the world" and it truly
deserves its ranking and status. The elevation at the South Rim is 7200ft. The
hiking trails that take you to the bottom of the canyon descend 4700ft. Our
mission was to hike the Grand Canyon. With little previous hiking was going to be one of our most difficult adventures.

We started planning for this hike back in February of 2009. We invited all of
our foolhardy friends to join us. We even invited some of our sensible friends.
It was going to be 3 days of hiking, a 7 mile hike to reach the bottom, a 12
mile hike while at the bottom and then a 9.5 mile hike out of the canyon. Good
things don't come with out some hard work. We knew getting the limited permits
was going to be a real challenge. June 1st was the earliest date we could send
in to reserve a spot at the Bright Angel Campground which is located on the
canyon floor. After many hours of sitting at a fax machine our friends finally
had a fax go through that we hoped would reserve enough space for us all. I
guess 700 faxes in the cue and 100 people standing at the door made our chances
very slim for getting a permit to camp on the canyon floor.

Jacky and I were determined to get to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and we were
willing to do whatever was necessary. We had a number of people that were
flying and driving out to Arizona to do this adventure. We found out that there
were daily permits available but it required arriving a the Grand Canyon Back
country Permit office a few days in advance and getting into a daily lottery.
The earlier you arrived, the higher your lottery number and the greater the
chance of getting the permit. Oct. 12th we arrived. No luck in getting a
permit but we were number 8 on the waiting list. Oct. 13th, no luck but we
moved up to number 4. Oct. 14th, yes...we were given a permit for the 15th and
16th to camp at the Bright Angel Campground on the canyon floor.

Kay (our webmaster) and Harry Lum drove out from Madison, WI and arrived on the
14th at noon. We started making preparations for the next day's hike. Anna
Marie and Denise, from Thunder Bay, were in route. However, their luggage was
lost some place between Thunder Bay and Las Vegas. They finally arrived at 5:00
a.m. (from Vegas) on the 15th with no sleep but a super attitude. Our final
preparation took place that morning with a 12:00 start time for our hike.

When you talk about preparations you have to consider the 7 mile hike down the
South Kaibob Trail, then spending 2 nights on the canyon floor and hiking the
return 9.5 miles out of the canyon on the Bright Angel Trail. This requires a
lot of thought. You have to carry enough food for 3 days, your tent, sleeping
mat, sleeping bag, cooking stove/fuel, pans and some clothing for the variable
weather conditions. Plus, you need to carry enough water for the hike down
because the South Kaibob Trail does not have any water available along the
route. The hike out would be easier because there would be 3 different water

Hiking down into the canyon has a "you carry it down, you must carry it out"
policy. So, you needed to be quite choosy in what types of containers you
chose. Plastic bags worked great because they could get folded very small when
empty. Glass and plastic jars are a "no,no". So, we removed all wrappers and
cardboard packaging from the items and we combined everything into plastic
Ziploc bags. We only took 3 days worth of pepper and salt. Because Jacky and I
have a larger tent we shared it with Denise and Anna Marie so they wouldn't have
to carry theirs down.

After taking the shuttle to the entrance to the South Kaibob Trail, we were
ready to start our hike. It was noon, the temps were warming up nicely and we
were excited to start our adventure...however, not without a little anxiety. We
knew the temps would be 20 degrees warmer in the canyon and the constant
downhill braking would take a toll on our quadriceps, calves and toes. (In case
you are not a hiker, going downhill requires more balance and leg strength
because you are always trying to slow yourself down with every step.) Those
that were using the trekking poles actually had their arms to help slow them

We took photos, sweat, laughed, rested, ate and made our way to the Colorado
River. The vista and scenery were unbelievable. When I saw the river for the
first time I got the chills. I was going to make it to the bottom of the
canyon! Two hours later we all crossed the pedestrian suspension bridge to
cross the Colorado River. Now our excitement was to complete our 7 mile hike
and put our feet up. My quads were killing me and my calves were very tight and
sore. My 65# pack and no hiking poles had done a number on my "supposedly" fit
legs. Bicycling and hiking are not the same!

Our campsite was small but nice and had a picnic table for our dinner
preparation. After a few beers, a Ramen noodle dinner (w/added veggies) and
many laughs my pain went away. Jacky, Kay, Anna Marie and Denise went to the
Ranger's presentation on the formation of the canyon and then to the Phantom
Ranch canteen for a night cap (its more like a mess hall but serves the
purpose.). Harry and I got some well deserved sleep.

The morning of the 16th told a different story. I was not sure how overnight I
could have aged 50 years. My walk to the bathroom was excruciatingly slow and
painful. My calf muscles were in complete revolt. The 12 mile round trip hike
to Ribbon Falls did not seem like a good idea. I had to buck up and say, "You
are in the Grand Canyon. Get your ass moving!" A little swearing always seems
to motivate me. After watching the others with their blisters; Denise's bruises
from falling on the way down; Jacky's blackened and infected toe nail;....what
was I complaining about? Just sore muscles?

Ribbon Falls was well worth every once of pain. I have never seen anything like
this before. The cascading of the waterfall had caused the minerals in the
water to create a dome like structure at the base of the waterfall. You were
able to go inside the dome and crawl around which Kay and Denise did, getting
totally soaked.

Once we returned back to camp we headed to the Phantom Ranch where we celebrated
over a late afternoon beer. At camp, Harry cooked us a great spaghetti dinner.
At this point we wanted to consume all of our heavy food and bev or we would
have to carry it back out. (Why would we want to carry it both directions?)
With this thought we also took note of the distilled spirits that adorned our
table. A foolhardy effort was made to eliminate this weight also. This
elimination process made us very smart and we must have wanted to share our
knowledge with those at the canteen in the Phantom Ranch. We had a great
evening, but Harry with his Chinese wisdom, stayed at camp to rest for the next
day's hike (smart man). I think we even set a world record for the number of
people that can occupy a surfboard shape thermorest. Is 4 the record?

Oct. 17th, the physical efforts of the past 2 days really took a toll. Everyone
came out of their tent very slowly. (How in the world are we going to hike out
of here? When you are in the canyon there is only one choice, "just do it".
Staying another night or hiring a mule/donkey were not options at this point.
The canyon has no mercy and you just need to be ready for Jacky). The
temperature was ideal and it was sunny for our hike out. Our short lunch stop
(of pre-prepared Ramen noodles) at Indian Gardens was good. It helped our
muscles from stiffening up. A quick water stop at the 3 mile rest house gave
way to the final grind of the day. This last leg became a stairway of steps,
switchbacks, loose rock and an inch of dust. The sweat from our legs coupled
with the dust gave everyone the "Grand Canyon mud on your leg" look. This was
our 3rd day and showers were needed by everyone.

The climb affected us all a little differently. Harry, Kay and Jacky were using
hiking poles. After a while they got into a "Birkie" ski mode and climbed like
they were doing the Birkie. Anna Marie, a real trooper and daily hiker, hiked
very strong and seemed to be moving effortlessly. I was sore, but as the "Alpha
Male", I would not complain. I would even smile at other hikers going the other
way. They would wonder...."why the smile? To hide the pain?"

I'm going to pick on Denise now. Denise is a personal trainer and keeps herself
very fit and has sometimes been considered intimidating in the gym. As we were
approaching one corner of a switchback, she had her head hung and was
lethargically putting one foot in front of the other. Denise commented to other
hikers resting at that corner. "I don't want to play anymore. I don't like
this game." She was whooped. I wonder if it was the 7 mile hike down? Was it
the 12 mile hike to Ribbon Falls Was it the world record of 4 people on a surf
board thermorest? Was it the previous 7.5 miles of climbing out of the canyon?
Or, was it her very diligent effort from the night before to not carry out any
distilled spirits? No one knows!! Kay took this opportunity for some comic
relief as she said, "you don't look so intimidating now!" We all laughed as we
all felt the same. I believe Denise laughed the hardest under the grimace of

We made it to the top and we were all very elated. We had one and only one beer
at the El Tovar Hotel. We all had our showers and washed off our red dirt.
Harry made us a great celebration dinner of steak and pork. It was nicely
accommodated by a warm campfire, cigars and many warm memories. Top notch
adventure. (Note, over 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon each year. Less
than 1% ever walk to the canyon floor. We are amongst that 1%!)

Jacky and I enjoyed a couple days of rest at the Mather Campground on the South
Rim before we headed down the road. The rest of the crew took off the morning
of the 19th. As we travelled we found that we stayed at 7000+ ft of elevation
and it was getting cold. We were going to take Interstate 40 from Williams, AZ
to Santa Rosa, NM. The interstate proved to be relatively safe and friendly
but it was very hard on our tires. The 470 miles of interstate caused us 14
flats and we shredded 3 tires. They were caused by the tiny wires in the blown
up truck tires. I wanted off Interstate 40 as quick as possible. However,
there are not alot of options. Some of the the remnants of old Route 66
provided some reprieve from the small wires. Campgrounds were now closed and we
resorted to camping in truckstops, behind motels and at Elks Lodges along the
way. To our surprise, my Uncle Larry and Chrissy met us for a 7:00am coffee at
a Truck Stop in Navajo, NM where we were camped. They were heading to CA. We
have been using our Rotary contacts for places to stay as well. Mark Morton of
Muleshoe, TX obliged us one night. What a treat that was.

As we passed through Alburque we were caught in a 3 day winter storm. Rain,
sleet and snow are not part of our plan. After 3 nights in Alburqueque at a
hotel we had to move on. We looked at elevation we had to go over and our
overnight towns. We knew we would get colder before we would get warmer.
Climbing to 7400 feet with fresh snow on both sides of the road and a huge storm
front behind us was scary. We stayed at another hotel in Moriarity. Upon
watching the Albuquerque news we saw the snow we out ran.

We are now in Littlefield, TX at an elevation is 4000ft. We are now alot warmer
and drier and back able to camp.

Jacky and Ward