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Day 2: And Then It Rained


DrGravitas

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Continuing with the second day of the hike, I figured I'd just give a quick run down of the highlights rather than a detailed story-like entry. I had the foresight to make notes at various points on the trail, so most of the important details are have not been forgotten, even though I didn't get as many pictures on the second day. The imgur pictures will be up either later today or tomorrow.

 

7:00 am - Up and at 'em! Still majorly sore from the day before, but it shakes of quickly and I'm left mostly with a bit of stiffness and slightly tender inner thighs. Breakfast is freeze dried Apple crisps cereal. Yes, you really want to eliminate even the small amount of weight that moisture in cereal takes up. Plus, it helps long term storage. Like the spaghetti dinner of the previous day, it is re-hydrated with boiling water. Unlike the previous day, however, this was not at all tasty. It was not so much like oatmeal as it was soggy cereal using water in place of milk and heated up. It tasted like chunky snot. I didn't eat much.

Today was to be a 9 mile journey back up the canyon along the popular Bright Angel trail. We finished up taking everything down, packing it all up and set off...

 

9:26 am - And Then It Rained.

The rain was a mercifully short drizzle, lasting only a few minutes longer than it took us to get our rain gear on and packs covered. This first 1.75 miles are sandy paths winding along the river with mostly gentle up and down slopes with little vertical progress. I was still quite stiff and going down any level of step was incredibly difficult. Going up was surprisingly easier but still a bit problematic.

 

10:45 am - Our first little rest stop! We took off our unneeded rain gear and I took out my camera. From here we had about 3 miles largely composed of switchbacks, those zig-zag vertical gaining trails sections. It was the switchbacks of Kaybab that had murdered my knees. Thankfully, going up them really is better than coming down them. At least for your the knees.

 

12:35 pm - The switchbacks open up into a beautiful, verdant sandstone area! Miniature waterfalls, formed by the mild rain combined with natural streams, dot the landscape.

 

12:42 pm - We stop for our second break by a large outcropping of rocks, along a small trickling stream in the middle of lush vegetation. Having gladly heeded the ranger's advice, we only had a liter in our camelbacks instead of 3 and most of our water was to be drunk from our water bottles. This is because Bright Angle, unlike Kaybab, has several places where water is available.

My dad goes to collect water from the stream using the filter pump. He entirely forgot that the pump is broken and must be held together. Like me, it immediately pops off. This time, however, he isn't able to grab the backflow disk before it washes away and so we're down a pump. Fortunately, he has a back up gravity-fed filter that we can squeeze by with. We begin to enjoy some much needed snacks...

And Then It Rained.

It wasn't going to be a merciful drizzle this time. I could see it just before it hit us: a wall of water. We quickly got our gear on and our packs covered. We had to cut the break short and move on. Much of the most beautiful parts of the trail were here in the rain, and me without access to my camera. Most of the path here was gentle climbing slopes. The rain lasted maybe 30 minutes, but by the end of it I was in no mood for pictures.

 

2:04 pm - We break here again for snacks and a much needed 30 minute rest. This is the mid-point of Bright Angel a lovely little campground. I didn't know that the beginner trail was supposed to have an overnight in the middle of it. It was here that I learned about it first and that we simply hadn't been able to get a permit for it. Which is why we were going the whole 9 miles in a day. In the distance we hear soft rumbling.

 

3:00 pm - We clearly hear thunder. The trail briefly became sharply steep again here. This is the start of last 4.5 miles, most of which will be steep straights and laborious switchbacks.

 

3:30 pm - We hear thunder again and what sounded like possibly a coyote. Oh how I would love to capture a coyote with my camera! The thought of it brightens me up...

And Then It Rained.

I had to put away my camera and never saw a coyote.

 

4:10 pm - The rain subsides and we are left with what will be the remained of the trail: steep, muddy climbs and switchbacks. Lots of switchbacks. We're all very tired and chilled from the rain. I had completely given up on using my camera. At this point conversation had turned to personifying the canyon as being angry that a trio of flat-land midwesterners were tromping up it. I taunt the canyon, asking it show us what it can really do!

 

4:30 pm - Exhausted, we reach the 3rd break area: a small rest stop wit a roof and water pump with cess-pit restrooms near by. 6 miles down, 3 to go. I'm shivering cold from the rain and feeling sick to my stomach. Skipping the snotty breakfast is fast catching up to me as a bad idea. The last of my salty beef jerky helps settle my stomach as we hydrate with much needed water. We put on our fleeces but I still feel unnaturally chilly, even though it's only 50 degrees.

Screw the rules, we pull out our mini-stove and make tea.

 

5:30 pm - After much needed rest and warmth, I'm feeling better. We're running low on food. We bundle up: The sun will be setting soon. We set off.

 

6:00 pm - The sun is setting. My father isn't doing so well, either. He's the experienced hiker and he's having to stop to catch his breath every so often. A party coming down the trail warns us they were nearly hit by falling boulders. It's virtually all switchbacks from here on out.

 

7:30 pm - The sun has long since set. We reach the last rest stop. It sucks. The restrooms sit up a set of steep stairs that may as well be called the Devil's Stairmaster. Water is a distance away, ensuring you have to inch your way over to the rest room after getting your drink. I now know what it's like to be 90 years old: everything is stiff, you can barely move without pain let alone move quickly. I am hobbled on canes that were my walking sticks. It's cold, and pitch black as I weakly trundle off to use the restroom with only my little headlamp. The stench is unimaginable.

We take this last water opportunity to refill and to make a small meal. We split a freeze dried chicken and mashed potato. Thankfully it is pretty decent and gives us a bit of a boost. Mice creep round near by and as I greedily guard my pack. The mice in my house over the last year have left a bit of an impact on me, I think. It's hard to give a sense of just how exhausted we were at this point.

 

And Then It Rained. Again.

At 40 Degrees. In Pitch Darkness. On sheer-cliff canyon-side switchback trail. The heaviest, longest rain of the day.

 

9:00-ish - My notes are largely incoherent here. I recall being very jumpy about the shadows cast by our head lamps. Lots of little mouse droppings along the trail made me paranoid about the mice. Being so near the start/end, the ever-present donkey dung along the trail had greatly increased in volume and stench. Around 9:30 we ran completely out of food.

I'm told I was quite out of it at this point, but somewhere around here the rain had stopped. I seem to have scribbled something about barely being able to lift my legs up the steps. I recall the next day there was a severe rash on my inner thighs from all the sweat and motion, so this likely a major contributing factor. There were many such rashes, gashes, and pains.

 

10:10pm - We finally made it out, exiting just by a gift shop that also houses a lovely art gallery. We stumbled into the Bright Angle Lodge after bumbling around the parking lot barely with any senses. We call a cab to take us the relatively short distance to the lodge we're staying the night in. We manage to snag some buffalo wings from the last open bar just before they close around 11pm.

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