November 15, 2020

R2R2R and happy 17th

Eric and I celebrated seventeen years of marraige.

How did we celebrate another year? Yes, it did include stops at wildflower, rei, and the outlet stores.

But this year was a big year for us. We did a lot of hard, deliberate work to grow together and grow stronger. 

So it was important to us that we celebrate in a big way.

So we decided to torture ourselves and do the hardest thing I have ever chosen to do. We hiked the grand canyon rim to rim to rim!!

We drove up to the grand canyon on a saturday and spent the night at the Bright Angel Lodge. We were hoping for an early start in the morning, but I didn't sleep well and we were a little slow going getting out the door. Because of covid all of the shuttles were shut down or modified. We got misinformation from someone and ended up walking two miles to a shuttle stop that wasn't running anymore. So we walked another mile to the next shuttle stop. We were so grateful we made it to a shuttle, but we were getting to the trailhead an hour and a half later than we were hoping to.

But we saw these guys hanging out by South Kaibab trailhead. Always cool to see elk up close like that.

So we started down the grand canyon at South Kaibab at 7am on a beautiful morning.

We were happy that starting later meant we got to enjoy the views down the canyon. Gorgeous!

Look at these cool switchbacks we went down.

This was our first view of the river.

All of the layers and colors of the rocks were just amazing.

We took a little too much time going down the canyon. We really wanted to enjoy the experience. And so we stopped a lot for pictures and music video clips. But we also made too many stops to adjust shoes and clothes or pull out snacks. I definitely think it took us some time to get into a good rhythm. And so, in the end, I wish we had combined some of our stops better so we could of finished up a little faster. Oh well. It was good learning and we actually had a lot of fun along the way.

These tunnels were so pretty.

Bridges are beautiful, but they make me feel incredibly nervous!

Yes, I breathed through my fears and crossed that beautiful bridge.

We made it down to Phantom ranch and grabbed some cold lemonade. An ice cold drink was worth every overpriced dollar!

This is probably where I started feeling the pain of hike. On the stretch between Phantom ranch and Manzanita, it got so hot. We were there right in the middle of the day and there was hardly any shade. The heat and the slight incline got to me and I started to get dehydrated.

Eventually we got through that section and made it to Manzanita and started our real climb out of the Canyon on North Kaibab trail.

Hiking North Kaibab is no joke.

There was this pretty waterfall along the way.

I had to dig really, really deep for this climb. The last few miles up were brutal. My mind kept drawing parallels between this hike and my life. It started with how 17 years of marriage was a lot like hiking the Grand Canyon. 

But as the hike got more difficult and dragged on and on, my mind started thinking about how this was SO HARD. Which then turned my thoughts to other hard things I have done in my life, namely cancer. I was tired and thus emotional. And as I thought about the parallels of the hike to cancer, tears started streaming down my face. Just like cancer, by hiking up this canyon, I was pushing my body to its limits. I thought about pain and fear and, also, about strength and resilience. I felt sorry for myself for the trauma cancer caused and proud of myself for overcoming it all. And then I felt embarrassed that I was crying as I was hiking. I was afraid that someone would pass us and think I was crying about the hike when, in fact, it was much deeper and just another way that I was processing cancer. No one passed us while I was crying and I was able to compose myself again, but the emotions left me a little drained as we continued on.

We misread the map and thought this tunnel meant we were only .7 miles away from the top. Wrong! It was false hope. I had to dig even deeper to keep climbing up. And I also had to learn an important lesson on accepting help and sharing burdens with my husband. I am a strong girl, but the weight of my overnight pack and of my emotions became too much. Hiking this trail was not only a physical challenge, but a mind game as well. When the top seemed too far away and the sun started to go down, my mind went back to dwelling on how hard this was and my experience with cancer again. This time my emotions boiled over in even more of a physical way--I couldn't breathe and had a panic attack. And that scared me. I got my pack off and let my breathing come back to normal. Here we were after over 24 miles of hiking. So close, but feeling so overwhelmed with the last of the climb. Eric carried my backpack for a few of the switchbacks as I regained my strength. I have never loved him more than in that moment. I was so grateful for his help in carrying that weight for a time so I could keep going. I know he was praying for strength for himself and I'm grateful that God answered that prayer. I was able to take my pack back and we made it to the top of the North Rim in the dark. 

Unfortunately, the North Rim lodge was still well over a mile away. It was hard to see in the dark the path we should take and our phone wasn't pulling up the map. Thankfully, we had made some friends along the trail. We had talked to them quite a bit as we were all going about the same pace, but we had passed them at the end so they got to the top after we did. So Eric and I started the staggering walk along the road, but their car eventually came by and we waved them down and they kindly gave us a ride with them to the Lodge. I loved them more than anything in that moment as well!

Our bodies were stiff and sore. Like I can't even describe to you that pain! E and I got checked in and ordered a pizza (a pizza that I was ultimately too nauseas to eat). I got some water into my dehydrated body and took the best bath and shower of my life to soothe my muscles. In some ways it was quite humorous how I tried and failed to move around that small room. My body was struggling. North Kaibab had kicked my butt!

Eric checked the Strava app and it showed that we had walked over 30 miles that day. My app showed somewhere around 26. Either way, it was a lot of miles!! We questioned our sanity to try to get up the next day and do it again. But I also know that I am not a quitter in any sense of the word and I would regret it forever if we didn't finish. I wanted to get a good night's sleep and if we woke up feeling worse then we would back out. But after our rest thus far and getting some good water in me, I felt like we would be ok. 

Sleep did wonders for us. I figured out a better water situation for me (I am very taste sensitive and was feeling nauseas from the taste of the water when I used my camelpack bladder so instead I just carried water bottles for the day.). We were sore still, but nothing compared to how we felt the night before. Our minds were fresh and we were ready to take on the day and the Grand canyon once more.

We were hoping to hitch a ride to the trailhead, but no luck. We walked almost two miles to get to the trailhead (because we go lost again! ha!).

We were ready to head down North kaibab.

North Kaibab is gorgeous! Like breathtakingly gorgeous.

So many beautiful trees, colors, rocks, and views!

Going down is much easier than going up. Even if your calves are stiff and your knees are sore. We could laugh about our pain and keep going.

We stopped at phantom ranch again for some lemonade and then continued on up Bright Angel.

It's hard to see in this picture, but there a deer on the mountain. We saw lots of deer and even some big horn sheep while we were hiking.

It was incredible to stand on Bright Angel trail and look back at how far we had hiked. We were feeling pretty proud!! And also pretty exhausted.

I was definitely feeling the pain of the hike on the second day, but I wasn't dehydrated and I was feeling pretty good mentally and emotionally. Day two was extremely difficult, but, for me, it was so much easier than that first day when my emotions took over. The thing about a marriage is that you balance each other out. Unfortunately, Eric struggled on day two with his knees, a huge blister and some chaffing. He is so incredibly tough though and powered through it all.

During those last three miles out of the canyon, I had the thought that instead of prisons all criminals just need to be sentenced to hiking the Grand Canyon and this torture would be enough to make them never do anything bad again. hahaha. But here we were celebrating our 17th year of marriage by putting ourselves through intense pain and torment. Ok, ok it was incredible, too!!!! Definitely not all bad. But it was also definitely the hardest thing I have ever chosen to do. 

But it isn't it funny that even after all that pain and challenge, I got to the top of South Rim and a rush of relief and jubilation overcame me. If you had asked me two miles down if I would ever do this again, I probably would've said heck no. But as soon as I got to the top I couldn't help feeling how incredible that was and how fun and I couldn't wait for next year!!

For serious! I was so happy that we did it. And so happy that we did it TOGETHER.

We shared an astounding experience that only made our bond grow stronger. Isn't that interesting how struggling brings some of the greatest joys you will ever experience??

So would I do it again? Yes! But I would remember these tips (many of these we did and I was glad about and some we had to learn from):

-wear compression socks, a buff, a light windbreaker, shorts (it was nice to have pants and long sleeves  too but no need)
-bring less food
-carry as little as possible (which was a little tricky since we were staying overnight)
-bring money or a credit card for lemonade
-for me personally because of my water sensitivity: bring water bottles and don't use the camelpack. carry the water you need but just fill up at those water stops
-use hiking sticks for sure
-wear good shoes (I bought topos and they were perfect for my feet!)
-stretch every chance you get 
-go a little faster on the down hills and condense stops as much as possible
-bring ibuprofen, moleskin/bandaids, chaffing cream, sunblock, chapstick

Would I ever do R2R2R in one day? NO!! Those people are incredible and crazy. But there is no way that my body could do it. The rest on the North Rim was exactly what I needed. And when you do it one day then you just don't get to enjoy the beauty as much. I really wanted to enjoy the experience.

What I LOVED about the experience:
-all the people we met! We talked to some cool, interesting people along the way. I loved to hear their stories, their plans, their strength. It was fascinating and my favorite part. We talked to some people multiple times and would've had dinner with an older man and his wife if I wasn't so exhausted
-the beauty! breathe it all in. it was absolutely amazing. do not take being there for granted.
-drawing parallels between life and the canyon. it gave the experience a deeper meaning for me. granted, it made it hard too because I was processing things, but it was important for me
-being with Eric. being there with my best friend who is supportive and non judgmental and fun and wise and smart and strong.

I think I do need to add in here, that on a regular day at home, my body is in a lot of pain. Because of the medication I am on, I get stiff really easily and my feet and legs hurt pretty much all the time when I start to walk or stand up. I do think that added to the difficulty level of the hike for me physically. Just sayin'.

We hiked well over 50 miles in two days!! Eric's app actually clocked us at 60 miles. Don't know how accurate that is though.

It took us more time to hike than we wanted it to or planned on, but we also made a lot of stops to enjoy it and talked to a lot of people, etc. And day one I struggled and day 2 Eric struggled more. Both mornings we started on the trail around 7. We finished around 6:30pm on day one and 5:45pm on day two. Even with our slower time, we passed a lot of people, especially on day two. 

If you are ever going to hike just rim to rim then definitely go from the North to the South.

So hiking 50 plus miles of the Grand Canyon in two days is a lot like 17 years of marriage. It is a grand experience! There are ups and downs, struggles, joys, beauty, amazing views, and pain. Sometimes you have to dig deep and push through and place one foot after another. But the view is so worth it!!! Sometimes you need to encourage each other or carry someone else's pack for awhile until they get their strength back. The journey is what you make of it--are you going to enjoy and appreciate it or race through it? Are you going to focus on the pain or focus on what great, breathtaking and incredible things the pain brought you to? The terrain will be varied and beautiful. And the experience is uniquely your own. You will grow, you will discover your strength, both individually and together. Marriage is a Grand experience! And I'm so glad to have had this experience with Eric.

Our music video from the trip!
(my favorite part is Eric's old man sore walk at the end :). And I love that I married someone as weird as me.)