Guest Blog by Becky Cervantez.
On September 27th, 2014, one day after my 37th birthday, I tested the boundaries of my physical, mental, and emotional strength by conquering one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the world, The Grand Canyon. I hiked with my husband and 5 other friends, we descended along the South Kaibab trail at the South Rim of the canyon, down into Phantom Ranch, then across “The Box” of the canyon and finally up the North Kaibab Trail to the North Rim. In total it was 21 miles, which took me just under 13 hours. You carry about 3 liters of water and plenty of salty snacks, electrolyte mixers and emergency gear. The last 5 miles (about 5 hours worth) was done in and out of a constant rain.
Picture 1- The sign at the “South Kaibab Trailhead”, technically we didn’t hike to the river and back in one day, we hiked to the river, crossed it, and went up the other side 🙂 I trained for about a year for this hike, mainly at North Mountain and Thunderbird Mountain in Phoenix, AZ, carrying Abygail in my Bjorn when she was still light enough to fit in it, then over the summer I trained without her, but carrying my water pack and extra weight to train for the backpack I would carry and the heat we would encounter at the bottom of the canyon. I hiked an average of 5 miles each time I trained.
Picture 2- The hiking group at the South Kaibab trailhead, at 4:30am. Dan and I are on the right. All night we had group discussions on weather or not we would do this hike. The weather had been poor all week and was calling for 50-80% chance of rain for the day of our hike. For 2 of our hikers, including my husband it was easy for them to blow it off if warranted, as they had done it numerous times before, but the other 5 of us it was our first time. We had prepared and planned for this for a year in the making, it was not possible for us to reschedule for another weekend, rooms for the South end and North end of the canyon must be booked a year in advance. So we were all praying for any signs of hope that we could make this happen. When we woke up at 3:30am, the skies were clear enough to see the stars, so we decided even though we knew we would hit rain at some point, we wanted to take the chance of getting thru as much of the hike as possible before the rain came. We all decided to get an early start, power thru the descent and across the bottom to race the weather. So away we went….
Picture 3- Sunrise at Cedar Ridge, about 1.5 miles down into the Canyon. As you can see the threat for weather was minimal at this point, and continued that way for the majority of the hike. It kept the weather cool and the sun shaded by clouds coming and going.
Picture 4- The South Kaibab Trail ahead of us.
Picture 5- The mighty Colorado
Picture 6- Dan and I standing on the Suspension Bridge the crosses over the Colorado river, about 8.5 miles achieved, and the weather at the bottom of the canyon was beautiful, about 75 degrees…compared to the 90 to 100 degrees we prepared for and is usually the case…the 7 miles across the canyon was the best part for me…it was beautiful….
Picture 7 – “The Box” the trail along the bottom of the canyon follows a creek and you are surrounded by canyon walls, you take pit stops at Phantom Ranch, and Cottonwood Campgrounds, where you can replenish your water packs, treat your feet if needed and mentally prepare for the 7 miles ahead of you as you ascend up the North Rim…in the beginning you are slowly gaining elevation and in the process you come across many waterfalls….we also started to come across….the RAIN
Picture 8- Dan and I, at the bottom of the canyon…we are about 12 miles into our hike at this point….we only got about 3 or 4 more miles before the rain came, thus the last time you would see us dry.
Picture 9- Our scenery for the remainder of the hike looked a little like this, unable to see the trail we had hiked behind us…walking thru continuous muddy trails that your feet sink into then you have to yank out, in and out of clouds, the constant runoff of rain water over canyon walls, the sound of thunder in the distance echoing thru the canyon, your mental health is already breaking, your tired, your feet hurt, your socks and shoes are soaked, you can feel everything squishing between your toes your pack is heavy and the wetness makes all of that worse…your pushing your body thru elements you never thought possible…and somehow you find that power, that will to GET OUT. I was broken…the last 5 miles I cried on and off I was so exhausted, I would literally take 10-15 painful steps and stop and choke back tears, but I was also so overwhelmed at what I was achieving…I just kept telling myself…”Its just a walk in the park, it just happens to be “The Grand Canyon National Park” just a really big park. And the little face of my silly baby girl…I knew I could do it…for me…and for her.
Picture 10 thru 12- Enjoying the sunrise over the North Rim, My husband and I, and the North Rim Lodge, the morning after our journey.
In hindsight, although a powerful experience for my emotional and mental health, I was disappointed it was so “Rushed” to beat out the weather, I didn’t get to soak it in as much as I would have liked, or take the pictures to really do it justice. And we powered thru it so fast going down and across that by the time we had to go up, with the rain…our bodies were spent. I may never get the chance to do this again, so I wish I would have been able to take it in just a little bit more, and take my time…not only would I of been able to get a better experience but my body would not of been as beaten up either if I would have been able to “stroll” through it.