Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Back to the Grand Canyon

This morning I got notification that I have been accepted for a week long service project in the Phantom Ranch area of the Grand Canyon. This will be my 7th overnight trip into the canyon and my 3rd such service project. I am very excited and will start my training tomorrow. Even though I am in pretty good running condition, hiking in and out of the canyon requires a very different type of fitness. I will be walking the steps/ramps of USM’s football stadium, walking at incline on a treadmill, as well as walking in the heat of the day in a subdivision that has short very steep hills. The project is October 18-24 so I have lots of time to get ready.

I first visited the Grand Canyon about 30 years ago. Like most people, I took a short hike down Bright Angel trail to the 1.5 mile rest house. I also drove to various overlooks. I was hooked and I knew that I would return to hike into the canyon.

It was about 10 years before I got back. On my first overnight hike, I was with my friends Darleen Schauer and Margy Ferrara. We were all runners and in very good condition---for running. We hiked down and spent 1 night in the dorms at Phantom Ranch and then hiked out the next day. I can't even remember which trails we hiked. I do remember that we had a great time and I was hooked on the canyon.

The 2nd overnight hike was about 12 years ago when I was retired and moved to Hattiesburg. I organized a group of women for a rim to rim. There were 11 of us and that was quite a lesson in group dynamics and my inability to motivate adult women to actually train for such a difficult hike. That hike was the most difficult of all that I have done. We hiked over 14 miles down the North Kaibab trail to Phantom Ranch for 1 night and then out the 10 mile Bright Angel trail. On that trip, we got caught on the trail during a severe thunderstorm that was one of the scariest experiences of my life.

Trip number 3 was another rim to rim with my friend Darleen Schauer and my 2 adult children. On that one we hiked halfway down North Kaibab to Cottonwood campground for the night. The next day we hiked on to Phantom Ranch for 1 night and then half way out Bright Angel trail, spending 1 night at Indian Garden campground.

Trip number 4 was a service project with about 10 other people, including my friend Mary Ruth Middlebrook. We worked at Phantom Ranch for a week, sleeping in the crew workers bunkhouse. That was a very nice experience since we did not have to carry as much weight. We did such projects as trimming trees, cleaning irrigation ditches, breaking up man-made dams in the Bright Angel creek, and cleaning the crew house. On this project we worked 2-3 days until early afternoon, had 1 day off and then worked another 2-3 days. We had lots of time to hike around and really get to know the Phantom Ranch area.

Trip number 5 was another rim to rim. This time it was with my then 12 year old granddaughter and my daughter and son-in-law. We hiked down North Kaibab to Cottonwood for 1 night and then on to Phantom Ranch for 1 night. On the hike out Bright Angel trail, we spent 1 night at Indian Garden campground. This was a great family experience, especially the time spent with my granddaughter. She was an amazingly good hiker and we spent some quality time together.

The last trip was a service project. There were about 10 of us and we stayed at Roaring Springs in the old pump house residence which has been made into a work crew house/ranger residence. We commuted 1.5 miles each day to Cottonwood campground where we worked building trails, painting, building storage areas and making general repairs as needed. We were there for 4-5 days and then hiked down to Phantom Ranch for 2 days before hiking out the South Kaibab trail.

The upcoming service project will be a Phantom Ranch and I think one of the reasons I was chosen is because they need someone to paint all the food storage boxes at the Bright Angel campground. Most people do not like to paint and would rather be working on the more active projects. On the previous project I painted all the storage boxes at Cottonwood campground and I don't mind the work. In fact it is quite interesting because you get to do so much people watching and interacting with campers/hikers.

We will probably begin our trip leaving Hattiesburg in early October and returning to Hattiesburg in early November. I am very excited, but I know that each year these hikes/projects will be more physically difficult. It is for that reason that tomorrow I will begin my training. That will involve walking the steps and ramps and USM's football stadium, walking at incline on a treadmill and walking in the heat of the day in a subdivision that has some short/steep hills.

I'll keep you posted on my preparation for this very unique and rewarding experience. I'm not sure who will be on the project, other than my long-time running friend, Janie Honeycutt and her husband. We have done a previous project and they are great hikers and hard workers.

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