…”An adventure holds many components. The end result sometimes may be pure resilience. I will tell the tale this weekend…”
Hello! Oh the freakin’ anticipation, right? Terimah Kasih to all the inquiries into when this would be coming off the press! And here it is…
Today, I am going to tell the tale of our descend…next week I will add in the metaphors of the voyage. Grab a tea, a coffee, some popcorn, Gluten free shit, or a handful of caramels, and enjoy!
This is how it went…
Mom, Dad and I took off around 6 am for our 5 and ¾ mile hike down the Grandview Trail. This trail is called “Aggressive” And that doesn’t even do it justice. I hiked this trail about 7 years ago. Geological evolution was in full effect and I was the hamster on this wheel.
Within the first 6 feet I mentioned to my folks how happy I was that I was doing this hike with just them. Me. Mom. Dad. No one else. Missed you Ry. Unfortunately, my brother has an injury he is healing and couldn’t make it with us. We chatted about the last time we hiked together and reminisced on the adventure we have had in this very canyon.
Let me take you back a few years. Two and a half years ago I stepped out of this canyon with my folks, called my husband and knew my marriage was ending. He moved out 7 days later. My metamorphosis started in the sludge of pain, sorrow and grief. Loss, it felt. Yes, loss of a 5 plus year relationship with another person, yet the rebirth of Rebecca. This part of my journey is the pivotal point of who I am today. To be back here at the place this amazing journey began felt so perfect.
And it was…some 1,000 plus days later…here I am again. Full circle, it felt.
Now on to the adventure…
About a mile and a half down I was thinking (no filter here) “Fuck, I can’t imagine hiking out on this trail in 5 days. My folks are champions, but this is wild.” The trail, as I mentioned above, had shifted. It felt steeper. It definitely was more defined by rocks, big rocks, and small, slippery gravel. The sheer exposure of the Grandview is intimidating. “Exposure” is steepness of the terrain and the potential consequences of a fall. It also references the “edge” or the side of the trail that is exposed to a drop. Imagine looking to your left and seeing a foot between you and the place the canyon drops off. This exposure consisted of sharp broken boulders and a significant plunge.
I continued on to about mile 2 and waited for my folks to catch up. They are studs. They take their time and maneuver with grace and a seamless stride. Their backs weighed about 40-50 pounds and they are smart trail babes. I tend to stick with them as close as possible, especially on terrain such as this.
As I sat with my pack propped up on a rock that I leaned against to take the weight off my back for a moment, I called their names. No response. After about 15 minutes I started to worry yet stayed calm and continued to call their names often. At about minute 20 they came around the bend. “Phew” I thought. There they are. Mom made it to me first. And dad was behind about 30 paces but not in sight due to the significance of the boulder between us. Then I heard it. A crash and a slide and a yell I will never forget.
“AH! Help me! My leg is broken! Help! Help ME!” I ran around mom to find dad on his back with his leg wedged between two boulders.
“I heard a snap. I think my leg is broken!” Dad said grasping for strength to get through the moment.
He was on his back sliding down the trail, with his foot caught and contorted at about a 90-degree angle. His arms were bleeding and his body stressed. I pried his foot and leg out of the boulders and placed his leg on the ground with his hips sitting between two other rocks that filled this trail. He was nauseous and we were all frightened.
About 75 seconds later around the corner comes Ben. What? A person?! And right now?! Crazy! Talk about serendipitous! Ben ended up being a Wilderness First Responder. Of course you are Ben! Andd an angel! Ben calmed us down and wrapped dad’s ankle. It appeared sprained and possibly broken. After Ben assured we were hydrated, prepared and cognizant of our upcoming decisions, he moved on with the two women he was touring.
Our options at that point: 1. Back up the two miles we had descended. (Not an option.) Or down 1 mile to a place we could at least be in a smidgen of shade and re-assess our next move. Horse Shoe Mesa here we come. I took a little of his weight and down we went. That was the longest mile of my life.
Watching my beast of a father walk on this treacherous trail with a pack and a possibly broken and sprained ankle was exhausting. It was hard enough for mom and I to stay focused on the trail with the elements and our loved one ahead of us watching his EVERY step. And you know, when the left foot is not working properly the right side takes over and over used in compensation. Talk about hyper-vigilance for mom and I.
Now all this is in the midst of our own thoughts. Such as, “What the fuck are we going to do?” And, “Wait a minute! This isn’t part of MY plan for the circular evolution of MY-ME!” And perhaps also: “How am I supposed to finish this journey if I don’t get all 5 days and all 20 some miles of reading “WILD” and journaling?!” Ummmm, I think I am writing my own “WILD” 😉
The last 200 yards before our destination I had my dads pack on my back and my pack on my front. It was slick as a snotty slip and slide. We were exhausted, thirsty, and as nervous as a “dog shitting peach seeds” as my dad likes to say. (Insert “DICKISM”)
We got my dad propped up under a little shade in the “Horse Shoe Mesa” area. At this point it was almost 11 and we were almost out of water. Due to the strenuous morning and the amount of time, our water had dwindled. Mom and I had about 8 ounces and my dad had about 20. This spot on the trail was dry, no water. I had to go get us water. The only source of water was another mile down to Page Spring. I had been there before and had no other option. We needed water while we rested, and water to cook and drink over the next night if we ended up staying. No water is NOT an option.
Mom didn’t want me to go alone. She was so tired. I could see her exhaustion and her love of her daughter battling. She didn’t want me to go alone. So we gave her an emergency packet and off we went. Well, until her hiking pole snapped in half about a quarter of the way down. That was a sign. I was really worrying about her because of the trail conditions and her exhaustion. It was almost noon and the temperature was about 90 at this point. I needed all the focus I could hold and having her behind me took away from the trail. Mom and I agreed it was a sign and she should wait there. We developed a “I am fine” yell that would reverberate up the canyon to let her know I was doing ok. “YEW!” I would yell and she would holler back. We did this back and forth the next hour as I maneuvered ever so carefully down the most difficult trail of my life.
This portion from Horse Shoe Mesa to Page Spring was immensely dangerous. The exposure was frightening. I was crawling over rocks and sliding down gravel. And at this point I had 16 EMPTY water bottles in my backpack. As I approached Page Spring, I vaguely remembered where I was. But I took a wrong turn and got a little frightened. Now, I had 6 ounces of water, a piece of gum and a protein bar. That was it. I felt I was going the wrong way. I prayed. Please show me where I am to go. And I found it. OF COURSE! “YEW!” I yelled!
The first thing for me to do was drink a little water. I had brought the water filter/pump and was ready to filter that shit and drink. I WAS DYING OF THIRST! Rule #2 in the Canyon: NEVER drink unfiltered or untreated water out of any water source in the canyon.
I filled a bottle and attempted to filter it…but of course the pump wasn’t working. So, being the wise trekker I am I took a deep breath and scooped a small amount of water of the VERY top of the spring. And I drank enough to wet my whistle. Then I filled up 17 liters of water yelled, “YEW!” and off I went…on the climb of my life.
Coming down a trail with no weight is much different than coming up a trail with 17 liters of catawampus weight and unbalance. My mind was racing. “How much water do I need to save to get me out of here tomorrow if we are unable to continue so I can go for help?” How much water do we all need to use to limit the depletion of our hydration while allowing us to be sustained?” “How the fuck am I doing this right now?” How the hell am I able to climb this steep, slippery and hot trail while my father is hurt, my mom is exhausted and I am depleted?” (BECAUSE WE ARE FUCKING CHAMPIONS THAT IS WHY!)
Halfway up to my mom I plopped down to catch my breath. Popped my chewing gum in my mouth and off I went. Once I got to my mom the tears flowed. For about 30 seconds I Just sobbed it out. My mom stepped in. She had attained some energy from her rest and emergency drink. She got the filter to work, like the amazing mom she is, and gave me water. She listened to my fatigued cry, rubbed my back, prayed for us and quenched our thirst. What a team. And off we went back up to dad.
The next few hours consisted of us having a snack and deliberating every possible fucking scenario known to man…because my dad didn’t want to hit 911 on his Spot Check unless he felt certain. I totally understand! We also didn’t know if the Air Rescue would take just dad or all of us. So we assessed all the routes of exit that could happen. Would I have to sleep at the Mesa, where we had seen a total of 5 souls the entire day? Yep. But as dad said, “IF you can travel through Indonesia by yourself for 18 days you can stay one night on The Mesa!” Such truth! Thank you BALI!
With no human beings around and a very isolated tour route we grappled our plan. After about 2 hours of deliberation, while mom lay to rest a little on her Thermarest pad, while swatting the gnats away from her face she said, “Just do it already.” Dad and I chuckled and he did it. 9-1-1 was hit. Now we wait. I could feel Dad’s angst after he hit it. It took everything in his body to hit that button for help! Was his injury deserving of 9-1-1? Abso-fucking-lutely. Without a doubt. There wasn’t a possible way for the strongest man I know to walk out of this canyon, let alone 5 feet on one foot.
An hour passed with nothing. I was starting to get extremely anxious. Water? Time? Will they come? What will we do if not? Oh shit. I was pacing. My dad was stuck on the ground unable to really move much and my mom was doing her best to keep me calm. I paced. I swatted those fucking gnats. I sat. I stood. I sat. I stood. Like a good ol’ Grand Canyon Mass.
At about an hour and a half I had this thought: “If I take that god forsaken tent out of its piece of shit bag that is a pain in my butt to put back in they will come. Just watch.”
So, I pulled out the tent. I put one pole together…and guess what? Over the edge of the canyon I see the helicopter! We all see them coming and we all are happy. Mom and I wave our Thermarest pads in the air, just like in a movie when someone is trying to be rescued! “Do they see us?” we thought! They circled overhead a few times trying to find a spot to land. Again, like in a movie, they land, and squat and run toward us. Our HEROES!
And out we went…they took dad and mom first and I stayed back with Earl to clean up camp. Then out I went. Well, we all agreed we had never seen the canyon from that view!
Dad ended up spending his 70th birthday, which was the following day, at the Flagstaff E.R. with a broken Fibula, severe sprain and torn ligaments. HAPPY BIRHTDAY DADDY!! Talk about HEROES! My parents are the biggest heroes in my life. Their strength, perseverance and attitude inspire me beyond words.
We enjoyed a gorgeous dinner at the El Tovar restaurant on the rim that evening. (Thank you Daisy.) Poor dad was adjusting to life on crutches and mom was adjusting to assisting her independent husband with his new found needs. Dad has hiked this canyon some 27 times and my mom has joined him on most of them. With all the steps he has taken on his numerous adventures, the odds were pretty good. He is and always will be a BAD ASS in my eyes! As well, my brave and steadfast mother is a true testament to HIKING LIFE AND KICKING ASS!
Thank you for teaching me to be brave and wise. Ever so aware! The next day they flew home to Oregon. I decided my journey had not stopped; it had just begun. Zion National Park here comes Rebecca Laser! Watch out! Chapter 1 of a new book…
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Benjamin Franklin