It seems as though it were yesterday that I was climbing the Grand Tetons, and here I was packing for my 5th adventure; this time into the depths of the Grand Canyon. I was coming back to my old stomping grounds, it was here in the Grand Canyon where I ventured into my first overnight hiking experience, where I met self discovery face to face and since then I yearn it more. Call me a self inflicting masochist, but there is a desire to stretch beyond my limits (both physically and mentally) and out in the wild is the one place I can truly disconnect to reconnect with the "self". To feel; with no outside distractions, no barriers, shields, stripped to my raw core just me and mother nature. 5 years and counting Mother Nature aims to never disappoint, rather then repressing me from my being, she finds a way to exploit deep into my core. Its then where internal growth occurs, like a blooming flower in the crack of a sidewalk. This was our longest trek by far, 6 days hiking and camping, carrying our own water, food and shelter (basic human needs) away from any nearby village, Wi-Fi, people, total disconnection from the world. Funny thing is what took a 40min drive from our start to end point via car, took 6 days deep in the canyon among the relentless terrain. Hard to understand such concept, unless you have experienced it.
April 4, 2016 we began our descent into the canyon via the Tanner Trail. It was surreal to see the endless views of the contouring ridges and rock formations, 360 degree panoramic views, every shade of terra cotta all around us as we climbed downhill over boulders and rocks. Sun blazing penetrating past my epidermis, 50lb pack resting on my hips, boots laced tight to my ankles as my foot accommodated to find balance between pebbles, rocks, and boulders. The views got bigger as we got smaller. After our 9 hour hike we reached our campsite and our first view of the Colorado river. I must have set foot over 10+ different types of rocks aged over 2 billion years old. Each with its own distinct character and hence the title of my blog "relentless". Just when I thought my foot would acclimate to walking miles on a certain limestone, sandstone, granite, I would then be greeted with a new set of terrain challenging me, whether it would be feeling my toes hit the front of my boots on a deep decline, rolling my ankles on loose rocks, stepping and climbing over huge boulders, walking on a "trail" [ trail-defined as a path with least resistance] about a foot in width with an overlook of +1000 foot drop, dock sand that crumbled beneath my feet. Any wrong step could lead to a bad fall or even death as the well known book "Over The Edge: Death in The Grand Canyon" by Michael P. Ghiglieri wrote with +770 deaths recorded in the Canyon. I know what you are thinking...Why do I do it? Hard to explain, but I will try. There is this raw feeling of being completely present, in our everyday life we are so over stimulated with "things to do" that we do not have the time to connect with the basic human needs, air, food, water.
Your problems become so minimal when you become focused on where to take your next step, out in the desert all you can hear is your breath, rocks as they roll around the ground, the clickty sound of my hiking poles as they hit the gravel. Its a walking meditation, even among the pain you feel, that is the type of sensation we tend to run away from. Nobody likes to feel uncomfortable, so we find ways to distract or avoid those sensations, but I truly believe that its those sensations we need to face to become raw with and feel human in real time. Growth comes from challenging yourself in what we think we can not do, we break through a part of our inner core that goes beyond a blister on my toe. Its that euphoric feeling of truly feeling alive I seek. We live in a monotonous world living each day as a " checklist", routine, no feeling just doing. It is a retraining of the brain to do things with meaning and presence. Just walking one step in front of the other, in a field of natural beauty. Every so often I would stop to embrace my surroundings, look ahead or look behind me to see how far I had walked, but my focus had to be watching my every step; That is "being here right now". The conscious effort of brushing my teeth without the water running, leaving no trace, feeling the sun on you and dealing with it the best way you can, setting up camp, tearing down camp, making meals all though you are tired, we turn into survival mode, something which has become easy to create at the touch of the digital world. There is no easy trail in the canyon, depth and length are quite deceiving among the canyons. Our first night we slept along the Colorado River on Tanner Beach, when the sun finally set and we were greeted with an explosion of millions and millions of shining stars, it was then I felt like a small speck in this universe.
Day 2 we hiked for 10hrs caught in the dark before we reached Escalante Beach. The sun was brutal with no shade besides my cap and any chance we got near the river we dunked our buff into the river to help wet our clothes to cool down, our trek consisted of "sube la lomita" (uphill) and "baja la lomita" (downhill) ridge after ridge. A forever trek, that did not seem to end, thanks to humor that helped us push through. We reached our campsite in the dark greeted by bats swarming over our heads, achy feet and zero energy, but an all star lit night made my cat bath one of the most liberating quick baths ever.
Day 3-we awakened to the sounds of the Colorado river in this beautiful sandy beach cove and a never ending wall that stared at me, and among its rugged form, it looked beautiful. We sunk our feet into the river for some "ice bath" therapy before venturing on the trail.
This trek consisted more of an obstacle course then just walking up and downhill, including the most beautiful part of the hike I encountered the 75 mile canyon narrows, walking through here made me feel so small yet so strong at the same time. Walking above the contour wall looking below was a jaw dropping view and once within the narrows the walls grew in height, while shrinking us in size. A short beach hike along the river and boulder field crossings lead us to the Papago wall a granite wall with plenty of hand and foot holds, but with a 50lb pack this 35 foot wall can make you break a sweat, but of course I loved it and my long legs were an advantage. We came to a rock pile chute called "Papago slide", hmmm…yes perhaps a water slide would have been better, then literally a rock pile of lose rocks (don't trust any rock) about 200ft completely vertical.
Truth be told, I was scared while I clenched my hiking poles and gripped my toes on this one. As we moved together like a sloth, all I can think was "what if its here I slip fall, twist an ankle, break a bone, have a head injury or die", my fear got the best of me, amazing how one bad thought seeps into your mind and intoxicates so quickly, discouraging you and making you feel so vulnerable creating self doubt. Thanks to my amazing crew who with encouragement, positivity and safety, we are able to push each other beyond our own limits or breaking points. Humor was our best friend as we each battled our own demise. We arrived to Hance Rapids our home for the next 2 days. A private beach cove overlooking the Colorado River. It was here that I recovered from a blister on my heel that ruptured which exposed my raw skin. I kept a close eye on for possible infection a moment that would determine wether I continued my trek for the next 2 days.
Day 5 That rest day was much needed for us all, we felt recovered and our attitude and pace for the next 2 days showed that as we trailed through exposed contours before making our rest day at Hance Creek under a big tree giving us much needed shade along side a zen like creek and went to bed with an orchestra of bull frogs croaking throughout the night.
Day 6 This was it, all uphill from here to our final exit out of Grand View. As we ascended and looked behind us we had an unbelievable view of lush green and reds among the many canyons and ridges, an open panoramic view. No way of visualizing the trail we left behind. I will not lie that my body wanted out of the canyon, a bed and warm shower is all I seeked. As soon as we stepped out onto Grandview we were greeted with hail pouring on our faces, almost as "icing on the cake" to our journey.
This magical experience goes beyond the 6 grueling days experienced in the relentless canyon. It is the aftermath that I seek, there is an unexplainable euphoric sensation that spills within me. As I watch my blisters and sores heal, I will forever carry with me a memory that goes beyond accomplishment. I am grateful for my forever adventure friends who together we accomplished yet another arduous adventure. Much love to Arturo, Jonathon, Bianca and Nikky!