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Grand Canyon - The Final Ascent

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  Introduction
  Arches National Park
      The Great Alcohol Search
      Camp
      Devils Garden - Arches
      Devils Garden - Hiking
  Grand Canyon
      Preparation
      Pre-Hike
      The Plunge
      Bright Angel Campground
      Clear Creek Trail
      The Ascent
      Indian Garden Campground
      Tonto West Hike
      The Great Snake Battle
      The Final Ascent
  The Narrows
      Gearing Up
      The Awakening
      The Hike In
      Pee / Poo
      Camp
      The Hike Out
  Sedona
      Places We Missed
      Meteor Crater
      Airport Mesa
      Thunder Mountain
  Farewell

Sunday, September 21, 2008

At 4:50 am, we awoke to our final morning within the Grand Canyon's embrace. We had learned much in our journey. First, and most importantly, five in the morning is way too early to eat. So, we skipped breakfast, packed and hit the trail at 6:08 am (and 17 seconds) - not that we were checking.

The first mile and half wasn't too bad. Our packs were lighter with much of the food gone, we carried less water and the trail's incline was gradual. On the switchbacks leading to the "3 mile shelter" (3 miles from the top), we ran into a guy heading down with a Pomeranian (a miniscule dog, mostly hair). The dog had fallen behind. The owner's call back to the dog, echoed. He told me that his dog normally hung around the house and this was its very first hike. Great. The guy might survive the hike, but I wouldn't take odds on the dog. The owner kept calling the dog, but with no luck. Another hiker descended and laid into the guy. "Go back and get your dog. He can't tell where your voice is coming from and is about to leap over the edge of the switchbacks." No wonder dogs aren't allowed in the canyon!

Hikers View
Hikers - Look for them again in the Narrows View

After taking a break at the "3 mile shelter," we hiked another mile and a half to the "1.5 mile shelter," where we finally had a bit of breakfast. We met an Ohioinian couple out on a day hike. He was carrying a jar of peanut butter and a full loaf of "light" bread. He was very proud of his "light" bread - not only did it have less calories, but it actually weighed less than your average loaf. They also had a zip lock bag of peanut M&Ms. We comiserated with them over the agony of deciding how much to pack of any food so you have the least amount of weight and yet enough food. Trust me, running out of M&Ms on the trail can be dangerously demoralizing.

Ohioinians Toilet
Ohioinian Couple Beautiful view of the toilets

From there, we powered to the top, Robyne blazing the way. The closer we got to the top, the more day hikers we saw and the more impressed the other hikers were with us and our packs (and perhaps our smell!). They used our hiking times to determine how far to descend before turning back. As we neared the top, I pulled ahead of Elaine. Mistake. Elaine, the only one of us without a camera, saw a big horn sheep and Petroglyphics (Indian carvings).

Powering to the top Tunnel
Powering to the top Tunnel near the top
 
View View

All day, Robyne was constantly ahead of me. 25 yards from the top, I wasn't far behind, but I lost sight of her. A line of donkeys rounded the bend. I could either plaster myself against the wall and wait as they passed me on the narrow trail, or I could take the fork in the trail and continue walking. I took the alternate route and voila, I reached the top! But, where was Robyne. I headed toward the other exit, scanning everywhere. I looked down and there was Robyne, still on the primary trail, staring intently *down* the path. "Hey Robyne!" I shouted. She glanced up and because of the family nature of this site, I can't share her initial reaction, but eventually she said, "I thought we could all summit together. That's what I get for waiting for slow-ass Elaine!"

Donkeys on the trail Robyne & Elaine driving to the top
Move to one side to let the donkey's pass
(or take the shortcut to the top!)
I beat Robyne & Elaine to the top!!!!

After hiking the Grand Canyon, we took a shuttle 20 yards to get back to our car. Sad, I know. On the cool side, Robyne had packed an empty Nalgine bottle (hard-sided plastic water bottle). When she opened it at the top, it hissed from the pressure change.

That night, we got dressed up for dinner at El Tovar (an excellent restaurant on the rim of the canyon). Outside the restaurant, we had our picture taken by a passerby and pointed out to anyone who would listen the landmark where we had started our hike that morning.

Elaine, Robyne & Rose outside El Tovar Rose drinking champagne
Elaine, Robyne & Rose on the south rim outside of El Tovar Rose drinking champagne in the El Tovar lounge
 
View of Plateau Point
View from rim of Plateau Point (where our final ascent started)
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