The Grand Canyon - North Rim

Our Version of  the Trail of Tears: the Kaibab Trail
                On May 31st, we tackled the 10-mile hike of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Our "North Rim Snobbery," as we called it, showed in our beaming faces in our before-the-hike group photo. We knew it'd be a tough haul, but nothing like what we were about to experience. The 4.7-mile descent was overall very pleasant. The crisp, early morning air complemented with a slight breeze and clear skies created the perfect conditions for such a challenging hike. As I had never before seen the Grand Canyon, there were moments during the hike where Istopped and gasped at the sprawling, untamed beauty that stretch unbridled before me. I can only make one complaint for the descending journey, and I can do so in one word: MULES. For the first 2 miles of the trail, mules were (outrageously) allowed on the trail and left behind for us hikers on foot an aromatic litter of defecation and swarming flies. After these first 2 miles of playing minesweeper with the mule feces, the remaining 2.7 miles down to Roaring Springs was wonderful. The springs proved to be the perfect revitalization needed before embarking on the 4.7 mile ascent. Whitney and I used this time to remove our shoes and socks (which were now dyed a reddish-pink by the sediment) to dip our feet into the cold water. After this seemingly fleeting moment, however, it was time for the most taxing 4 hours of my life. We left as a group at around noon in good spirits, but were progressively demoralized with each passing tier of rock. As we each broke from the group to continue up the canyon at our own paces, it became clear that it had become a very personal journey, ever challenging what we believed ourselves to be physically (and mentally) capable of.

"El Diablo" means "Mule" in Spanish.
        Once to our detriment, the mule feces and flies now worked to our benefit during the last 2-mile leg of the ascent. Each time I stopped and caught my breath, I was consistently assailed by mule stench and countless flies. These conditions were just a tad worse than the pain of the hike, so my decision was always to press on. Thanks to the mules and flies, I made it up the canyon 30 minutes earlier than expected! (I guess I am a glass half-full sort of person…) I don’t think I can accurately convey all the emotions I felt when I reached the top – a combination of relief, pure joie, and total body exhaustion. As it turned out, nearly half of our group as a result of the hike suffered from elevation sickness and/or dehydration. Juxtaposed with our shining faces of the "before" picture, our haggard demeanors at the end of the hike rendered us nearly unrecognizable.

Cooling off at Roaring Springs
        It’s been 5 days since the most arduous experience of my life, and the journey has left a lasting mark. For one, my level of determination when undertaking any size endeavor has soared. More importantly, the hike reminded me that anything worth attaining in life requires some growing pains (or in this case, leg cramps) – you must push yourself to the utmost limit. That being said, it is also important to know your limits, another important life lesson learned from this hike. Knowing when to take a break or a swig of water was vital to having a successful hike. It is easy to say that I’d do the 10-mile hike all over again as I’m sitting in an air-conditioned room on a plush bed, but indeed, I would. It was awesome.

                                                                                                                                - Kristen Hunter

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