Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Hike, Part 1 -- to Indian Gardens

When we woke up in the morning, it was cold. And I do mean cold. It was somewhere around 40 degrees. And keep in mind that Kelly and I had just come from Phoenix, where it had been over 100 degrees for weeks.
So, this is how we dressed in the morning:

But by the time we got to the canyon and hiked just a short way down, the temperature quickly began rising. For the first mile and a half, each time we stopped to take in a bit of scenery, people on our team were peeling off layers.
Once we had reached our first rest stop, at 1.5 miles down, we were all in T-shirts and shorts.

Another very important thing happened to me at the 1.5 mile marker. Our fearless leader, Seth, kept telling us that if we felt any discomfort on any part of our body for any reason, to let him know right away. If he learns about it early, he told us, he might be able to fix it before it becomes a huge, painful issue.
As usual, my pack started really straining my shoulders. I'd had this problem on other hikes, and I knew my pack needed to be adjusted, I just didn't know how. Normally, I would just suck it up and deal with it -- I'm no wimp. But I knew that we had a LONG way to go, and I would be tired enough later on without having to deal with sore shoulders, too.
So, I asked Seth to help me adjust my pack. He took one look at me, yanked on one of the adjustment straps, and then told me to unhook the part around my stomach, tighten it and fasten it so that it was sitting on my hips, instead of around my hips.
It felt wonderful. Like someone had lifted 50 pounds off my shoulders. I told him I wished he could have told me that about 5 hikes ago.
We continued on our way, stopping at rest areas about every mile and a half. That is the wonderful thing about the Bright Angel Trail. It's the only trail in the Canyon that has rest areas and bathrooms every couple of miles. We were beyond thankful for this. Not only did it allow us to drink as much water as we wanted without worrying about needing to take a "personal moment" in the desert, but it also gave us a goal. Each time we left a rest area, we knew we only had to go another mile and a half before our next break.
About 4.5 miles into the trek, we hit Indian Gardens.

It has this name because Native Americans once lived in this area of the Canyon, until it was deemed a National Park and they were forced out.
I can see why they chose this spot. It is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.
Kelly and I are used to desert hiking, which means lots of cactuses, rocks, dirt and the occasional lizard. But this place was a green as the neighborhoods we grew up in back East. A canopy of lush green trees covered several picnic tables, where we sat down to take our first long break. We adjusted our shoes, reapplied sunblock, and snapped some pictures.

We all agreed that this was the perfect spot to eat our lunch on the way back up. But for now, we pressed on to the main event -- Plateau Point.

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