GRAND CANYON: RIM-TO-RIVER-TO-RIM IN ONE DAY
In October 2012, Michelle and I took on the often discouraged Rim-to-River-to-Rim of the Grand Canyon in one day.
This is a trip that loses 4860 feet along a 7.4 mile trail from the top of the canyon to the river and then gains 4460 feet along a 9.9 mile trail. The toughest part of this trail is that the going down part is first. So you hit
the toughest part of the trail when you are already burnt out.
If you visit the Grand Canyon website, there are all sorts of warning, on nearly every page, telling you, in big red letters, "Under no circumstances should you attempt to hike from the rim to the river and back in one day! Do not hike during the hottest part of the day." That was enough of a reason for us to do it.
We went in October, hoping to avoid the extreme heat, but we weren't fortunate to avoid it all. We began our hike at 5a.m. just as it was getting light. At that point it is a cool 42 degrees. As we began our descent the sun came up and the layers came off. Once we reached the bottom we stopped for lunch, to check our blood sugars and to soak my injured knee in the cool Colorado River.
After that cooling dip, came the hard part. During the heat of the day the trail starts ascending. It passes through Devil's Corkscrew, a steep, brutally hot section of switchbacks that runs through water-sculpted stone with no shade in sight for miles.
The last water stop had been miles before us and my GPS was telling us that the next water stop was just one mile ahead. I decded that my water would be of more use to me if I poured it on the shirt draped over my shoulders to keep cool. I could grab more water at the next stop and rehydrate just fine.
The problem was, my GPS had been malfunctioning in the steep walls of the canyon and was off by more than three miles. With my water now gone, I began the first stages of dehydration. And without water, I couldn't eat. I've never truly hit the wall before this point in my life, but when I asked Michelle if it might be more practical to lay down in a field of flowers just off the trail and wait until morning to continue our hike, I knew I was way past the wall.
Thank God I had Michelle to pick up the slack when I went silly. She led the way to the next water stop and wouldn't let me go lie down in that field. The stop was the first shade we had seen in hours, and a flowing hose to refil our water tanks and our own tanks. The long stop gave our bodies time to cool down and stiffen up, but, we had water and fuel and were well on our way back to the top.
I know I have found a great adventure buddy when the throws of adventure frustration kick in and the absolute worst version of Erin rears her ugly head, and my buddy never takes a moments offense at my behavior. There are always those moments on an adventure. It is best to laugh at how tired we are and let it pass. A few times on the way back up my only response to her perky questions were a growl. Michelle translated my growl into an answer and just kept on going.
The moon was rising as we rounded our last turn to the rim of the canyon. We took a brief moment to appreciate the fact we had spent the whole day hiking to the bottom of a canyon that we had to hike right back up to end up at nearly the same place we started. Some might say there is no point to what we did, but the views, the memories, and the taste of the hamburger we had once we finished were enough of a reason for me.
Erin started her diabetic adventuring career with a backpacking trip just three days after being released from the hospital when she was diagnosed with diabetes. Erin has hiked the Grand Canyon twice before this. The first time she was paired with another hiker who struggled to make the 7-mile trip to Bright Angel Point. Erin was forced to hike her back up to the top since she couldn't go alone.
A few years later she had to go back. this time with a friend who was a good hiker but not the adventuring buddy Erin had hoped for. They hiked the Bright Angel trail to the water and back.
Erin was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in her sophomore year in college and continues to find ways to scare her doctors.
Michelle is always up for an adventure. No matter when I might call or what crazy scheme I have come up with, she is right there to go along with me. When I mentioned the Grand Canyon, she was mildly interested. When I mentioned the warning signs everywhere, telling us it was impossible and that no one should even attempt it, she was excited.
Michelle has been a type 1 since she was six. She has worked in the diabetes industry for five years. We've spent the last four years keeping each other excited as we meet for our weekly, (now bi-weekly since baby boy has arrived) workout sessions that range from Plyometrics at the UCSD field to surfing at sunset or running the hills at Torrey Pines, while always discussing the ins and outs of diabetes management and everything else that goes on in life.