The Native Tribes called it ‘The Mountain That Sleeps’. In truth, it is more like The Range That Sleeps. Like an inverted massif, the Grand Canyon is so vast, so massive, that it seems like the human mind cannot really take it all in. I was now at the bottom of this huge hole, and I still had a 4000 foot climb over seven miles to get back out. And, considering that I had hiked 21 miles the day before, I was spent, and was now facing yet another grueling test.
I purposely started out slow, knowing that I had a huge day ahead of me, but we made good time reaching a water filling station. Soon after refilling our water bottles, Charles asked permission to move ahead at his own pace, and I agreed. A short word on Charles: He is 65 years old, a marathon runner and one of the most incredible athletes I have ever had the privilege to be around. He is incredible. Within a few minutes I had lost sight of him and had the canyon almost completely to myself.
The elevation gain occurs almost entirely in the last four miles, switchbacking up along ledges blasted from the rock. I made good time, but not nearly as good as Charles was making. Luckily we had started early, so we never experienced much heat at all. Nevertheless, it was still exhausting and difficult.
The hours went by, and when I was within a couple of miles I felt my stamina start to fade. My pace fell off. I tried listening to an audio version of John Stewart’s Earth: A Visitors Guide, but found it made me laugh too much, so I had to shut it off. Several mule trains passed by, and I enjoyed watching the animals and their riders heading down into the canyon.
When I was getting towards the top, I stopped to blow dust out of my nose, but to my horror, it was blood that started coming out, not snot. I grabbed my first-aid kit out of my bag, found a wad of gauze and stuffed it up the bleeding nostril. While I waited, a voice said “Hi Don.” and I looked up to see a Grand Canyon Volunteer approaching. Charles had told him to keep a look out for me, and we talked for a time. He made sure I was alright before heading out, and when I had the bleeding more under control, I started back up. I wasn’t worried about the bloody nose because my family (on my father’s side) has a prolific history of them. In fact, when I was younger and living in California, I used to get one almost every day. Several of my siblings have had to get their noses cauterized, so frequent were their bloody noses.
Fifteen minutes later I arrived at the top of the trail, completely worn out and looking awful with gauze stuffed up my nose and blood all over my t-shirt, but I had done it! Charles and I drove back to the North Rim Lodge to enjoy a well-deserved cup of coffee.
We rested at the lodge for a while, and when we had recovered (somewhat), we decided to head out and check out some of the other amazing views along the North Rim, namely Cape Royal, Angel Arch and the Walhalla Glades Native American site. All of these spots have very short walks to reach, which is all I was capable of at that point. We spent the rest of that afternoon taking pictures, filming and enjoying the stellar views. When evening came, we retired to a camp off the Forest road to eat dinner and get a good night’s sleep. We had earned it, but in the morning we would be getting up early to leave the Grand Canyon behind and head north to Zion.