Phantom Ranch is a little oasis along Phantom Creek at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Designed by Mary Colter in 1922 as a resort to welcome weary hikers, they serve up great food, supplies and clean beds to the intrepid wanderers fortunate enough to get a reservation. Guests eat at crowded tables in shifts in a cute lodge house. My seating wasn’t until 6:30pm so I had time after my nap to soak my feet in the cool creek and write in my journal and wander around the ranch. I was still quite exhausted, feeling introspective and alone.
Dinner was lively but I found conversation difficult with people on all sides for whom english was their second language. It was a lot of effort to make conversation and enough effort was expended by me that day so that I couldn’t get too motivated to do more than the basics of “where are you from and how long are you here?” I went to bed right after dinner, at about 9pm since the wake-up call would be at 4:30am the next morning.
My discussion at the 5am breakfast of eggs, bacon and pancakes was more engaging and a woman about my age, and an avid hiker, was taking Aleve and offered me some. I raised my eyebrows and she and her friend explained that taking 2 pills really helps to ease the muscle pain on the hike up, especially for people our age. She highly recommended it, and I accepted her offer with gratefulness. It seemed that the details were always being taken care of for me. She was my fairy godmother because those pills did help tremendously. When they wore off later that night, my body was so stiff I could hardly walk!
After breakfast I hit the trail at 5:30am, and the first thing I found was an orange bandana hanging from a branch. I had wished the day before that I had brought a bandana to keep wet and put around my neck as I saw others doing to fend off the heat. Need I mention that the orange color is adorable? So now fully equipped with bandana, pills and a packed lunch from the ranch I came to another beautiful suspension bridge for the Bright Angel Trail. In the middle of the bridge was a young man that I sat next to at breakfast. We exchanged quick well wishes and exclamations about the beauty of the scene, and as I walked on he said “hey come here” I turned and he enfolded me in his arms and planted a kiss on my cheek and said “good luck with everything.” It was so sincere, and was a moment that I would draw on to get me up the canyon trail. Now I really felt like Cinderella, not only was my fairy godmother watching out for me but I was kissed by Prince Charming! It made me laugh and skip along the river that first few miles. The Canyon bridges had welcomed me hello with a mighty wind, and blew me a kiss good bye on the cheek. I was truly charmed.
Next came help from the animal kingdom. I rounded a corner to see two deer striding toward me only 5 feet away. And being the Cinderella that I am I talked to them and snapped photos and thanked them for joining my journey. Next came a darling squirrel, little twittering birds, lizards, chirping crickets, a fat, roly-poly bug, a dragonfly, monarch butterflies… all my new friends, that seemed to come along when I needed distraction or encouragement to keep going.
It was more beautiful than I even expected. Much of the trail upward in the beginning is along the river and stream, so the green lushness was sublime, but the temperature was rising quickly. It must have been about 80 degrees already at 6:30am. So there was no dawdling around, it was only going to get hotter and I needed to keep up a moderate pace to get to the top.
I just kept stepping like the “little engine that could” and stopped often for food and drink, and gained courage when I saw I was keeping pace with other hikers. Toward the top I started to slow and take more time with the views, I didn’t want the journey to end. But after about 7 and a half hours plugging along I struggled with the heat and weary muscles and moved from shade patch to shade patch to rest and catch my breath. There started to be a slight sense of this not being so fun. But then I would look down and be amazed at how far I’d come, truly amazed, and that would give me strength to continue. I made it to the top in 8 hours and 30 minutes exactly, certainly not setting any records but I took time to look at flowers and bugs and talk to squirrels that wanted to steal my snacks.
At the ridge looking back down I was overwhelmed with tears. With accomplishment yes, of doing that hike all by myself, but also I felt a oneness with the Canyon. She welcomed me with open arms, she didn’t chew me up and spit me out but made it do-able every step of the way, like she wanted me there. I belonged, and I knew that if I was capable of doing that, I could do anything. Cinderella had made it to the ball and would be changed forever.
My Biodesign class is finally complete, I’ve hiked to the heights of Half Dome and to the depths of the Canyon and glorious Mother Nature has crowned me Princess Hind’s Feet.