Not to clog this blog with too much non educational technology stories (but I am my own editor and publisher…), I am just back to work today after what was supposed to be a tranquil backpack into the Grand Canyon with my stepson that turned out to be a near death experience.
I kid you not.
Our 3 day excursion on the backcountry Hermit Trail was extensively planned, the route, the food, the terrain…. what was not planned was crazy weather. Here in Arizona, the call for rain in the summer means you can count on a chance of a short intense downpour that moves on in less than 30 minutes.
The descent on this trail was not nearly as deadly as the park service information presented in their permits. Sure, it is not to be taken lightly, as Rim to River on the Hermit trail is a descent of 4200 feet over 9 miles. Most of the trail guides mentioned difficulty in following the trail through some of the rock slide areas, but the way was much more clear than some of trails we have done in the Superstition Mountains.
What the trail descriptions failed to mention is how the trail teases you… you can see along the way clearly the destination or a lower section of the trail a thousand feet below… but the route there does these crazy contour traverses a mile east just to get around some of the sheer cliff obstacles. The trail has many sharp descents separated by these long traverses.
And it is remote. We saw only one other hiker, a marked contrast to the crowds on the Bright Angel and Kaibab trails of the main corridor.
The weather had building clouds which was not so bad as it took away some of the 90 degree heat in the sun. Once reaching the destination at the juncture of Hermit Creek and the mighty Colorado river, we eagerly dropped the packs and set up camp on a large sand dune.
saying the river was loud is a huge understatement, it is a relentless roaring, mad giant engine, and it was foamy chocolate brown with mud from last week’s rain.
My digital camera caught some crazy man trying to describe the scene ;-)
Given the weather, we perched up hight, and even set up a small emergency cover area with a tent rain fly (small tarp). But the skies marvelously cleared, we set up our sleeping pads and blankets (light packing) in the open and enjoyed a fine camp stove meal.
Very sore and tired, we fell asleep early at 7:00 PM. However, by 8:00 we awoke to lightning flashes and thunder that grew closer. Thinking we were getting the typical Arizona downpour, we moved gear to the base of a cliff where we could get some things under the rocks, we waited under the tarp, and sure enough the rain started at 8:30 PM….. and continued steady for the next 14 hours.
Even with ponchos and tarp covers, we were wet and cold quickly, and never got any sleep that night. At 5:00 AM a shoot of water poured out of the rocks next to us. By 6:00 AM at first light, it was apparent the sun was not going to burn anything off, and clouds hung low over the canyon. The only choice we had to stay warm, was to pack all the wet gear, and try to walk out. If we stayed, hypothermia was going to set in and we had no source for warmth and almost everything we had was wet and cold.
The hike out was supposed to be after a full days rest at the bottom, was done without the rest, and after a night of no sleep. That was the hardest and most draining physical task I have ever done. the first mile and a half along Hermit Creek was insane, as yesterday it was a mild tranquil creek a few feet wide- today it was 5 times as fast and rushing fast. We had at least 10 crossings, some hip deep, and we were mindful of the ever present flash flood potential in narrow Arizona canyons. There were a few times we heard boulders tumbling behind us.
We got out by 3:00 PM, and I could barely move my legs.. We were too tired to drive home, and managed to drive 25 miles south to Valle Junction, and crash in a motel.
About the only positive thing was getting our obligatory photos at the giant signs adorning Flintstone’s Bedrock City, where you can see that Fred is a much bigger man than I.
I am not writing this to sound heroic, but to be thankful for having survived this experience, and reinforcing the feeling that one should never take anything for granted in life. It could change on you at any time.
Even trying to describe this and looking at our pictures does not really capture what happened. You had to have been there and you should be glad you were not.
Okay, now back to our regular technology blogging….