Hiking the Grand Canyon

Posted on November 23, 2015. Filed under: American Southwest, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

DSC04008The Grand Canyon has been on my hiking bucket list for some time now.  My husband hiked it years ago and I’ve been a little jealous ever since hearing the story.  So this was the year!

We decided on October to avoid the heat and crowds.  I knew I had to call very early for reservations at Phantom Ranch at the bottom.  The Park Service website confused me when it said I had to call on the first of the month, 13 months prior to my desired reservation.  I started calling  September 1, 2015 where I found out I should call on October 1 for any date in the following October.  So, October 1, 2015 I started again.  In this age of technology, I was dismayed at the arcane process one must go through to obtain a reservation.  It is a matter of starting the calling when they open, which one must determine and which is tricky due to time changes and whether or not the call center observes daylight savings!  At 8:00 a.m. my time I started the repetitive calling and calling and calling.  I received busy signals for 90 minutes and I was just about to give up when my call was answered.  I got the last 4 spots for my desired date (full moon night) and the last 4 reservations for beef stew for dinner.  It was very irritating.  I cannot understand why it must be such a painful process.  An electronic queue would make so much more sense.

My group and I were happy to finally have the secured spots, however, and we booked everything else around the Grand Canyon hike.  We did the South Kaibab Trail down to the bottom.  The picture above is me on this trail.  It was breathtakingly beautiful, of course.  We had perfect weather, sunny and about 60°F.  With rain predicted later in the week this was such a blessing.  The trail is wide and easy to follow.  The 5 hours of almost constant downhill steps was a challenge, though, and I was again very thankful for my trekking poles.  Sometimes people wonder if they create more work than they are worth, but the answer is no.  They help provide stability and extra support especially going downhill.  I would never want to do a hike like this without them.  Anytime we have significant elevation gains and losses I want my poles!

Nevertheless my knees and hips were talking to me by the end and I was ever so glad to reach Phantom Ranch.  Our dormitory was clean and comfortable considering it housed 8 women for the night.  That’s another oddity:  no co-ed dorms.  In European mountain refuges this wouldn’t be a requirement, but we had no choice.  We missed out on the private cabin reservations so this is what we had.  I must say it was better than I expected.

That stew was fabulous too.  I was glad it was all-you-can-eat because I was ready for a serious refuel before the next days haul up the canyon to the rim again.

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From Turtle to Mountain Sheep: Trekking Poles on the TMB

Posted on May 21, 2013. Filed under: Exercise, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Poles 1Not living in a mountainous region of the world, and planning a mountain hiking trip like the Tour du Mont Blanc, I relied on information about trekking poles on the web.  I found a lot of conflicting information.  Some sites said absolutely, get them, it makes you virtually a 4-legged creature instead of 2 which gives a lot of stability and eases the pressure on the knees.  This made sense, but then others said you don’t really need them.  Being a massage therapist I liked the idea of giving my hands and arms the fortnight off.  We did own 1 set of poles we got at a REI rummage sale of returned merchandise for a song.  We decided to take the one set along and share them.  This way we’d have a little help, but we wouldn’t have to use them.

Pretty rapidly I was given the nickname, “La Tortue” (the turtle) due to my slow progress.  Our friends had their poles and clipped along claiming I would be much faster with 2 poles.  I was very skeptical about this.

Then Bill hurt his knee.  Something sort of snapped and then he hobbled.  He took my pole,  my just-in-case knee brace, and some ibuprofen.  This worked for him, but now I had nothing and I really noticed the difference.  I was even slower.

Ok, I thought, a nice set of poles would be a great souvenir, my favorite kind, something really useful that I’d appreciate every time I’d use them.  We found a great outfitter in Champex, Switzerland.  The new poles are light, easy to change length (and the very helpful sales girl who had lived in the mountains all her life taught me the right length for flat, and then for uphill and downhill.  Changing the length for conditions makes a big difference and on the TMB it is easy to do because the terrain tends to stay up or down for awhile at a time.)

Travel - TMB Poles 2The result?  I became “La Mouton” the mountain sheep, sure-footed and swift!  I was put in the lead and didn’t hold anyone up!  I was amazed at the difference of having 2 poles.  It was significant.  I moved much more gracefully which, of course, saves energy and makes everything more comfortable.  Additionally, a nice extra is that my hands never swelled up like they often do hanging at my sides during hiking.  The straps on the handles are so well designed that I hardly have to grip at all so my hands and forearms are really still pretty much off-duty.

Bottom-line advice?  Get 2 poles, you will be glad you did!  The TMB is strenuous enough, anything that aids in your comfort while doing it is worth it.

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