Thursday, September 20, 2007

Grand expedition

Date: Sept. 19
Mileage: 18.1
September mileage: 405.5
Temperature upon departure: 46
Rainfall: 1.11"

This is a picture of me and my dad at the Colorado River near Phantom Ranch in October 2005. It was my second rim-to-rim hike across the Grand Canyon ... something that was becoming an annual pilgrimage of sorts for us. We had been planning the trip all year ... long before the day I just up and moved to Alaska. So after living in Homer for less than a month, I flew down to Salt Lake to complete this whirlwind epic with my dad.

There was a bittersweet tinge to the trip, an understanding that it was the end of an era. My dad and I have always been able to connect through hiking. When I was 16 years old, he convinced a very reluctant teenage version of myself that I had it in me to make the 18-mile trek to Timpanogos Peak and back. I wore my brand new hiking boots, a concert T-shirt and some jeans. He carried frozen Gatorade bottles in a bulging backpack and stopped every few miles to ply me with chewy granola bars. We marched into the August sun until I could see my pain, in spots, spinning in the sky. But on the crest of the mountain, looking out over Utah Valley with the chill of raw wonder pulsing through my veins, was where my life of adventure really began.

My dad and I did a lot of hiking in the years that followed. We were always trying to top our epics ... traveling to Nephi to hike Mount Nebo, traveling to California to hike Mount Whitney. In 2004, he invited me to hike the Grand Canyon - which, at 26 miles, with roughly 7,000 feet in elevation change and temperatures that range from 32 degrees at the rim to 100 degrees at the river, was arguably our most ambitious plan yet. So when it went off without a hitch, we talked about making it a yearly event. The next year, when I contemplated moving to Alaska, one of the activities at the top of my "things I'll miss most" list was hiking with my dad.

On Thursday, I head south for trip No. 3, the Grand Canyon now being "the" hike, the only one worth making the commute for. This one is especially looking fun because my three aunts, my mom and my uncle are going; one aunt trained to make the hike with us, and the rest are along for the ride. Beyond the epic-ness of it, it's going to one big, strange family reunion. Strange because, at age 28, I am still the "kid."

I feel good about the hiking I've done this month to prepare. I think I am as ready as I was ever going to be, knee injury, bike-obsessed lifestyle and all. Most of all, I am really looking forward to hiking with my dad. Maybe I can even talk him into carrying the frozen Gatorade.