I love the holiday season. If you are like me, it is full of family, friends, shopping, eating and germs. As much as I enjoy this time of year, I always end up getting a bad cold or a tummy bug that seems to occur at the worst time. Luckily, this year I have a secret weapon and thanks to my friend, Lisa King sharing her insider tips, so do you!
I knew months ago that I had a lot of work to do to be physically ready for a 5 day hike through the Grand Canyon and Havasupi Falls. What I didn’t know was that it was going to be a lot harder than I thought.
I had to figure out how to balance a lot of traveling during the months of May, June and July, work through some back pain issues and practice hiking during the months of August and September in Phoenix when the average temperature is over 105 degrees.
My final test for physical readiness was climbing the largest mountain in Phoenix, Camelback Mountain . This is a mountain that is famous for hikers and people come from all over the world to hike it. There are two ways to summit this mountain, the Cholla Trailhead and the Echo Canyon Trailhead. Both are rated extremely difficult.
I climbed the Echo Canyon trail. The City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department describes it as ” an Extremely Difficult, incredibly steep, very rocky, out-and-back trail that requires the assistance of handrails and other aides to reach the summit. To add to its extreme difficulty, Echo Canyon Trail is completely exposed to the elements, and offers very little shade and few places to rest. Starting as a relatively light trek, the trail quickly escalates to a strenuous climb that increases in difficulty as you ascend along the mountain’s western slope. As hikers approach the top of the trail it becomes less defined as you enter extremely rocky areas, and in certain sections hiking gives way to climbing.”
We arrived before sunrise and made it to the first viewpoint in time to watch one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen. I’d like to say I sailed through this hike but the truth is I had to stop a few times to catch my breath, take some sips of cool water and fight of a little nausea. The good news is that I made it to the top in under an hour and did it with a 10 pound weight in my backpack!
The view at the top of this mountain is beautiful. There is a full 360 degree view of the entire valley below and it is worth the exhausting effort to get to the summit.
OK, Grand Canyon, I’m ready for you!
One of my favorite apps for any hike I have done, especially this one, is the REI Hiking Project, This app is easy to download to any phone and has excellent maps and information for any trail. This is the link to Echo Canyon Summit Trail Map & Tips
I returned from a month long vacation and the reality of my Grand Canyon Hike hit hard. I had eaten and drank my way through Europe and in spite of my best intentions to work out and keep in shape, I sort of fell of the hiking wagon and succumbed to every restaurant and pub along my way.
When I left Scotland it was a lovely 78 degrees. When I arrived back home in Phoenix, it was a not so lovely 115 degrees. There were heat advisories warning people to stay inside and hiking my local spots seemed like a really stupid idea. How in the world was I supposed to get back in hiking shape??
My husband and I decided to drive up north to Flagstaff for a few days then head up to the south rim of the Grand Canyon to do some practice hikes in cooler weather. The temperatures in Flagstaff were a cool 20 degrees cooler then in Phoenix. 95 degrees seemed like a cold spell!
When we arrived at the Canyon, I was surprised at how the heat was still affecting me. I looked out and saw just how far I would be hiking in less then 7 weeks and a sense of absolute panic started to hit me. It was going to be too hot to actually train for this, it was too much of an incline, it was going to be too hard and I’d be miserable. I seriously began to wonder if it was too late to get my deposit back.
The universe has a way of humbling you. Just as I was having doubts and was trying to figure out how the hell to get out of this hike, I had a moment of absolute clarity. A woman about my age and her beautiful, wheelchair bound daughter stopped just feet away from me to take a picture of the canyon.
I watched as this beautiful young girl looked so longingly out at the view and her mother looked longingly at her daughter with all the hopes and dreams we have for our children. I knew in my heart that this young girl would have loved to go down into the canyon and her mother would give anything to have her daughter be able to do this.
I felt humbled and frankly a little ashamed. I was afraid of the work, I forgot it was a privilege and not a burden to be able to do this hike. This realization will be my focus point when my doubts and fears get in my way. Good health is a gift and what I do with this gift is up to me. I won’t be taking a moment for granted.
My daughter just turned 30 and I really want her to know that she is just beginning to live. The first half of our lives is really about surviving. We work at doing well in school, growing in our careers, raising children and paying bills. At a certain point we cross the line and the second half of our life is about thriving. We can focus on what really matters to us. We have raised our children, our careers are on point and hopefully our finances are more fluid for personal fun.
The truth is we are a youth obsessed culture, if you have wrinkles and stretch marks, you are somehow less valuable to society. The reality is if you have stretch marks, you are a super woman who has made another human to help take care of the world. If you have wrinkles, you have lived, survived and kicked ass at being a woman making her way in the world.
If I could talk to my 30 year old self, what advice would I give? I would tell myself the following;
- Take care of your body, it really is the only one you will have
- Find someone who you love and who loves you for who you are, companionship is wonderful
- Learn to not take yourself so seriously, life will humble you and you have to laugh at situations you want to cry over
- Trust your gut…. it will never be wrong. Your pre-conceived notions may be.
- Figure out what really makes you happy and always find a way to make time for it.
- Believe in your self worth, you are enough as you are and you are spectacular.
- Getting older does not mean that you are less, you get better. You are wiser, smarter and have more to offer.
- Nurture good friendships. True friends are hard to find You will always have acquaintance type friends and they will come and go. True friends are the ones who are there for you no matter what.
- You will be capable of more then you know. Life will throw you curve balls and you will survive an get stronger.
- Never let societies definition of aging let you define yourself. Your best you is yet to come.
I wish I had read my list 30 years ago, I would have been a little better prepared for the life I’m living now!
I did It. I committed to a hike I am really not sure I can do….. To the bottom of the Grand Canyon and beyond………….
I have never camped in my life. I am a girly girl who just happens to like seeing pretty views from high places. I hate the heat, I like hot showers and functioning plumbing. I am the least likely person you will ever meet to do a trip like this. As I write this blog entry, I’m trying to figure out how to not die of heat stroke and if it is wise for a 57 year old woman to do something so far out of her comfort zone?
My Top Fears so far
- The trip out of the Canyon, it will be a full day of going up hill (over 10 miles)
- There are no restrooms along the trail…………(ladies, I’m sure you can relate)
- There is no running water to freshen up at the beginning or end of the day
- You carry out all trash with you, (ahem, toilet paper, wipes, e.t.c.) What???
- I will be the person who falls behind the group and slows everybody down.
- Poisonous snakes and scorpions are under every rock I may want to sit on.
- Will I be able to sleep on the ground in a sleeping bag or will I toss and turn all night?
The Havasu Falls hike is an advanced hike. There are no hotels, restaurants or wineries around the corner. Did I mention it is in September and training for this hike for the next 3 months will take place between vacations and when it is over 115 degrees in Phoenix????
In full disclosure, the Sedona hike was really an introductory hike perfect for my skill level. Yes, I trained for it for about 3 months but the training was relatively easy. I have a lot of local hiking trails close to my home and the weather was perfect for being outside. Winter in Arizona averages between 60 to 75 degrees. In Sedona we stayed in a lovely Air B & B . We ate delicious meals and drank wine. We rested and relaxed between hikes during the day and had soft beds to sleep in and hot showers to take at the end of the day.
I’m sure during the next few months I’ll add to my list (these things usually occur about 2 a.m.) But you know what? 2018 is the year I said “Yes To Adventure!” I’ll figure out how to deal with each fear in due time. In the meantime, I’ve got to figure out how to train for this thing! Stay tuned for progress reports…