It’s Big, It’s Beautiful, and I Almost Missed It

It’s been quite a year. Terminal disease (my immediate family), not terminal but the same disease (me), plus medical procedures galore, funerals, and a breakup. Despite all that, there’ve been many great things, too. Like my camping trip in Grand Canyon, which almost didn’t happen because I’m a giant dork.

I got to Grand Canyon a day early to get ready for my first hike in and out of that seemingly bottomless, endless rift, and thought it would be a great idea to do a warm-up hike the night before. I’d been training at home on the treadmill – incline workouts at 7,000 feet in Taos – and was feeling pretty confident about my abilities.

And then. I was on the tiniest of downhills on the rim trail (the rim trail, for crying out loud!), and hit some scree. At which time my feet flew out from under me, I landed crookedly on my right ankle, and felt such severe pain I thought I’d vomit. My ankle quickly sprouted what looked like a plum, then my whole ankle became a shiny, hideous apple. Awesome.

I had already paid for the trip, and I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to experience it just because of some rookie hiking mistake. They could strap me to a donkey! Or tow me in a little wagon! (Which is ridiculous, because the trails are rough and steep, but still.) I was getting down into the canyon, blooming ankle or no.

The upshot is this: I learned I’m much more physically capable than I thought. I knew I hadn’t broken the ankle, just sprained it, and with massive doses of Ibuprofen (I know, it’s bad for your GI system, but boy is it effective), as much icing and elevating the night before as I could handle, and trekking poles which essentially became crutches, I made it. Down seven miles on the rough South Kaibab trail in the heat, hiking the next day around Phantom Ranch, then 9.5 miles back out the Bright Angel trail (which was actually easier despite it being longer).

And you know what? It was an absolute blast. In fact it was so much fun I’m planning a solo backpacking trip (my first) in Olympic National Park this September, but more about that later.

I want to say one more thing before sharing some photos: you’re probably way more physically capable than you think, too. I’ve realized it’s important – maybe even critical – to challenge yourself at whatever age or ability you’re at, because when you do conquer that difficult thing? You’re going to feel like a badass, and you’ll always know you can do that thing and probably even more. Trust me.

It's Big, It's Beautiful, and I Almost Missed It

A group on horseback taking a break on the way back up South Kaibab. Despite my stupid ankle I’m glad I was on foot, because I felt bad for the horses. It was hot, despite it being only late April.

It's Big, It's Beautiful, and I Almost Missed It

Further down South Kaibab.

It's Big, It's Beautiful, and I Almost Missed It

The Colorado River

It's Big, It's Beautiful, and I Almost Missed It

We camped two nights at Phantom Ranch, and the Silver Bridge crossed the Colorado a short walk from camp. I was fascinated by all the lines in this image.

It's Big, It's Beautiful, and I Almost Missed It

Deer friends in camp, no zoom lens needed.

It's Big, It's Beautiful, and I Almost Missed It

Bright Angel Creek runs through the campground, and has a sweet little bridge that connects to the Black Bridge and South Kaibab trail.

It's Big, It's Beautiful, and I Almost Missed It

Another morning view at Bright Angel creek.

It's Big, It's Beautiful, and I Almost Missed It

Leaving camp the next morning, from the other side of Silver Bridge on the Colorado.

It's Big, It's Beautiful, and I Almost Missed It

A waterfall on Bright Angel trail. (This wasn’t the only one! There’s way more water in the canyon than I thought.)

It's Big, It's Beautiful, and I Almost Missed It

One last photo before reaching the South Rim. It’s amazing to look back and see how far you’ve come.

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  1. Emilie Vardaman July 14, 2015 at 4:44 pm #

    You continued on that ankle? I am astounded. Last time I sprained my ankle – and it wasn’t as bad as yours – I was a total wimp. But I made it work for me. Had to fly the next day and the doc gave me a splint and a letter asking for priority boarding! They even drove me between planes. I saved the splint …
    Awesome photos, in the true meaning of the word awesome.
    Emilie Vardaman recently posted…The GarlandMy Profile

    • deonne July 14, 2015 at 4:48 pm #

      Emilie – I did. I apparently am not only determined, but I also have a high tolerance for pain, ha. Nice for you with the flight assistance! Get those perks while you can, I say. So glad you like the photos – it is truly an awe-inspiring place.

  2. Susan Carpenter Sims July 14, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

    You, my dear, are a total ninja badass, and I’m proud to call you my friend. However, if today is any indicator, I’m actually less physically capable than I think I am, since I’ve knocked into just about everybody and everything I’ve been around.

    • deonne July 14, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

      Susan – Ninja badass! I’ll take it, thank you very much. And I don’t agree about your physical capabilities – I think you’re just having an awkward day. πŸ™‚

  3. Susan Embry July 14, 2015 at 5:14 pm #

    Awesome photos! Love the blueness of the waters and am amazed at how your strength prevailed after the fall! You rock girl!

    • deonne July 14, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

      Thank you, Susan! The water was so blue (and green), and the colors were outstanding everywhere, a truly gorgeous spring in the canyon. Thanks for the kind words.

  4. Kim July 14, 2015 at 5:41 pm #

    I agree….you are a Ninja Badass Superhero!

    • deonne July 14, 2015 at 6:06 pm #

      Hey, thanks, Kim! Drinks soon?

  5. Ron Hagg July 14, 2015 at 5:56 pm #

    fabulous – love your observations.
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  6. Jim Bago July 14, 2015 at 6:24 pm #

    Great narrative, splendid pix.

    • deonne July 14, 2015 at 6:39 pm #

      Thanks so much, Jim!

  7. Deborah Dash July 14, 2015 at 10:34 pm #

    1. Disease. Dislike. I didn’t know (probably because you kept it quiet, or else because my memory worsens with age, which means I *did* know and forgot). Did I say “dislike”? That whole first paragraph is bad, but the disease is the thing that most jumped out at me. Dislike.

    2. The trekking poles were probably an excellent idea, and I see in your photos that you weren’t the only person using them – and I’ll bet those other people weren’t injured, so … good. I would totally have wimped on this. I wouldn’t have even signed up for it in the first place. Maybe if it were up first and then down on the way back. Down first and then up on the second half? No way. LOL

    3. My favorite picture is the Silver Bridge with the lines. But they’re all incredible. I haven’t been to the Grand Canyon since I was 19 (I’m not proud – I’ll tell you that it was the summer of 1978), but I remember that it was one of those rare experiences where the vastness is so great that your brain can’t comprehend it. I’d like to go back some day.

    4. Must you always be such a tease? A picture here, a picture there, a handful every few months? MORE, please!


    • deonne July 15, 2015 at 11:15 am #

      Deborah – The news for both my family member and me is new, all within the last year, and mine was only confirmed recently. It’s kidney disease, and because of my age and health, my doctor thinks I’ll be able to live on for many, many years. Will know more in a few months if I have to have one kidney removed. Honestly, I’m not worried because I’ll have options. And you said it right about the canyon – your brain can’t comprehend it. (Try photographing it, ha.) And point taken about the photos – I’m working as fast as I can! πŸ™‚

  8. Sherry in MT July 15, 2015 at 7:39 am #

    You are indeed badass – many can’t do that much with healthy legs! I love the shots and GC is still on my bucket list and of course your photos just make me want it more. There is a set of waterfalls I do want to see but just being able to do the canyon would be super! Now about that Sept deal – Scamping??? You know you can always swing by here too (or if you are driving we’ll be camping in the Crater Lake area in OR for a week in Sept as well). Hope your other tripping is going well and I am so loving the trip reports and photos – but pick up the pace here will ya! LOL
    Sherry in MT recently posted…Fabulous Fourth FireworksMy Profile

    • deonne July 15, 2015 at 11:19 am #

      Sherry – Thank you for the kind words and encouragement. Would love to connect somewhere in September, so let’s email and see what’s what. And as I said, I’m working on picking up the pace on the blog. I need to keep you all happy. πŸ™‚

      • Sherry in MT July 16, 2015 at 7:40 am #

        Super! And you know we are just yanking your chain on the blog posts. Summer is when we all squeeze everything we can into a short amount of time. Honestly – I’d just as soon you were out enjoying it and taking pictures! πŸ™‚
        Sherry in MT recently posted…Fabulous Fourth FireworksMy Profile

        • deonne July 16, 2015 at 8:00 am #

          Sherry – Duly noted! I’m off again in six weeks or so. πŸ™‚

  9. Manisha July 15, 2015 at 8:27 am #

    Good for you! I’m so glad to hear that you were able to continue on the trip. Work through the pain, right? Those photos were totally worth it! I’ve been to Olympic National Park, pre-twilight. I hope it hasn’t changed much because it was incredibly beautiful. We went in March so there was still snow on the peaks but down below, a lush rainforest that I’d never experienced before. If you get the time, head on over to Cape Flattery. There is a nice little hike to the most NW corner of the country. You can feel the vibration of the water in the trees before you reach the cape. Amazing experience. It’s on reservation land, so if you decide to go be sure to stop into the main store to get a permit. I think lots of people skip that. While most of our trip out there was so long ago that the memories are fading away, the hike to Cape Flattery stands out as something I could never forget!
    Manisha recently posted…city malaiseMy Profile

    • deonne July 15, 2015 at 11:21 am #

      Manisha – That hike sounds beautiful, so I’ve put it on my list for September. Thank you for sharing it!

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