This trip has many stories, many ins and outs, ups and downs, starts and stops. It's complicated.
Nancy and I are scheduled for a Grand Canyon Kanab Creek 7-day back packing adventure in the fall of 2015. We start hiking that summer together to get in shape,
On August 16, 2015, we hiked up to the Franconia Ridge via the Skookumchuck Trail. It was a perfect day and we enjoyed eating lunch above tree line along with a short ridge walk. We started down and were maybe a mile and a half from the trailhead when I saw Nancy step forward and then fall backwards and to the side. Immediately she said she was really hurt, and I could see she was in major pain. I helped her take off her pack and she moved herself from the trail onto the bank of the creek next to the trail and put her feet into the icy water. When she took her feet out I looked at the swelling on both ankles, but her description of the snap she heard in her left ankle led me to believe it was broken. And yes, she tried to walk out...on a broken ankle and a severely sprained ankle... I put her pack on the front of my body and held onto the waist of her shorts while she used my trekking poles to stagger down the trail for about a tenth of a mile. Finally, after much coaxing from me, she stopped and gave in to the fact that she could not walk out under her own power. Through tears she apologized for messing up our Canyon trip, and I reassured her it was ok and we would reschedule.
Long story shorter, the Pemigewasset Search and Rescue volunteers, accompanied by National Park Service rangers, carried her out to an ambulance waiting to take her to the hospital in Littleton, NH. Her fibula was broken and she was in for a long recuperation. We rescheduled the trip for May 2016. She ended up having surgery to attach a titanium plate to steady the bone and the doctor pronounced her "healed" in January 2016. We had an amazing celebration back on the trails...
Nancy and I began training in earnest in February... I snowshoed and hiked up the 4 mile out and back trail that I reached by walking out my back door and bushwhacking up the side of Green Mountain. In April, we tried doing a Mt. Paugus loop - going up the Cabin Trail, over to South Paugus on the Lawrence Trail, then down Beeline where we encountered very difficult stretches of ice. As we were nearing the end of the steep section our luck ran out and we fell, sliding maybe 25 feet into the trees at the bottom of the ice floe. We were bruised, but unbowed.
In the interest of safety, we moved to hiking in the Ossipee Range in March...mostly ice free, on a mixture of hiking trails and old carriage roads, enjoying hiking together again. In late March we started carrying our heavy packs, slowly adding weight until we were carrying 35-40 pounds. Oh yes, we complained about the weight and wondered how much heavier our packs would be in the Canyon, and enjoyed the early, ice-free spring hiking in the Ossipee Range.
Due to schedule conflicts, I hiked quite a few mountains alone. The first time I went I was sad and petulant, unhappy at being alone, the day grey and spitting snow. As I continued to hike I began to enjoy myself, to look around, push myself, keep up a good pace and still stop and look, see, smell, hear. I had never been so content hiking alone. Hiking maturity? I also hiked behind my house with weight at least twice a week and did shorter walks with weight every other day. As the end of our last training hike wound to a close and the departure date came close, I felt pretty good about our training.
I re-read the last entry in my journal before leaving for the 7-day backpacking trip in the Kanab Creek Wilderness in the Grand Canyon.
"I am looking forward to spending time with Nancy, seeing the incredible wildflowers, being inside the Canyon walls, hearing the plaintive, descending call of the Canyon Wren, eating all I want, feeling my strong 60-something body doing a fantastic job carrying all that weight...so much to look forward to...so much..."
Very optimistic, trying to swim passed the fear and anxiety I felt as I so wanted this trip to be a good one. How would I define a "good trip"? One where my muscles, unused to descending steep trails wearing a heavy pack, did not become so sore that I could not walk without pain? One where I could stand in awe of the astounding beauty of the Canyon, take pictures, look with all my strength, and let the moment seep into my being? One where I am comfortable with the other person who will be joining us on the trip, someone named Haley, and that I trust and enjoy our guide, Stefan? One where Nancy and I have lots of time and space to be together, talk, laugh, share, after a long hiatus? One where the adventure would actually be "not about the hike"?
I was as ready as I was going to be...time to fly to Phoenix and take the shuttle to Flagstaff for two nights at the Little America Hotel. There we would meet our fellow hiker and our guide - Haley and Stefan - to get our gear and discuss the entire trip. Here we go!