About two or three years ago I was browsing my Tumblr feed when I stumbled upon one of the most breath-taking pictures of nature I'd ever seen. It was a professional photograph of Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona. The colors were so exaggerated and vibrant that I knew I had to witness it for myself in person. I knew it was a picture that had been digitally retouched, so the colors were probably a little off. But I needed to know for myself, and so I tucked this trip away in the back of my mind, waiting for the right moment to go.
The right moment came when one of my best and most adventurous, out-going friends decided to go, too. We'd fly into Las Vegas and drive out to Arizona. Our trip almost didn't happen because our departure flight got canceled (lesson learned, don't ever opt for a budget airline ever again). Between the fiasco of buying, canceling, and repurchasing flights the night we were supposed to fly out, we didn't think our trip would come to fruition. But we were determined to fly out, as our minds were set on doing a rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon.
Long story short, we made it! Here's a breakdown of our trip:
Day 1. Flew into Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. Rented our car. Got lunch at BurGR (Gordon Ramsay's burger joint). Checked into our Airbnb. Took a swim in the pool to cool off (it was over 100 degrees). Drove to Bass Pro Shops to buy bear spray (that store is so cool, it's like a museum and an REI joined together with an aquarium). Got ready and headed out to the Strip. Went on a ferris wheel ride, High Roller, with an all-you-can-drink open bar and amazing view of Vegas lights. Saw the water show in front of Caesars Palace. Got late night at Hash House A Go Go at the LINQ (BOMB food and pancakes twice the size of our heads). Went home and knocked out for an early drive to Arizona the next morning.
Day 2. Woke up early and made the two and a half hour drive to Zion National Park. Hiked the Emerald Pools trail. Got back in the car and drove another two and half hours to the Grand Canyon. Ate dinner, got ready for our rim-to-rim overnight hike. Packed our bags. Here are the details for our hike below. Keep in mind we took a break every hour to stay hydrated!:
Things we packed: At least 3 liters of water / Gatorade / Electrolyte replacement tablets / Protein bars and snacks / Bear spray (we were hoping this would come in handy with mountain lions, too) / Headlamps / Trekking poles (an absolute must and lifesaver. Convinced we would not have finished without these!) / DSLR camera and GoPro / LifeStraw water filter (just in case we ran out of water) / Handheld flashlight / Extra batteries/ First-aid kit consisting of gauze, ACE wraps, bandaids, antibiotic ointment, baby powder, Aleve, Moleskin for blisters / Plastic bags for trash / Hat / Sunglasses / Bug spray / Layers just in case it got cold / Watch / Cleaning wipes / Map.
6:00 PM. Begin hike at North Kaibab Trailhead.
8:00 PM. Sophia shouts "Aah I'm so excited! Bragging rights! Do it for the Gram!"
9:30 PM. Get lost by accidentally taking the Roaring Springs trail. Find our way back on the main trail and resume hiking.
10:30 PM. Reach Cottonwood Campground where we were reassured by campers that we were on the right path.
11:00 PM. Sophia starts developing her first blisters. My toes start hurting from the descent into the Canyon.
2:15 AM. Pass Phantom Ranch lodging and arrive at Boat Beach. Take a one hour break to star gaze. Tape up our blisters.
3:30 AM. Resume hiking.
4:30 AM. Cross the Colorado River. Flash our headlamps at fellow hikers who were smart enough to wake up early and hike out of the Canyon before the morning heat set in.
5:30 AM. Drink from a running stream with the LifeStraw. Sophia falls asleep while hiking. Sunrise.
6:30 AM. A hiker lies to us and tells us we have three and half miles left to hike.
8:00 AM. Come to find out we really have six miles to go.
9:00 AM. Reach Indian Gardens for our break. Cry the rest of the four and half miles remaining.
11:55 AM. Finish our hike at Bright Angel Trailhead.
Day 3. Rest after our rim-to-rim hike. Encore Beach Club by night. Sleep!
Day 4. Buy Icy-Hot for our aching shoulders. Drive out to Page, AZ to explore Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Drive back to Vegas. Club at XS and Drais. Go back to our Airbnb and sleep for forty minutes. Buy Sophia a last-minute flight home. Return our car rental and fly back to Boston.
Safe to say this was a wonderfully successful trip. A few takeaways for me included the importance of hydration, how much color really enhance my trip experiences, and friendship.
Prior to this trip, I was terrible at hydrating. I tell my patients that they should be drinking three to four bottles of water everyday, and I realize how much of a hypocrite I am after preaching this and embarking on this trip. Even during our hike where we stopped hourly for hydration, I realize how difficult it is to drink the recommended two liters a day. While my new year's resolution (for years now) has been to drink more water, I've failed every time. Being petrified to lose my body to electrolyte losses and dehydration has made me reconsider the importance of drinking and treating my body as well as I wish for it to function.
And then there are the colors. When I reminisce on my previous trips to Mexico and Iceland, the images that are forever branded in my mind are the shades of blue I saw in the caves, beaches, and geysers. This trip was no different. The intensity of the blue emanating from the Colorado River around Horseshoe Bend was so deep, and yet so light and delicate that you could see the yellow from the limestone underneath, that I seriously got emotional. I'd been waiting to see that site for so long that it was fitting it was the last sight of our trip. The rest of the desert is so neutral, plain, brown and dusty that it's a relief to see a break of blue slicing through the landscape. Despite the 112 degree weather, I felt comfortable, relaxed, and so at peace even though there were a bunch of tourists scrambling around us to capture the perfect angle. I swear, these are the scenes I live for.
The most important thing I reflected on this trip was friendship. As you age and graduate from college, you realize how hard it is to a). make new friends and b). keep those friends. There are apps out there just for adults to mingle because it's not like you can be dropped into a environment of adults with hopes of trying to memorize everybody's name and getting invited to the hottest party anymore. Even more so, as you get to learn someone's personality, you realize if they're in or if they're out - is this someone I see myself being friends with the rest of my life? Is this person a hi-and-bye acquaintance? Or do I absolutely hate this person's guts? Finding true and lasting friendships for me is one of my weaknesses because I tend to focus on the good sides of people, and that makes the weeding out process much more extensive.
With Sophia, well . . let me just ask you this: How many people do you know have a friend who's willing to do something as stupid as hike the Grand Canyon during a heat wave from rim to rim without the proper training, and having never really hiked before, a week before departure?
I realized how hard it is to find people who are simply down. And on top of that, are genuinely good people who are smart, sensitive, caring, ambitious, and decent. It's hard to find people you would willingly spend time with for hours or days on end without feeling as if you need to do anything extra or go outside of the confines of your own true personality. If you have these friends, keep them close. They will give you the adventure of a lifetime.
With that being said, this entire trip was literally a maze! Between navigating our flights, Vegas night life, the loops and curves of the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon, I could not have imagined going through all these twists and turns with anybody but this narcoleptic (seriously, she falls asleep everywhere).
Who would you want to go through life's mazes with?