Catching up? Click below to read the previous two posts about our Grand Canyon backpacking trip.
All caught up? We’re going to jump right into Day 3.
The morning of Day 3 I was more than ready to wake up — boy was I hot! Even though it was only our second morning waking up in the canyon, I felt like we had already established a routine: listen for the wake-up call, break camp, eat breakfast, and then begin the day’s hike. I was feeling like a real backpacker.
Before we headed out, we had another breakfast consisting of mashed potatoes and sausage.
While Day 2 was the most mentally-challenging day for me, I’d have to say Day 3 was my most physically-challenging day. (Day 4 was, of course, the second hardest day of all.) I also encountered quite a bit of…uncomfortableness. Before we even left camp, I got bit by a fire ant on my heel as I was putting my boots on. Ugh. I’ve never been bit by an ant before, but now I know it stings for awhile. I powered through; it wasn’t that bad.
Our route followed the Colorado River for a ways. We maneuvered our way over lots of rocks — mostly large ones.
The first obstacle of the day was finding a way down a particularly huge rock. I had already managed to sit down and slide down to the edge of the rock — holding on to any stable vegetation I could on the way down.
Everyone that had done this before me went down backwards — a strategy that I doubted would work for me, but I decided to give it a try nonetheless. I struggled to find my “route” — which rock I should touch and which rock I should put my foot on to stabilize myself. Todd, one of the guides, saw I was having trouble, so he said put your right hand on the rock behind you. I didn’t look, which was a terrible mistake. Ouch! A second later I felt cactus needles in my finger — 30 in my right pointer finger to be exact. So there I was trying to stabilize myself on this rock and I had cactus needles in my finger.
Thank goodness David and Tom, the other guide, were behind me. Tom was nice enough to pull each cactus needle out one by one. If I had to do it myself, we might still be there! The only ones that really hurt were the ones that were stuck in the creases of my finger (you know, where your finger is able to bend).
I didn’t cry and I didn’t complain. I behave really well when I’m in a group. Instead I smiled. Weird, I know.
I just wanted the cactus needles out so I could get off that darn rock. I went down facing forward/sideways and it worked!
(Side note: looking back at these pictures the situation actually doesn’t look that bad. But at the time, it was a little more difficult. Hindsight, eh?)
To recap, two uncomfortable things happened: an ant bite and an unpleasant encounter with a cactus. I knew there was going to be a third thing. And that’s when I jinxed myself.
Day 3 was tough because there was a lot of hiking uphill; after all, we were starting our climb back out of the canyon.
The last hour of hiking we did before lunch took a lot out of me. I was huffing and puffing and I was getting clumsy because I was tired. (And in a pessimistic moment, I even started to wonder how close I was to muscle exhaustion.) That clumsiness led me to my third instance of uncomfortableness: I grazed my left leg against another cactus. It was a scratch, but a big enough one that it drew blood and was dripping down my leg. By this point I’m thinking, “Whatever. I’ll just take care of it when we stop.” At least the trifecta was complete at this point.
We made it to our first destination by lunchtime: Deer Creek.
I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was sit and drink. I now knew how important electrolytes and salt were. I was drained, but after having close to a liter of Gatorade and splitting a summer sausage with David it was like I was a new person. Thank goodness.
We all had a great time exploring and playing around without our heavy packs.
After lunch, Todd and Tom took us to see the Deer Creek waterfall. I thought, “Oh, it’ll be a fairly short walk since we left our packs in the main area.” Nope. Thirty minutes later after cautiously walking some narrow paths (we walked to the “back” of the picture above) and scooting down a rock we made it to the base on the waterfall.
Holy moly. Talk about gorgeous!
Just like all the water we had jumped in before, the water was COLD! And the water was coming down with such force that I couldn’t get that close to it — the cold mist would take my breath away!
The waterfall and the surrounding area (the Colorado River was less than 5 minutes away!) were made for pictures.
After spending more than an hour at the waterfall, we headed back up and took some more photos before we headed our to our second destination of the day: the Throne Room.
As we were walking to the Throne Room, we encountered some slightly different scenery. There were so many cactuses (cacti?) — ha! To me it almost felt like an obstacle course! ;) I’m happy to report I didn’t injure myself the rest of the day! We walked through a bunch of these tall corn stalk looking things. For a few minutes, it was a bit eerie — almost as if an animal (or some sort of creature, if you’re thinking about the movie Signs like I was) could barrel through and hit us at any moment because they wouldn’t see us. Or I could just have an overactive imagination. :)
Once we made it to the Throne Room, we were able to take off our packs and sit and relax on — you guessed it — a throne.
The Throne Room was fantastic. It had probably 8 thrones made out of rock with a huge rock wall curving over us, creating the room. These thrones were made by canyon visitors, not Indians.
And what do ya know… there was another (little) waterfall here, too! I had no idea I would see this much water while I was in the canyon! No complaints here, though!
While we were at the Throne Room, we had dinner. Burritos with Mexican rice, refried beans, and queso was on the menu for the night.
We had a ways to go before we reached camp for the night, so it was important to fuel up. The guides also wanted the sun to dip behind the ridge for a slightly cooler hike to camp.
Remember how I mentioned earlier that this day was physically tough for me? Well, after dinner was the toughest challenge yet. Todd warned us what we would be going through, “You are going to have Whoop Ass 1, then an intermission, then Whoop Ass 2, another intermission, and then Whoop Ass 3.” If the guides are telling you it’s going to be hard… it’s going to be real tough. It was time to put my game face on.
I can’t remember all the details of each Whoop Ass (can you blame me?!), but I remember Whoop Ass 1 was a big shock. Think super steep climbing over big rocks. Not vertical, but close enough. I didn’t even look back until I got to a nice patch of ground that I wouldn’t teeter and fall over. I was tackling my fear of heights this trip, but I still like being comfortable nonetheless.
When I did eventually turn around, the view was breathtaking. The sky was turning a beautiful shade of pink and orange.
It’s crazy that I’m getting emotional typing this up. I pushed myself physically and mentally so hard, but I was beyond rewarded with the views and the overwhelming sense of accomplishment. It’s true what you put in you’ll get out of it. The best things in life are the ones you strive and work hard for. This is what my soul needed.
I made it through all Whoop Asses and with a smile on my face to boot. I did it!
Once we made it through the Whoop Asses, the terrain wasn’t too bad — more rolling than anything else. Before we pulled out our headlamps, we hiked for awhile by the light of the moon.
That night we camped in Surprise Valley. Over the course of the day, we traveled about 8 miles and completed an elevation gain of 1,800 ft. The next day we would tackle the rest of the climb out of the canyon.
That wraps up Day 3! Stay tuned for Day 4 — the final day — of our North Rim Grand Canyon trip.