Desperate Hikers

By Glen Ochoa.

10/25/05) I'll admit I'm hooked on Desperate Housewives. But there certainly is enough drama on these hiking trips to create our own mini series. I guess that makes me Gabriela O.

The red eye drive to the Grand Canyon was not too bad. I guess all the stay-up-all-night-with-Jerry muscular dystrophy telethons during my boring childhood really paid off for these minimal sleep outings. The distance that we traveled was nothing however compared to Alan and Hal, who flew in all the way from Honolulu. They spent the previous night at Mather's campground and were able to enjoy the South Rim a day ahead of us.

This was Joe's first backpack trip. After doing a gear check, we decided to help him shop for a few items at the Grand Canyon general store. I'll have to admit I had way too much fun helping him to functional, yet fashionable shades, a sensible yet hip-looking beanie, and other items. It made me realize that I really should be working on the floor at REI than sitting in front of a computer monitor all day.

As our shuttle neared the North Rim, we traveled along a beautiful mountain meadow with fall color starting to permeate the rich North Rim forest. It also started to rain. We looked at each with that "ooooookay" look in our eyes. Although our trip forecasted fifty percent chance of rain that was really the only rain we received during our entire trip. By the time we exited the shuttle it stopped raining.

That night at the car campground, we enjoyed barbequed soy ginger albacore, a mix of chicken pesto sausage and southwest andouille sausage, a pepper sauté, savory stuffing, and various cocktails. A few of us had a bit too much to drink that night. Of course, the excuse was "It's better than carrying it on your back".

As we started down the North Kaibab trail the following morning, we could not get over how beautiful the canyon views were with the play of red, orange, yellow, and green foliage. Our cameras were shooting constantly.

After reaching Cottonwood campground, we quickly set up camp and day hiked to the upper reaches of Ribbon Falls. Hiking the rough trail to the upper reaches was certainly an obstacle course as we dodged numerous overgrown cacti, slipped on loose rocks, and negotiated the steep course up to the falls. I think we all had cuts and scrapes after that short hike. It was well worth it though. Upper Ribbon Falls was absolutely stunning and very intimate. After the long hot tiring hike to Cottonwood and the Upper Ribbon Falls, it was easy ditching all the clothes and jumping in the water. I obviously have no shame being naked at private swimming holes anymore. A few others in our group felt the same as they got butt-naked as well. The water was extremely invigorating. I'm not sure which was more piercing, the screams from everyone or the freezing water. Afterwards, we rushed back to the campsite before nightfall, watching the sunset leaving glowing tips on the canyon peaks.

That night was our first backpack dinner which was obvious with all the dehydrated food packs and Jetboils on the table. Like GI Joe doll accessories, each of the Jetboils was dressed in different color and design, such as red, green, black, and camouflage. It was fun watching Jimm show Joe how to cook his first backpack dinner.

The next morning we continued our journey down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, with a pit stop at Lower Ribbon Falls. We were again awestruck. The time of day that we arrived placed a beautiful rainbow across the front of the falls. It was like living a fairy tale as we explored around the lower falls. It was difficult leaving such a paradise, but we were ready to make it down to the Colorado River.

The hike to Bright Angel Campground from Cottonwood was a leisurely stroll through the inner canyons. The towering canyon walls and prominent outcrops made us feel so small. All we needed was Godzilla to pounce through the slot canyon to make the picture complete. When we reached the campground, we set up camp and then headed off to the beach with our sandals, beach towels, mats, sunscreen, and shades. On our way there we passed by ancient Indian ruins and again, were awestruck with the remarkable views of the foot bridges and canyon walls towering over the Colorado River. We cooled off in the water, and peacefully fell asleep while sunbathing on the sand. This was probably my favorite part of the whole trip. We then walked up to the foot bridge on the South Kaibab trail and watched the sun sparkle on the Colorado River as the sun set serenely over the canyon rim.

That night, during dinner, I experimented with a new gourmet dinner idea for future group backpack dinners. It was a hit. If you're curious what it is you'll have to come on the Joshua Tree backpack with us. Later that evening we sat in on a very entertaining ranger talk about mountain lions. The animated ranger was also very proud to show off her lovely scat collection. Afterwards, we moseyed on down to the packed Phantom Ranch cantina for Tecates and wine.

The following morning we started our hike up the Bright Angel trail. Joe had a rough start that morning. Fortunately the worst part of it was ending up with mismatching socks. For fear of embarrassment, Jimm and I tried to keep a mule-train's distance from him, but he kept catching up. (Just kidding Joe) Our group did amazing time up to Indian Garden campground. From there we day hiked to the breathtaking Plateau Point.

At Plateau Point, we were greeted by a California condor perched on the edge of the canyon. It was a rare treat to watch it for at least half an hour before it slowly spread its wings (spanning about five feet) and then lifted off and glided effortlessly across the Colorado River. At Plateau Point, you were completely encapsulated in a true 360 view of the Grand Canyon, with views of the Colorado River below, the north and south rim above, the surrounding prominent peaks, and the maze of canyons in between. Pictures could not do it justice. Some members in the group may argue the best part of the trip was when I struggled to take the perfect picture for the trip report cover shot at Plateau Point. I'm embarrassed enough by the whole incident, so you'll have to ask the other members for the hilarious story.

Later that afternoon, I gave a lesson to Joe on map and compass. When I was introduced to map and compass about a year ago, I found it to be kind of intimidating and undecipherable. After a hands-on course and some practice, I now find it to be lots of fun. Even on established trails, I regularly take out the map and compass to practice and determine my exact location.

In the evening, we finished off our last dinner and remaining spirits, and had soulful discussions. We hit the sack early for our pre-dawn hike the following morning. We started our hike up to the South Rim a couple hours before dawn to ensure that Alan and Hal we're able to catch their late afternoon flight. The temperatures were cool, and the sunrise was glorious. After a group picture, we headed off to Mather's campground for a hot shower. Nothing beats a hot shower after a long backpack trip, even when the paparazzi are sneaking over the shower walls snapping pictures (ie Jimm). But I snapped right back. I finally have a full monty shot of Jimm that I'm selling to the highest bidder to cover Perfect Pace operating expenses for next year. (Just kidding Jimm)

After saying goodbye to the Honolulu boys, we headed off for breakfast at Bright Angel Lodge, and then hit the stores for souvenirs. I couldn't count the number of times I heard "Does this t-shirt make me look fat?" Gawd, I love this group.

For more information on Perfect Pace, visit their website at: http://www.perfectpace.com/.

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