Not According to Plan
Last night we had dinner, or rather, we dined at El Tovar. El Tovar is to the Grand Canyon what The Old Faithful Inn is to Yellowstone Park. Storied, historic, imposing, gorgeous in a “lots of oversized dark wood” way, and a real indulgence. Their lobby is adorned with mounted trophy elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, moose and buffalo. Harry looked at home there. Our dinner was delicious and the surroundings were a blast.
This morning Mariah, Harry and I left our hotel slathered in sunscreen, prepared to tour the Grand Canyon and enjoy a bit of hiking away from the crowds. Months ago, I reserved a guide with a highly rated local company. They promised to supply all of our needed equipment, water, snacks, a light lunch and lots of information about what we would be seeing while we were together. The highlight of our day would be a one hour hike on a lightly utilized trail customized to their client’s skill level. I reserved what they described as their least challenging hike, a one hour beginner’s hike.
Of course, the Grand Canyon is majestic, stunning and awe-inspiring. It is wider, longer, deeper, and more of everything in person than the best photographs depict or the most descriptive writing conveys. Mariah will post her favorite subset of her photographs of the Canyon as soon as she conquers the technological glitches that have been plaguing her use of the wordpress website.
(Allow me a digression. Our daughter, Hannah, has suggested that Mariah and I write a second blog describing what is really happening during our cross country trip. She knows that every one of our days on the road has not been filled from morning to night with wonder, awe and beauty. Hannah has observed correctly, that sometimes Mariah and I argue with one another and some of our experiences have been boring, disappointing or worse. The next part of today’s blog entry should obviate the need for Hannah’s recommendation).
My experience today was not as planned. Our tour guide took us down a popular (crowded) route on the South Rim which significantly exceeded my skill level. It was problematic for me from the beginning. Not wanting to model weakness and expecting the situation to improve any minute, I persevered. The trail was rough, narrow, steep, unstable, and at many points required significantly more strength than I have in my knees. We descended more than 1,000 vertical feet in 90 plus degree heat for well over an hour before finally stopping for our light lunch. Then we turned around and hiked the same 1,000 plus vertical feet on the same trail (and in the same heat) back up to the parking lot where our vehicle was waiting.
To their credit, Harry and Mariah were terrific and extended me a helping hand and words of encouragement all day. They are both in fabulous shape and moved with ease on the trail. Unfortunately, notwithstanding all of my efforts over the last year to get in shape, I was in way over my head. As the hike progressed, I found it to be more and more challenging. My pace, already slow, slowed further until I was stopping frequently to rest. It was difficult for me to catch my breath and my heart would not stop racing. Three hours or so (!) after we began our hike, we were finally close to the trailhead where we had begun. By then, I felt discouraged, embarrassed, frustrated, fearful, tentative, exhausted and anxious. When the parking lot was finally in full sight, I sat down on a rock next to Mariah and cried. A lot.
So that portion of the day was pretty horrible for me. In fact, I hated every moment we were on the trail. I have now definitively confirmed that I am definitely better suited to Canyon Ranch than the Grand Canyon. However, I survived and am looking forward to taking ibuprofen for a day or too, as needed. The silver lining in this experience, is how proud I was of Mariah today for her display of maturity, kindness and empathy, well above her years. I know that I was lucky today, but not smart. In the future, I will gauge more carefully the physical demands of a situation before plunging forward. You can take that to the bank.
Now, we are on to Nevada and tomorrow’s visit of the Hoover Dam. I understand they have a lovely elevator.