Sunday, 5 February 2012

Here we go again

Sorry for the hiatus. I guess I got it in my head that since the blog is called across the pond blah blah blah that I can’t write it if I’m not overseas. Then I remembered it’s my blog and I make the rules!

As I sit here watching the Super Bowl (go Pats I guess) I find myself with some down time, so here goes...

A (hopefully) brief catch-up on what’s been going on since Europe:  Came home, saw Michigan crush Nebraska and overthrow the evil reign of that school down south. Thanksgiving was in between and I gotta say it was probably the best one yet. Not only was I desperately missing home cooked food, but I have a lot to be thankful for these days. The follow week I went out to San Jose with Mark (my manager) to test some electric motorcycles, which was pretty awesome. We also went to the Monterey aquarium and whale watching since Mark is a fish nerd. That was neat, we saw a bunch of seals, pelicans and a… flock? swarm? pod? gaggle...? whatever you call a group of 200 dolphins. We also saw 4 killer whales. I got some pretty good pictures. See?

The whales (actually orcas are closer to dolphins) put on a pretty good show!

Then it was Christmas. That was nice. Had a slow month of work in January then headed out to LA for a few days. It was pretty uneventful. Worked early, stayed on Michigan time which meant bed early too. Back for the weekend then off to Arizona to do some brakes testing for Chrysler. I was scheduled to be out here for two weeks, but we got through the testing really fast so I’ll be done on Tuesday and can come home on Wednesday! I’m really excited about that because one thing I forgot to mention is that I FINALLY GOT MY NEW CAR AND IT’S SITTING IN THE GARAGE WAITING FOR ME! I really love it and can’t wait to get back.
I wish it still looked like that
but when you get a car in January that pretty paint job doesn't stay clean too long.

Anyway, onto the real reason I’m writing this post. Originally I thought we’d be testing through the weekend, but as I said we’re ahead of schedule, so they gave me the weekend off. I had a choice to make: Vegas or the Grand Canyon. To be honest, I didn’t do as much research as I normally would when presented with two exciting options like that. Nature just sounded better to me than… well pretty much the exact opposite of nature. Plus, I’ve been feeling lazy lately so a good hike sounded like just the ticket.  Once I decided to do the hike I had to gear up. I figured I’d at least need some solid hiking shoes and a camelbak. Once I got to the canyon I realized it’s cold up here (colder than Ann Arbor these days actually) and a there’s fair amount of snow on the ground so I picked up a hat, the equivalent of tire chains for your shoes and a headlamp just in case my 5 hour hike ended up taking more like 11. That would have been a disaster, but it would have been an even bigger disaster if I had to find my way back using a cell phone for light.

On Friday night I figured I should have a good meal since it could have been my last (just kidding) but really because I needed a good protein and carbo load so I wouldn't drop dead on the hike. I made a reservation at the El Tovar, which is the “premier lodge” at the canyon and has a "premier restaurant" to match. It was really good. As in 20 times better than any food I ever imagined I’d eat in a national park. I had the mixed grill which was a 6 oz filet mignon and a 6 oz pork tenderloin, both marinated in a dijon-y sort of sauce. My basic understanding of food science (compliments of Alton Brown) tells me that that’s probably why the steak was so tender. It was served with carrots and broccoli (yup, I ate those) and bacon and cheddar mashed potatoes which were damn good as well. I finished the meal off with a slice of red velvet cake which was pretty good, but definitely not the highlight of the meal.

Down to business:  Saturday morning. Woke up at 7, made sure I had everything I needed, had some breakfast, told the parents that I was going to do the Bright Angel trail and judge how I was feeling as I went. There is a rest house every mile and a half (that’s outwards, each one is another 1200 feet down from the rim) and interestingly, I seemed to get less weary the farther I went. When I first started, I was nervous about all the things that could go wrong so I was uncomfortably cautious. Once I started seeing people jogging back up the trail I started realizing “hey, I’m not climbing Everest, I’m walking through a national park.” I felt a lot more comfortable hiking alone as time went on because I saw so many people who’d be able to help me if I needed it. It also helped that I had cell signal the entire time. I stopped at the 1.5 mile rest house, used the composting toilet, rubbed my feet, had a muffin and granola bar and continued on my merry way. Before I knew it I was at the 3 mile rest house.  At this point I’m about 2 hours into the hike and feeling pretty good. I chatted with a guy down there who looked like he’d done his fair share of hikes. He told me that I could continue to Indian Garden, which was another 12 or so switchbacks down and then a gentle walk down a dried up river bed, but if I was thinking about heading back up, I should go around and below the rest house and check out the really nice view. That’s what I decided to do and damn it was worth it.

I wish the pictures could do it justice but alas, you have to be there to really feel it.

While I was checking out the vistas, I saw a pile of old metal cans. I climbed down and grabbed a couple souvenirs. One of them is a beer can. I’m guessing it’s at least 60 years old. Not exactly sure what the other thing is, but I’m guessing it’s an equally old cigarette case or something.

I sent a picture of the view to my parents using my iPad at that point (god I love technology) and then started working my way back up. It actually became much easier at that point because the trepidation about my abilities turned into determination to not be stuck in a canyon all day. No more thinking about if I have it in me to keep going. Just became a simple matter of getting it done.

Final count: 5 hours, 6 miles, 5000 feet  elevation change, 100 oz water, 1 bottle of Gatorade, 2 muffins, 2 granola bars, a few pieces of beef jerky, 2 pouches of weird energy/electrolyte gel, 90 photos, 2 aching legs, 1 outfit completely sweated through, 1 great hike!

Check out the rest of my pictures from this trip on my facebook. I'll even make it easy for you: click 

I'll be back in AZ towards the end of March so I may get another entry up then or, if you're lucky, maybe I'll do one that's unrelated to travel!

I'm planning on going to Japan this summer to visit my friend Mike who will be moving there for at least a year to teach English, starting in March. There will definitely be a post or three from that trip!

That's all for now. Hopefully the next one won't take another 3 months!