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Thursday, June 28, 2012


It wasn't long before the family was ahead of me and Azure and I were taking up the rear again. As we turned away from the river and the trail became a more serious incline, I was excited to turn the corner and see the rest of the family already taking off their backpacks and stepping into a small pool of creek water.

We hadn't been hiking for long, but it was just too refreshing and inviting to ignore.

While we soaked and played, Trevor backtracked a bit to go for a swim in the Colorado River. He came back about 15 minutes later inviting us all to join him.

Brad, Azure and Jace all agreed and Sierra and I stayed at the creek to guard our stuff. Sierra still didn't feel really well, and I really didn't want to take a single step back when I knew I still had so far to go forward.

Besides, I was already soaking in a pretty cold, pretty fine water hole! A couple of hikers came trucking on by while the family was gone. They said they were regular hikers, so we quizzed them on the trail. They told us that if we got going soon then most of the switchbacks would be in the shade - but we didn't have much time. So Sierra and I were anxious to get on our way - that was encouraging news indeed! But when Trevor came back and said that we really would be sorry if we didn't take the plunge too, we acquiesced. When we got to the river we stripped down as much as was acceptable in daylight, then at everyone's encouragement did a half-dive from a waist-deep position.

It was FRIGID. Oh-so-COLD! And SO refreshing. We loved, loved, loved it. And the guys were right! We were so glad we did it. It made the next while of hiking very much more comfortable. We had no idea how much of the creek we'd enjoy on our way to the Indian Garden Campground, so after our swim we soaked our neck coolers, soaked clothes and got moving.

Most of the switchbacks at first WERE in the shade, but we had left the water and it was getting hot fast. Still, on we trod. The best part for me was looking back every few minutes and seeing how very far we had come. It was encouraging.

I'd get excited every time I'd start to hear the creek - and whether it was a trickling stream or a puddle of water, I'd find a way to get soaked. In fact at one point it had been a while since we'd seen water. My clothes were completely dry and I was feeling the effect of the heat. Brad said there was some water up ahead and some shade to rest in. When we got there and found the water really was just a mudhole on the trail, I didn't care. It was wet. I took off my shirt, plunged it into the mud, then threw it on me fast. Oh. MY. WORD!!! I stunk SO HORRIBLY until the next water! The mud hole was filled with mule manure. YUCK YUCK YUCK. But ... it was wet. That's a big HAHAHAHA now ... then, I just knew it was better to endure the stink than the heat. I was so glad all along the hike that Brad not only brought water purifying pills, but also had a water filter.

When we'd hit moving water, he'd fill up the water bottles, filter the water and have fresh cold refreshing drink for all of us. We, all of us, know from previous hiking experience that you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and eventually you'll arrive, not matter what pace you're moving at.

Near the end of this 2nd day of hiking I had to keep reminding myself. We were tired, we were hot. But the scenery was amazing. And we were conquering ourselves!

When we saw this sign we hooped and hollered! We stopped at the sign and talked about how .3 miles was just once around our block and then on down to the Benedict's house. We could do it!

All of us found a spot and collapsed in the heat of the day.

It was about 1pm when we arrived and it was hot - over 100 f and continued to get hotter until the sun went down. While we all moved in and out of sleep, Jace seemed to be energized and worked tirelessly to find someone to play with him. Azure sacked out on the picnic table and woke all of us to a scream when a squirrel started nibbling at her toes! It was a peaceful afternoon.

We filled ourselves with smoked clams, whole wheat bread and power bars ... night came quickly. The wind howled, and we were all exhausted.

Everyone was asleep by 8pm. Except Azure and Sierra kept getting a scare as Jace would sit up, grab one of them by the neck, stare in their faces and yell that he's a scary zombie. Then he'd go right back to sleep. Again, the moon was brilliant and I'd open my eyes ever hour or so and gaze in awe at the majesty of the desert's night sky. I love white noise, so the howling wind was heaven to me.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012


Because I wasn't very strong, we hiked as far as the river, then bedded down for the night in the sand. While Brad opened up camping mats for us to sleep on, Trevor carried a huge rock into the shallows of the river for me to sit on so I could cool off with my feet in the water. It felt so, so good to bathe my feet. My body-cooling was exponential. Trevor told everyone to turn their heads while he took a bath in the river. It was really dark, so he was fine stripping down - except that Brad was wearing a head lamp. Every time Trevor would talk, Brad would forget that he was in his birthday-suit and would turn his head toward him. "Daaaad!" then from Brad, "oops - sorry". They had us all in stitches. Trevor felt so refreshed after his skinny dipping that I decided to do the same. And yes - now I can say that I've skinny dipped at the bottom of the Grand Canyon :) But the problem was that I wasn't terribly strong, so I asked Azure to shield her eyes and let me hang on to her as she took me into the water. When I think about it know it makes me laugh out loud! She's a good daughter. She stayed by me through my dip and even walked me back. I was a new person after that. The river was only 45-48 degrees - but it was "just what the doctor ordered". By about 1am we were all quietly reclined on our mats (Trevor in his hammock). I never really slept that night - but I was so relaxed that I didn't even care. I'd lay with my eyes shut for a long time, then think, "what the heck - open your eyes" and I would look right up at the moon. Bright as a spotlight and gorgeous, it was! I'm sure I had little 10 minute catnaps, but somehow, when we got up a little after 5:00 - I felt ok.

I soaked again in the water (mostly clothed this time).

As we packed up I dipped my clothes in the water and we began our hike to Bright Angel Campground.

It wasn't far away, and there was drinkable water there and outhouses.

The "ladies room" was home to a little bat, so it made using the bathroom a little uncomfortable! We ate a hearty breakfast of smoked clams and granola bars, filled our tummies with water, then refilled the bottles, soaked my shirt again, then got on our way. It was about 7am when we started ascending.

It was cool - maybe in the mid-seventies. And we were in the shade. That, and the fact that we were walking right near the river for the first hour gave me and the whole family great confidence. Both that morning and the next, I knew I was in a race against the sun. The further I could get in the shade - before the sun peeked over, the further I could get. period. So I took off in front ... Trevor and Jace came along with me while everyone else sort of "strolled". Once we crossed the 2nd bridge, the family had caught up to us. It was a really pretty morning and we were all invigorated. My trepidation was all but gone. In the back of my mind I did harbor a bit of concern that I might not be able to get out in the next two days ... but now I knew that if I kept my clothes soaked, walked fast while there was shade, and kept my electrolytes in balance, I would eventually get out on my own two legs and we wouldn't have to call a helicopter in.

(to be continued)

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012


It was really a "happy-go-lucky" sort of hike for the first while.

The breeze was rejuvenating, we were going downhill, the scenery was spectacular.

It was a little hard on the calves and knees - and for those without cool Vibrams, hard on the toes too. But all-in-all it seemed we had planned the perfect hike. I'm prone to UTIs, so I drank and drank some more. I was hyper-vigilant about keeping hydrated. And because it was cool and we were going downhill ... on our way to the Colorado River where we could stock up again on water, it didn't dawn on me (or anyone else) that we might run out. As I mentioned before, no one volunteered to trek back to the car to get my non-sunglasses for me (pansies).

It seems like everything happened all at once: It got dark; we reached a low enough elevation where the temperature jumped and it got HOT; we ran out of water. Everyone donned head lamps and we slowed our pace. We slowed down partly because it was dark and harder to see, and partly because my legs were getting weaker and weaker. Everyone was telling me how flushed I was - but I didn't need to hear it from them. I was experiencing the heat bubble up inside me and felt that huge "UH OH". Last time that happened I drank a whole bottle of icy cold pickle juice and by the next day I was ok. But we knew we were close to our camp. At least, we figured we were. (I really wish I'd have taken my pedometer with us ... It would have been a source of encouragement and knowledge all along the way - to know how far we'd gone and how far we had to go)  We had caught a couple of glimpses of the Colorado River, and could see that it wasn't too far ... but it was now too dark to really tell. A hiker had passed us going up not too long before that and told us we had about a half hour to go - but that was if we were going at a regular pace. I was afraid to stop - in fact, whenever anyone would suggest I rest, I refused - knowing that there was a chance that if I stopped walking I wouldn't be able to start again. When I had MS there was some permanent damage done to one nerve. Even after the doctor pronounced me cured, he said that although it didn't show on an MRI, that nerve had been so damaged at the onset of my symptoms, that I would most likely always have some problems because of it. I have noticed through the years that when I run I have to concentrated on lifting my left leg, because it's a little sluggish. Well, that damaged nerve, when I get too hot, won't connect at all. And my legs refuse my orders. I don't know how long we were going at the snail's pace, each step harder than the last, before Trevor suggested we back up a few steps to where there was a small clearing. As soon as he suggested it, we all agreed. I was starting to be pretty much "out of it" - but in my mind, magically - a sleeping mat was opened and inflated, and all the empty water bottles were put into one pack for Trevor and Azure to take to the river. Before taking off, Trevor and Brad gave me a priesthood blessing. Then the rest of us parked ourselves right there while Trevor and Azure left. Sierra, who was fighting her sickness, sat by Jace, I tried to hold back and not throw up, and Brad mixed a gatorade pouch into the water that was left in Jace's pack. It was super dark - the moon wasn't out yet, but by the way Sierra and Jace ooohed at the shooting stars, the night sky must have been something to behold! I'm pretty sure I took off my outer shirt and sent it with Azure to dip in the river. The time flew by for me. Not so for the others. I was concentrating so hard on healing that the time really went by quickly. A short while into our rest my body started that uncontrollable shaking that comes when you go into shock.  I'm pretty good in potentially "panic" situations - I can think clearly.  In fact, my mind goes into "control gear".  So I knew I was going in to shock, told my family so, but also knew I had to cool off.  So for me, it helped to have my mind working on trying to figure out which was best - cover up to help the shock, or take off more to cool off.  Sierra was really, really worried - worried about me, worried about Trevor and Azure. About 5 minutes before the kids returned with water I started to feel normal. But I was concerned that if my body reacted this way on a descent at night - how in the world would I ever get out of the canyon going UP?!? I pushed that thought right away as I remembered the peace I felt when I made the decision to do the hike. And I remembered a talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland where he said, "Beware the temptation to abandon a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it, it's right now." And I know that faith and fear cannot co-exist. I determined to fill myself with faith and to throw fear out the door. Trevor reached us first and I don't even remember what I did - poured water on me? drank it? what? I don't know. But I became able to move on. Trevor went back to help Azure (who was almost completely spent - I hadn't realized till later when I talked with Azure - that they ran. They were so concerned that they didn't even take a moment to rest) while the rest of us packed up to continue to the river. It had taken Trevor and Azure 22 minutes to get to the river - so we knew we'd be there in no time.

(to be continued)

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Monday, June 11, 2012


(I'm not getting paid for this, and in fact - no one at Vibram headquarters is even aware of me ... I'm just passionate about my Vibrams)

As you can see, my vibrams are well used. That's because I LOVE them.

Last minute ... literally, last minute - I decided to join the family on a Grand Canyon adventure. We'd been planning for months to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up again. But as the Vegas summer got hotter and hotter, I bowed out. Heat and I don't get along. And the word is that the canyon walls reflect the sun and the temperature reaches upward of 120 f. It hits 80 at home and I'm a wimpy whiner. Something about my body (I inherited from my mother, she inherited it from her mother) ... our in-house temperature regulators don't really work. Hit a certain temperature and our heat rises exponentially. We become flushed and nearly unable to function. Sweating doesn't cool us off like it should. Anyway, Friday morning came and it was time to get the family packed for their grand adventure. One of our daughters had been sick - really sick. I didn't want to send her on this hike. So it was either we both go, or we both stay. If Sierra went, I needed to be there with her. I woke up early, donned my vibrams, and headed out to fill the car with gas and buy some last-minute camping food. When I got home, Brad called the Canyon and found that this weekend was unseasonably cool. Rather than reaching 120 degrees, it should only be 102. Call me insane, but that sounded cool to me. Sierra and I scrambled to pack, and before we could double-think it, we were all off to the Grand Canyon!

We met up with Trevor and his 5-year-old son, Jace, parked our cars and hopped on the bus that would take us to the South Kaibab Trail. My husband is an outdoor genius. He reads a lot, but also instinctively knows a lot. So we were well prepared with sunscreen, neck coolers and water. Lots and lots of water. Oh! Let me say here that even though Brad really does know best when it comes to outdoor activities, we disagreed strongly on one point. With the hot desert sun, Brad insisted we wear long cotton pants and long-sleeved cotton shirts to protect our skin. He knows how horrible a sunburn can be on a hike like this. My only stipulation was this: I promised to slather as much sunscreen on me and the girls as often as he wanted ... but we would dress down. I was the only person I saw the entire 3 days in a skirt.

But really ... it might look goofy, but without a doubt I felt the breezes better than anyone!
So, back to the hike: It was about 5pm when we began our descent. I was interested to see all the day-hikers ... lots of people head to the canyon and hike an hour or so down, then back up again. Me? If I weren't fulfilling a bucket-list wish, I'd just enjoy the view from the top! Especially with this thought: doing the easy part first, knowing you have a steep incline waiting for you ... ugh! That's too hard on my psyche!

The South Kaibab Trail is SPECTACULAR! That's one reason why Brad chose this route for us. From the top to the bottom, the beauty is indescribable. Our plan was to do the easy part (going down) in one evening, camp at Bright Angel Campground on The Colorado River, then take two days to hike back up. We did follow the plan, but it wasn't exactly as smooth as it sounded. First of all, going down really is the easy part, but "easy" is relative.

The first hour or so we took a kazillion pictures. There were so many places to stop and gaze at the magnificence before us. I couldn't help remembering Robert Service's poem, The Call of The Wild. Particularly the phrase: "Have you gazed on naked grandeur where there's nothing else to gaze on, Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore?" That describes every step down the South Kaibab. With a heaven-sent breeze, and the rim temperature in the 70s, we were very comfortable. And in my vibrams, I didn't get the toes knocking against my shoes and bruising me under my toenails. We have at least 2 members of our family with purple toes who will soon be minus a couple of toenails! As we descended, the temperature got warmer and our stops for water more frequent.

(to be continued)

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