Goshen News, Goshen, IN

February 22, 2014

PLAIN SIDE: A hike into the Grand Canyon an awe-inspiring journey

By LOREN BEACHY Columnist
Goshen News

---- — “Come on ...”

My thoughts, though not manifesting themselves into words, are directed at the driver of the shuttle bus hauling us to the head of the South Kaibab trail here at the Grand Canyon.

I’ve had my healthy breakfast, complete with an edge of caffeine. I’ve ridden the shuttle all the way here to the visitors’ center. The other five in our group left a while ago to start down the trail. Now I’m chomping at the bit to begin.

It is 12:05 p.m. when I get to the South Kaibab trail head at the rim of one of the seven wonders of the world. Without wasting time trying to wax eloquent about the Grand Canyon, let me just say this to those who haven’t seen it. The pictures are awe inspiring. However, they do not do justice to standing on the edge and gazing at this yawning, colorful expanse.

Today I’m in a hurry though. The others left a while ago and I’m afraid I won’t catch up on the way down. I start hustling down, jogging sometimes down the steps of the switchbacks. Soon a sweat forms. The weather here in Arizona is warm, unlike the climate we left in ... no, we’re not going to discuss that.

Soon the others appear ahead of me on the trail. Dad, Mom, sister Emily, her friend Esther Lehman and Dad’s right-hand man, Owen Yoder, are strung out along the trail. Dad had surgery on his leg a week ago, now he’s hiking this seven-mile trail into the Grand Canyon. He’s either reckless or brave, but I am glad he decided to do it. At least he and Mom are moving at a fairly methodical pace.

Their pace allows us younger four to kill some time. We stop about two-thirds of the way down on a kitchen-table-sized rock overlooking the Colorado River and play a game of Rook.

This rock has probably seen lots of people and happenings in the thousands of years it has perched here. To my knowledge though, the record will reflect that the first game ever played on Rook Rock was lost by Emily Beachy and Owen Yoder despite a gallant effort.

We have time to chat here, too.

I find out that during an earlier discussion, the question came up of whether or not our tour guide of yesterday would take us again. Esther is confident he would. “He knows which side his butter is breaded on,” she explains.

After the game, we continue down the trail, noticing things becoming greener as we drop in elevation. Mom and Dad beat us to our destination, Phantom Ranch.

Phantom Ranch, located at the bottom of the canyon, is unique in that all the supplies are either carried in by humans or packed in by the mules that are resting in the corral when we walk by.

Nevertheless, they feed us well during our two-night, one-day stay. We enjoy it despite many of us doing the “Canyon Shuffle” due to our sore legs.

While hiking during the day down here, the others meet a gentleman that asks them if this is the stop for the shuttle bus. Deadpan man.

I corner him in the lodge that evening and ask if I’m on the right road to San Antonio.

“No,” he corrects me. “This is the road to Miami. Go down to the river, take a left and when you get to Dallas, you’ve gone too far.”

Thank you. That clears up my confusion.

Thursday we eat breakfast at 5:30 a.m. and are on the Bright Angel Trail shortly thereafter. We stop and snack at Indian Gardens. This is the half-way point in the nine-mile trail but we’ve only gained about a third of the altitude we need. The difficult part remains.

At some point, the notion enters my head to see if I can reach the top by noon. Time for high gear.

The trail climbs rapidly. I puff, sweat, walk briskly and sometimes jog. Man, this is a grueling climb. The weather is cool though, and I have eaten well. This is optimal. The ice on the trail for the last mile is not.

When I finally reach the rim, it is 12:08 p.m. and my legs are hollering. I gaze into the canyon from the rim once more. I’ve just spend two days in it, but the view is still gripping.

Awesome is a word that is much overused and misused today. It does though, apply to God’s Grand Canyon.

Loren Beachy is an auctioneer and elementary school teacher. He can be contacted by writing to 14047 Ind. 4, Goshen, IN 46528 or by calling 642-1180.