50 States Challenge: Arizona

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

June 24 - 28, 2015
Grand Canyon/Phoenix/Sedona

I did not want to go to Arizona.  No way, no how.  It. Was. A Struggle.  The week before I was in Pittsburgh surprising my dad for Father's Day, and the week after I was headed to Pittsburgh for our church festival.  There just wasn't enough time to fit Phoenix into the schedule.

But, there I was landing in Phoenix on a Wednesday afternoon, immediately hauling all of our luggage into the rental Suburban and heading up towards the Grand Canyon.  I did what I do best: I slept.

We arrived at the Yavapai Lodge a little after 11.  If you're going to head to the Grand Canyon on the Southern Rim, I would suggest staying here for two reasons: the General Store and AIR CONDITIONING.  Some of the other lodges and areas were closer or had prettier views, but it's the only one with air conditioning.  In that heat in late June, this is a vital piece to survival after a day hiking.  Also, the General Store is in the same area so you have easy access to food or making your own without breaking the bank at the other restaurants. This place is known for being booked up to a year in advance, so you have to be on  your game with this place.

Thursday morning, I couldn't deny the excitement rising in my chest at the thought of witnessing one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World with my own eyes.  After a delayed breakfast, we took the Grand Canyon Village bus and started our journey toward the Bright Angel Lodge.
 We chose to do our hiking first and take the red bus route later on.  We just couldn't wait!  We started down with my boyfriend, his brother and his parents before they decided to turn around.

Nothing prepares you for the views.  There is no picture that captures what you're seeing with your own eyes.  You cannot describe it, it's hard to believe it isn't a movie image, and you can stare at it so long but it will never piece together in your brain how this massiveness exists.  The grays and reds and greens and browns, its just this explosiveness of natural color against the backdrop of a blue sky filled with wispy white clouds.

We continued on a little bit further before realizing the heat was making us hungrier much sooner than we anticipated.  So we started the trek up.  And let me tell you: it. is. a. trek.  What seems so easy going down, is not so much going back up.  Of course, I whined.  I whined because it was there beating in my chest as I struggled to hike my way up: the real reason I didn't want to come on this trip, lurking behind every crevice and slip in the dirt.

We returned to the top, ate, and decided to take quick showers to remove some of the day's grime before returning to the red bus route.  My boyfriend's parents took the bus while we walked along the rim.  We met up at one of the last stops and watched the sun go down.
That night, we ate dinner at the Bright Angel Lodge where the waitress was very friendly, but couldn't stop telling me I looked like Kendall Jenner.  Insert an image of me rolling my eyes here.

The next morning, My boyfriend's parents were still a little worn out from our journey and opted to not do any additional hiking.  So my boyfriend, his brother, and I decided to venture on the orange bus route past our lodge.

When we started to head down the South Kaibab Trail, I faked a panic attack.  The dread of knowing I shouldn't be there began to rise in my throat and I used it as an opportunity to desert the boys. I stopped, waved them ahead, and went back up the trail.  I walked around the rim and found a twisted tree with low hanging branches I could just squeeze myself into.  I closed my eyes and I breathed in the moment.  The pure air and the trees so far off into the distance they looked like little dots grounded me momentarily.  Ahead of me, the ridge sloped down.  The tree held me firm, even though we both couldn't lie to one another: I shouldn't be here.

Taken while sitting in my tree

I wandered back and forth between the opening of the trail and "my" tree when I noticed the mules penned up and eating out of their troughs.  I watched other tourists call over to them, a few catching their attention.  I waited for a few buses to depart before I finally walked over.  When I did, a brown mule immediately found her (his?) way over to me (for the story's sake let's make her a female).  The other mules continued eating, but this one stayed with me.  She leaned into my hand, urging me to continue.  Sliding my hands up and down her mane through the fence, I wanted to remove the bars and send her off to ride the trails solo or not.  Maybe she just wanted to watch the tourists get off the bus like me.  I didn't care, but I wanted to get her out.

I heard my boyfriend shouting over my shoulder.  They'd finished the trail and we bolted for the bus to make it back to the room in time for check out.

After grabbing a quick lunch, we set our figurative sights on the three hour drive to Phoenix.

This is where my Arizona story ends, because the real ending isn't very pleasant.  Looking back, I take on some of the blame.  I didn't want to be in Arizona.  I didn't do much to hide that fact.  The truth is I left Arizona knowing the countdown started.  I knew it before I boarded my plane, I knew it when I sat in my tree, and I knew it when I took off two days later.  It was simply easier to keep lying to myself and hope I was wrong.

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