Into the fifth hour of hiking at a creep, I estimated I was half-way to the camp. Donna hiked with ease retracing her steps now and again to check on me. Few hikers were on the trail. One couple passed without speaking or breaking stride.
With ease, a couple came up the trail stopping long enough to say they were from a flat state, also. To condition, they'd put on their packs and climbed up and down a grain elevator. Why didn't I think of that?
The trail had a wide spot I stepped into, but looked before I leaned on the wall. Stretching my vision outward, the color changes in the distance were astounding. Mother Nature's paint-chip slide-show displayed pink, fuchsia, lavender, rose, yellow, orange, bronze, brown, turquoise, purple and more. A tiny lizard zipped across my boot; an eagle flew in the distance below the Rim.
Scrunching sounds came from the left. I waited off the trail. The sober mule train leader almost smiled. Maybe it was the heat. The temperature had progressed from the 60's this morning to the mid to high eighties. I didn't have to move to the outside this time, thank God. The seven passed without incident.
Thankful for the opportunity to see God's unusual, awesome creation first hand, and be in its innards, I stepped back on the trail. Two hikers coming up the trail stopped, smiled, and related they were grandfather and grandson hiking from Rim to Rim. The man said the most drag-outs are 18 to 25 and male; they don't know their pace. If a helicopter is needed, the cost is in the thousands. He was proud he and his grandson were able to make it on their own. Good for them. I hoped I would.
The moleskin on my feet helped, but I should have put some on the ends of my toes. My boots fit well with two pairs of socks, but with the steep grade, my toes were getting too friendly with the toe-end of my boots. That kind of toe-end closeness I reserve for my dancing shoes.
More scrunching from behind warned of a third mule train approaching. By now I was almost too tired to be scared to stand to the outside and face the mules, but not quite. The grumpy leader stopped, leaned toward me, and said, "Just wait 'til you try to get out."
His words shot through me, hit my wall of determination, and brought back a red flag. My temper flared, but I didn't say a word. Silently I vowed I would not be a drag-out, so help me God! The eleven passed. I straightened up and stepped back on the trail fiercely determined to make it in and out on my own two feet. He wasn't getting a drag-out fee from me.
Donna made it to camp before I did, looked back and saw me bent over with my load. She couldn't see my tears, or know how hard I was working just to walk, or how many hundred times I'd said, "I think I can." My mission was keeping me going.
Daylight was leaving the Canyon floor making room for dark, I had to keep moving. At 6:30 pm a young man came up the trail and asked my name. I complied. A search party of one, he frowned and said, "You should have been in camp by now. Could I take your pack for you?" Too exhausted to speak, I nodded.
Arriving at Cottonwood Campground I thought I was in Africa: scrub brush, big rocks, and powdery, sandy, flat earth, and I couldn't fall off. Donna helped me to the outhouse-sized First-Aid station for knee bandages, Gatorade, and, as if I didn't know, instructions to stay off my feet. We had hiked down 4,000 feet of elevation over seven miles.
Leaning together we crept to the creek, rolled up our jeans, took off our boots, and plunged our feet into the cold water. Oh, it felt good. I remembered all I'd eaten since breakfast was one energy bar - no appetite. My canteen was empty, and I had sweat out every drop of waste.
Donna bust out laughing. Short on humor and with effort, my eyes followed where she pointed. It was funny. In the creek were double-bed bed-springs.
copyright 2005 Red Convertible Travel Series