Interlude 2 – Bipeds
It seems to us both that we can’t go anywhere in AZ without meeting folks from PA. Jake is from York and while I am kinda from nowhere, my permanent address since October of 2003 has been Millersville. I stopped to encourage two gals having a difficult ascent, and we chatted for about 5 minutes. They were from Juniata College in PA, and said the rest of their group was still below. I did see more of that group as I descended. There were several strings of 2-3 folks and two larger groups. The first large group was 10 kids taking a break in the shade of an outcropping talking loudly about which kind of television set was the best and who could or could not tell the difference. The second group was larger and I could hear them from at least a half mile out talking loudly about degree paths and other programs at their school.
That is what I am saying about the first 1.5. I love tech and degree programs and talk about that stuff often. I have even become heated in discussion and/or debate and raised my decibel levels. I am fine with people enjoying their own passions and interests. However, I don’t come to the GRAND CANYON to hear you talk about this stuff. It gets a lot better below Cedar Ridge.
We met a few hikers climbing out after longer day hikes. (I don’t know why anyone would plan an ascent of South Kaibab, especially a daytime ascent.) Jake and I met up at least once an hour if not more, but we did our descents on our own. This turned out to be unfortunate for one group of travelers. They were ascending and came upon Jake first as I was about a ¼ mile uphill yet. One of them made a joke about buying some water and Jake stopped them and filled up their bottles from one of his gatorades. I saw the same group a bit later and they just said, “Hello Sir” and jumped of the trail to give me room before I could do anything else, so I simply said hello and walked on. If they had said anything, I also had at least 1 liter to spare and would have gladly. It wasn’t upsetting or anything, but their behavior was just kinda weird so I moved on quicker without attempting to engage in the same way I had with other groups.
Next there was a string of about 14 Japanese youngsters, maybe teenagers, maybe twenty-somethings, spread out over 300 yards. I talked with the 4 in the Vanguard for 2 minutes, then saw the string of folks behind them approaching. Lots of hellos as these folks passed. The guy in the rear looked beat and like he was about to shout to his friends but didn’t. I noticed he had stopped in the meager shade of a tiny tree. I told him that where their lead walker was now, just 150 yards or so up the path there was a very wide cool section of trail in full shade. He thanked me and said in about ¼ mile, turn around and I would see a big turtle. I took no chances and stopped every 50-100 feet, but I never saw that turtle. It was still an awesome piece of advice that I bet I would not have been given if I had simply passed him by, even with a friendly wave.
At the privies at the Tipoff, I met a group of three hikers, one of whom seemed to be in bad shape. They were setting up a sparse rest zone in the shade of the privy station and getting that dude resting on a sleeping pad. I checked on them and offered of my gear, but they had plenty of water and food, just needed a break from the sun. As I was leaving I heard them say that they would wait there until around 6 PM before moving on, which sounded like a wise plan.
While Jake and I were resting and hydrating at the spigot by the river in between the two suspension bridges, one hiker approached. We asked if he needed water and he said he was fine and started to move off. Something clicked in my brain and I said, “There is a spigot. We would gladly give you ours, but this is piped in.” And he came back and filled up. I realized it was one of the guys from the Tipoff rest-house group.
We learned that his friend was more tired from lack of sleep the night before than anything sun or hiking related. After a few minutes of chit-chat, turns out that this guy is from State College, PA. Not but a moment from the hunting camp J. Piper and I lived on in Lewistown during the summer of 93. The guy knew the CVS where we worked on the demo/remodeling crew. The guy’s good friend was from York – actually Dallastown, which is of course exactly where Jake is from. And the guy’s friend went to the same high school. He was 10 years younger, but still – there is some kind of weird AZ/PA thing happening.
We met Rosy and her companion at Indian Garden. Rosy was the one suffering from bad dehydration and muscle fatigue. They had 9 total in their group but friend X had stayed behind with Rosy while everyone else went ahead. We were sitting on the benches right at the water spigot, so offering water was no good. We had no Gatorade or other source of electrolytes. We offered her what we did have left, Cliff bars or a 7-layer burrito from the Bell. But it was all a no go. If this had been anywhere else on the trail, if Rosy had been alone instead of with a friend, if Rosy had been with a friend who was also hurting, or who did not know about backcountry hiking, I would have stayed longer – maybe even all night. But, this is Indian Garden on a pleasant night in May. The lowest expected overnight temp at that elevation was 50-60. There is good endless treated water, a privy, 15-30 hikers camped within 50-100 yards, and a manned Ranger Station 200 yards up the trail. I told her she was going to be OK, listen to her friend, drink up – slowly, and that if she needed to stay right there all night, that would be just fine and she would be ok. Then I headed out. Jake stayed a while longer. Another guy came up the moment I left who was some sort of adventure tour guide fella and gave more advice about damp cloths and getting electrolytes and talked more about the Ranger Station and gave firmer advice about “stay here for the night”. Jake felt better about leaving after that and headed up also.
About 1.5 miles from the Bright Angel Trailhead, we stopped and talked with one Rim-to-Rim dude who was just getting started then, about 11 PM. Granted, we just finished talking about Dehydration Girl, but this is what I am saying about the danger levels of the corridor trails at night. You will still not be alone, and in many ways, you are in less danger than during the day (as long as you have a good headlamp!) After dark, you are more likely to meet the runners, marathoners, and rim-to-rim, or rim-to-rim-to-rim crowd, who are less likely to be carrying much in the way of extra supplies, but will help you out and at a minimum be able to send backup to your location. The reason these folks carry so little is that on Bright Angel there is water and a privy roughly every 1.5 miles!
I was still feeling good and rocking well in the last mile. I did have sore muscles, but it was nowhere near the 08 levels of pain. Suddenly, I saw a person about 10 yards ahead of me and stopped to also catch my breath and take in the stars. When they moved on I noted what should have been obvious before, they had no light – which is why I came upon them so suddenly. I started up after them trying to keep my light aimed at their feet and when I got within 10 yards I yelled out, “Is this helping or hurting you?”
The person turned and I saw that it was a man, he looked tired and a little scared, and he had little to no english. He let me catch up and I pantomimed to ask if he needed food or water and he waved those off. He stood aside for me to go ahead. At first I think he thought I just wanted to go on past, but quickly we found a decent enough pace and method for light sharing. I wanted to ask him if we were going too fast or too slow or if he needed to stop and rest, but I think that just everyone being tired and it being some time between 11 and midnight, it came across that we both just wanted to get up out of the Canyon.
Jake had been trailing on the ascent both from getting a later start than I did and from being tired and feeling run down. I waited for him at both of the rest houses and at several other locations, and we did a good job of having almost constant contact with one another via headlamp. I knew that he would be able to figure out what was happening with me and the new guy and he did and kicked it into another gear to first catch us and then keep the guy pinned between us in cones of light.
When we did get to the top I pantomimed again about the food and water and obviously feeling much better now that he was safe, he said, “I have hotel” and he pointed. He thanked us both many times and said, “No power. Electric go out.” So he had been prepared, sorta, just ran out of batteries for his light. And he proved the universal rule: whatever other country you are from – your English is much better than our XXXXXX (your native language).
He started off down this kinda dangerous rocky hill towards the road that I was not super comfortable with when we did it at 11:30 AM, and Jake and I jumped into action and followed him so he would not fall here in the home stretch. Once he made it to the sidewalk, he thanked us again and we went back to our car.