Monday, November 12, 2007

A Run Through Time, Part I

I recently returned from a long-planned run across the Grand Canyon. Yeah, it’s been done before, and yes, I had counted on making the return trip, but alas, it was not to be. The whole experience, from the moment we pulled away from our new home, to those squinty hours when you just want to get out of the car and go to bed, was a typical spectrum of good fortune through moments best kept subdued.

Shortly into that first night of Wednesday, October 24th, as we pulled into a Subway in Buena Vista, my wife and I bantered about in our usual manner, and the inevitable subject came up of ‘being lucky that we’ve never hit a large mammal’. A couple hours later, I was plucking loose parts of what used to be our Forerunner’s front bumper after taking out a young male deer at 55 MPH. I’m quite certain he was killed instantly, although I have heard of deer walking away from collisions at even faster speeds. I did not stop to find out. Thankfully, none of us was injured (the unGuy didn’t even wake up and the dogs were none the worse for wear), and the car even survived another 1500 miles on the highway with only one headlight and no AC or heat. We spent the night in Ridgway with a couple of friends of ours, Michael and Darcy (I really need to start taking more pictures of people). Thursday was spent eying the remains of days before ‘striking it rich’ became synonymous with casinos and Lotto. (In the midst of the tailings piles and stamp mills, I subliminally reiterated my wish to travel back to the turn of the 19th century in the form of a bird or some other inconspicuous creature, to observe the daily life of a prospector. That arduous way of life just fascinates me.)

Most of the remainder of Thursday was spent chasing the sun, through bottle-riddled reservation highways lined with vacant jewelry shacks and tumbleweed motels. The thought of another critter-plagued night of driving made the miles peel off like roadkill on hot asphalt, and the gradual downshifting to touristy speeds within Grand Canyon National Park only heightened our anticipation of a good night’s sleep. Traffic was oddly absent from our drive into the park, and navigating the ribbon road with one headlight proved to be difficult, as we passed the unlit gateway to Road E1 three times before I finally had to pull over and locate it on foot. It was barely beyond the width of our Forerunner and marked on either side by inconspicuous boulders. Once on this unmaintained stretch, we chose a flat spot in a bed of pine needles and cones and proceeded to set up camp. Although our run departure time was only a few hours away, I felt compelled to contact Dave and his lady Veener, who were staying at the Yavapai Lodge within Grand Canyon Village. They were relieved to hear that we had arrived safely and warmly welcomed us into their love lair. Entering their room was like arriving at a grazer’s Shangri-La. Almost every horizontal surface was occupied by some sort of healthy foodstuff, and I imagined the four of us lounging around the room, watching the night pass by as all of the comfort foods within arm’s reach are gradually consumed. I hastily drew myself out of this driving-induced funk and accepted a cold glass of water with fervor. Conversations ebbed and flowed, and soon the realization of the impending trek struck hard. It was literally four hours away, and I was nowhere near that sleepy feeling. Eventually, my responsible self won out, and we retreated to the campsite.

Like most competitive runners, I like to arrange my clothes and gear the night before, so that I’m not forced to think about anything but eating and getting dressed the day of the race. In my haste, I’ve left the house without some of the most basic items, including shoes. I swore that would never happen again, and this evening was no exception. Arranging each item in almost an OCD manner, I completed the routine and hesitantly slunk into the tent. I managed to crawl out two more times to add things I had previously forgotten. It was now 11:00 PM. With the alarm clock placed on my pillow next to my head, I miraculously slipped into a wonderful sleep, broken only by the periodic panic that results in checking the display on the alarm. First it was 12:00, then 12:35, then 1:03, and finally 1:19, 1:24, 1:27, 1:28, and 1:29. Why I didn’t just get up at that point, I’ll never know. I suppose I was secretly hoping the alarm would validate my time of arousal. Soon, I was tip-toeing around the campsite, aiming to dress as quickly as possible in the snappy air. Since the gear had been laid out in advance, I was prepared to leave the campsite sooner than I had expected. I took the opportunity to kiss Aspen goodbye and jog to the South Kaibab Trailhead. The route followed the rim, and the warm breath of the canyon occasionally rushed across my skin, as yesterday’s heat rose from the floor below. After about 0.5 mi I arrived at the parking lot to the excited chants of Dave, Chris, and Veener, who made it clear that her involvement would be restricted to ‘You guys are crazy’-type quips. After a few more minutes of stretching and clever chitchat, our months of training were to culminate into a brief moment of pause before descending into the Big Hole.

Coming up, Part II: No lamps required. Dave smells bacon? Why do my shoes smell like ass?


Andrea said...

I bet you didn't know that my sister Laurie (and her husband Jason and their two kids) live in Ridgway...

-- Andrea in New Mexico

funkylegs said...

Hi Andrea! Great to hear from you. Beware, you may be slated for a ‘Nostalgia’ post sometime soon. ;-)

Dave T Butler said...


Still waiting on the remaining account of your part of the journey.