In less than one month, I’ll start my trek into the Grand Canyon and, hopefully, climb out on the other side as a member of the Rim to Rim Club. I’ve been training at the gym and on the trail to get my body ready. I’ve used my Google-Fu to to get my psyche ready. I’ve collected and tested my gear to get it ready. So, after all that, I should count on being ready, right? Ha ha ha! Wrong!
Here’s just a short list of things I’m absolutely not ready for.
They’re already having daytime temperatures of 116° at Phantom Ranch. The National Park Service, in fact, recommends not entering the canyon at all during this heat wave. What’s it going to look like a month from now? I try to get outside in the heat much as possible, but the hottest day we’ve had so far this year was 93°. I will never, ever have training conditions that hot in the Hudson Valley. I do well with heat usually. The internet is full of hints and tips on how to deal with the July heat in the Canyon. But, like so many other aspects of this journey, I can’t know until I get there if it’s something I can manage. I can only continue to get out there in the heat and hope for the best.
I can’t replicate or train for the elevation I’ll experience in the Grand Canyon. Slide Mountain, the highest point in the Mid-Hudson Valley, is just over 4,000 feet high. My town’s highest point is 240 feet above sea level. The elevation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon is literally ten times higher than that. I’ll start my hike at 8,000 feet on the North Rim and I’ll end it on the South Rim at 7,000 feet. Not technically high altitude, but much, much higher than I’m used to. I feel slightly better about being unable to prepare for the altitude than I do about the heat for two reasons: 1) I will have 36 hours in Flagstaff to acclimate and 2) the average elevation in Yellowstone National Park is 8,000 feet, and I didn’t even notice it. Admittedly, I also didn’t hike 5 – 7 miles a day in Yellowstone with a 30 lb pack, but still.
I am terrified that I will be physically unable to finish the hike. Sure, I’ve been training for a year. No matter what I do I will not know whether my body is ready to hike the Grand Canyon from rim to rim until I am there doing it. Going as part of a group builds in a cheering section (as long as my hike-mates aren’t total assholes) but also opens me up to the prospect of being the annoying weakling who holds everyone back because she can’t carry her weight or, worse, has to quit. I have nightmares about this. I wake up every day wondering, Am I ready?
Even if I am perfectly capable, everything that usually makes my body function properly could just as soon fail at any moment! I could contract the flu. I could contract Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. I could be bitten by a poisonous spider, twist my ankle, blow my ACL or suffer a stroke. As long as I inhabit this mortal coil there is a chance that my body will be the thing that prevents me from completing the hike.
On the other hand…
I don’t want to give the impression that I am not excited beyond words that this trip is mere weeks away now. I’ve waited my whole life to do this. It’s finally happening, it’s real, and the fact that I am absolutely terrified does not interfere with my sense of thrilled anticipation. Am am anxious, yes, because I don’t know what’s going to happen. More than that, I’m anxious to go, to get there, to do it and find out that I can.