cherisa hawkins

I Hiked The Grand Canyon

cherisa hawkins
I Hiked The Grand Canyon
 

RIP to my toes. Other than 1 or 2 serious blisters and a lost toenail I survived and my trip was brutal but amazing. I’m glad I challenged myself and took this epic trip for my 30th birthday.

 

So, how does one find themselves in the bottom of the Grand Canyon camping on the banks of the Colorado river? A few months after my father passed I decided that I wanted to take a major hike, somewhere epic for my 30th birthday. The last year had been completely rough and I knew I needed to do something to help me grieve the loss of my father. Originally I had planned to take a trip to Cancun with my close friends but felt that I really needed to do something that I could always look back on and make – not only me, but my father proud. I knew it was part of the grieving process, making a rash decision, but I didn’t care. I convinced myself that I would prepare, train and work as hard as possible to turn this “rash” decision into the best experience of my life.

 

Hermit Creek
 

About a week before my trip, Just Roughin It Adventures called me to inform me that the trip planned for my birthday weekend had failed to book enough people and they would have to cancel that hike. They were great with offering to move me to another, longer hike and would offer me a discount for the inconvenience. I accepted and a week later I was on the plane to Arizona. I later found out that my original hike had been switched to a slightly more complicated trail. A small detail the customer service rep failed to mention, surprising both me and my guide when I told him how I ended up on this trail. Luckily, he was an amazing guide who both challenged and helped me during this trip.

 
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We would be hiking the 25 mile Hermit to Monument Loop trail. As described on the tour groups site

“At one point in time, this trail was considered the best in the canyon. Some sections of the trail are still paved with stones that were laid by the Santa Fe Railroad 100 years ago.”

 
Trail map
 

Hermit trail was the hardest thing that I’ve ever attempted, physically. I’ve never pushed myself so hard and felt so miserable, tired, and happy. To be fair, much of the miserable portion of the trip came from my hiking boots. They worked fine for our “hills” in Georgia but not so much the steep switchbacks, landslides and boulders of the Grand Canyon.

My feet were done 2 hours into the hike! I’m stubborn and didn’t want to ruin the trip and force the entire group to turn back, so I pushed forward convincing myself that it would get better. How? I have no f*king clue, lol. When we reached the Cathedral stairs I was sure that I would either need an amputation or a $15,000 helicopter rescue. A rescue that could only be obtained if I could convince the Rangers that I was dying.  I didn’t think blisters would qualify even though I personally felt like dying. Some how I made it to Hermit creek, setup my tent and promptly laid my ass inside and didn’t move again until the next morning. There was no exploring to find the Hermit falls down the river or swimming in the banks. Ya girl was DONE.

 
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Day #2

The next day was about 50% better because I removed my hiking socks and continued on with only my stockings that I wear under my socks to help with friction. We continued for another 5 miles to the Colorado River down the semi-dry riverbed of Monument Creek. Either this hike was much more manageable or like my guide suggested, my body was accumulating to the work. I couldn’t be sure if he was BS’in me by trying some Jedi mind trick to get me through it all or if it was true. We hadn’t eaten any of the food from my pack that morning or the night before so I was still lugging around about 30-35lbs. Mainly because I really overpacked. We arrived at the Colorado river and my breath was taken away immediately. It’s hard to describe just how beautiful the entire Canyon could be, but the river just pushed the beauty past comprehension.

 
 
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About an hour after reaching the river a storm blew in from the North Rim. The temperature dropped from 84 degrees to about 40 and the darkest storm clouds I've ever seen rolled in. After eating dinner we called it a night and waited out the storm. I love storms, even while I'm camping. The rain on the tent lulls me to sleep in most cases. This storm though, ya girl was convinced me and my tent would be blown into the river! It was INSANE. The temperature continued to drop until it reached 25 degrees! We found out the next morning that there was a snow storm up at the rim of the canyon. The Grand Canyon was living up to its reputation of extreme temperature changes. 

Day #3

After a long night we woke to clear skies and highs in the 80's. Our guide allowed us to sleep in an extra 2 hours today before packing up camp after a filling breakfast. We enjoyed a slower paced, shorter hike back up Hermit's creek to our third camp ground at Monument Creek. 

 
 
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Monument Creek was by by far my favorite camping site on the entire trip! It was a little beautiful oasis in the middle of this big beautiful canyon. Ever site and trail featured beautiful red, orange and yellow rocks and monuments, but Monument creek was full of green and beautiful wild flowers. I setup my tent as quick as I could and ran off to explore. Before leaving camp my guide took a moment to warn me about Mountain lions. Fun fact: Did you know women are twice as likely to have an encounter with a mountain lion in the canyon? Why? Because we squat to pee. To a mountain lion we look like we are ready to mate or pounce, so they are more likely to get close to investigate. Luckily, this campground had a composting toilet so I managed to avoid confusing any lions lurking in the tall grass. 

 
 
We had a full day of exploring the area and I wished we had another day to stay in this beautiful place. 

We had a full day of exploring the area and I wished we had another day to stay in this beautiful place. 

 

Day #4

At 3:00am we woke up early to grab a quick breakfast and start our ascent out of the Canyon. I am still completely surprised that I was able to get any sleep the night before. My nerves seemed to be at an all time high as I didn't know what to expect of our trip out of the canyon. As I mentioned previously, my descent on the first day was completely miserable due to my boots. I was completely terrified that leaving the canyon would not only be physically demanding but painful. To my surprise my guide was correct and it was much easier heading out of the canyon than going in. We headed out in pitch black only with the stars and headlamps to lead us. We stopped at a famous lookout point around dawn to watch the sunrise over the canyon. 

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At this very moment I was the proudest that I've ever been at anything I've accomplished. I started this goal as a tribute to my Father's life and I left with a love for hiking and celebrating the outdoors. Some thought my trip was crazy and out of character for a woman (especially one of color) traveling alone. But I think it was the best thing I could have ever done for myself to help cope with the grief of losing my father. I proved to myself that yes, sometimes life can truly suck, but that shouldn't stop me from pushing forward and kicking ass. Get out there and kill it ladies!