Tag Archives: Belle

Update and an Epic Challenge

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No, I’m not Photoshopped in. That’s actually your very own scaredy-cat blogger on the South Kaibab Trail May 20 at the Grand Canyon! (Photo by Andrea Mankin)

Remember me? It’s been almost three years since I’ve blogged here at old Random Snippets & Apertures. That’s a loooong time for neither a snippet nor photo to be read or seen.

But good news, my friends! I’m back . . . albeit just for a few blog posts. Let’s catch up a bit!

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Our expanding family! From left: Belle, Jake, your favorite old broad, C.J., and the Mister.

First, Jake, who is 25 and still works for our business, is getting married in late July! He met Belle, who has moved here from Oslo, Norway, in an online discussion forum about six years ago. Once she came to visit a couple years ago, they knew they were soulmates. The Mister and I adore her, too! We’re thrilled that Jake found love and happiness.

Second, C.J., who is 22, just graduated magna cum laude from Sam Houston State University with his marketing degree. He’s going to be staying in Huntsville to do a paid internship, but we will get to spend time with him for a couple months. Cue the happy dance music!

Which brings us to the photo at the top of the blog. The short take: On May 20, I hiked 21 miles from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim at 7,260 feet to the North Rim at 8,250 feet in 15 hours and 29 minutes (which includes about a half hour in breaks). About seven miles down the steep, rutted, treacherous South Kaibab Trail, about seven miles across, and about seven miles up the steep North Kaibab Trail. 2,500 feet down. 5,500 feet up.

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I’m on the literal steps of the South Kaibab Trail. Jealous of my keen fashion sense? I’ll write about my apparel and gear choices in a future blog post. (Photo by Andrea Mankin)

Sometimes I still have trouble believing that I actually hiked across the Grand Freaking Canyon at age 63!

So what led to all of this?

Join me in a short trip back through time. In the late 1980s or early 1990s, I met Arlen Isham, a legendary, fellow Houston-area marathoner. He told me that he led Rim to Rim trips across the Grand Canyon. I remember thinking how cool that would be . . . and immediately tucking that thought away, as I contemplated my fear of heights and falling to my death in a canyon. Then I got busy with family and life, and I didn’t think about R2R (as it’s called) until last fall.

In September of 2015, my wonderful Aunt Goldie (my mom’s twin sister) was dying of end-stage leukemia. We chatted on the phone, and she said, “Don’t put off doing anything you really want to do. You never know what might happen.” I told her that I had always wanted to see and photograph the Grand Canyon.

“Go do it, kiddo!” she said.

At her funeral in October, I thought about those words. I made up my mind: I finally would see the Big Ditch! But how? And when?

The answer to those two questions would finally be revealed in early November last year when Arlen posted on Facebook that he was looking for people to fill his May 2017 Grand Canyon trip. I quickly e-mailed him about it and had my deposit winging its way towards him in nothing flat.

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This 64-step monster along Houston’s Buffalo Bayou Park is known (by me) as “the wicked step-mother.” It follows after four staircases I dubbed the “evil step-sisters” and a killer hill. We went up and down these (and more staircases) too many times, but they ended up being perfect training for crossing the Grand Canyon (darn it!).

Because I was coming off the mid-January Aramco Houston Half Marathon (my 13th!), I was in good cardio condition. However, Arlen quickly warned me that even marathoners can have trouble crossing the Grand Canyon, which is an inverted mountain with the hardest part at the end. He gave our group a rigorous 11-week training program that included lots of stairs and hills at Buffalo Bayou Park in Houston.

After I finished the easiest workout (the first one), my calves were killing me! I live in a one-story house and pretty much can avoid stairs everywhere I go. Suddenly I was going up and down 14 staircases multiple times, and it hurt! As in “I want my mommy” pain. Fortunately, Dr. Google had the relief plan: Calf compression sleeves, which I actually owned but rarely used. I wore them for every stair workout after that (as well as in the Canyon), and I never suffered from calf pain again.

The longest, toughest workout we endured was a triple loop of Buffalo Bayou Park a few weeks before our Canyon trip. We suffered through eight sets of the killer hill and four/four/three sets of the 14 staircases on each loop, ending up with 20 miles (in about seven hours) and almost 3,000 feet of elevation. All while carrying and drinking three liters of water in my CamelBak Sundowner, plus another liter of Gatorade and another liter of water in a bottle plus a bunch of snacks. Once we completed the triple loop, Arlen deemed us ready to tackle the Rim 2 Rim.

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Quite a sight: An elk and the south rim of the Grand Canyon!

My goal was to finish at least one Rim 2 Rim (South to North Rim), but I was hoping to also tack on the return journey after a day of rest. Considering that just seeing the Grand Canyon was my bucket-list item, I figured anything else I achieved would be great. Or is that Grand?

Next time on Random Snippets & Apertures: Deep breaths and baby steps as I hike across the Grand Canyon!