Hiking Mt. Humphrey’s with Near Frozen Feet

By: Izabella Rhomberg

We started our hike a slightly humid, but crisp day. This was the day of my amazing but scary adventure, and it started just like any other. It began with the sun creeping over the tallest mountain in Arizona, Mt Humphreys (12,613 ft.).  I didn’t know it, and I didn’t even sense it but, the day ahead of me would be a story I would be telling for a very long time. The trails ahead of me would become wet, frigid and scary, and yet oddly satisfying. I would soon  be climbing up and back down with a painful thumb and frozen feet. Of course, on some parts of the rocky trail, I would be towed like a toy sled by Jager, my very loyal and powerful Rhodesian Ridgeback.  He was just as excited to hike the trail as I was, so I held on for a while.

Our small group of four (which included Jäger) went through a large meadow at the edge of Snowbowl ski area.   There was a sign at the edge of the meadow that had our  trail info.  Five miles to the peak, and three thousand feet of elevation gain.  That means theres alot of switchbacks.  Now I could smell the sweet smell of pine trees. We  stopped quickly for a picture, “Smile”, Click, Snap went the camera. Further up the trail we were about to pass a small group of people, who were sitting on a log, munching on some trail mix. I clenched Jäger’s leash tightly, for I knew how he greets people (with a couple of kisses and a sniff sometimes where it probably shouldn’t be) and I didn’t want that to happen.  As we sped up, to rush  Jager past the people, I put my hand down a rock to  balance myself on the next large rock step.

lower trailI guess I must have kept it there a second to long, because Jäger continued to pull upward, and my hand caught on the rock and caused thumb’s nail to flip halfway back and off, tearing it from the skin under my nail. It also scraped my knuckle a bit. Under my nail had nearly turned black, it was purple. I clenched my hand and started to cry a bit because of the pain. We stopped at the log  and wrapped my Grand Canyon bandana around my wrist and hand to block the pain, but not enough to completely cut off circulation. After that our small group got back on the trail, we had some time to make up.  The faster I hiked the more my thumb throbbed.  I wanted to see the summit and a sore thumb was not really a reason to turn back.

As we continued hiking, switchback after switchback, the wind picked up.  The rocky trail got more and more exhausting. Then, finally our group saw the saddle between Mt. Humphreys and Agasiz. Soon we made it to the saddle for a rest and a quick snack. Everyone else was stopping and resting in the sunny saddle and eating too. We had a quick break and started our way to the summit!!!  As we left the saddle, we felt, and saw the clouds blowing up toward the peak.  We knew we had to hurry, even though it was only a little after 10:00 a.m.  Now we were above tree line and more exposed to the weather. It was an extremely rocky outcropping, that you could see both sides of the mountain from.  It felt pretty cool to be so high.

We passed so many people, which was not so easy on the narrow and rocky trail.  Just when you think you are near the end, the real summit appears!  It looked so far away at first, then it disappeared in clouds. We kept hiking, thinking it was just around the next corner.  Then, we arrived, it was hard to tell we were there at first, since the clouds were now all around us.The clouds were so thick that you could only see about 100 ft  around you. The weather was getting bad it, was cold and foggy. My iza humphreys mom and I had dealt with weather like this before on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, back in June. After 30 very long minutes we were finally at 12,633 ft in elevation, the summit!!!!!! Everybody (except for Jäger) signed the little log, took a few pictures, and  (since the clouds were rolling in even more) left for our very long descent down the mountain.

The weather was getting  even worse, it seemed like Mt. Washington but not as cold, and it mysteriously wasn’t raining. We were still on the outcropping when I saw a huge flash of bright light. I knew exactly what it was, it was lightning!!! I crouched down in shock, I waited 1…2…”BANG!” it was a huge crackle of thunder. Luckily when I froze everyone else did, too from complete shock (I think) . Everyone even me, had a shock wave of fear go through their bodies because every single person and pet took off at a faster pace than before. We heard a few more really loud crackles of thunder, which were especially louder to anybody above tree line, for we were in the clouds, so everything was closer.

Once we had gotten to the saddle it felt like rain, no stops in the saddle this time! Our group, along with every other group ran right into the tree line.  Then, what I saw was crazy, people were still going up, they didn’t even have the proper gear! I looked on the side of the trail next to me and saw hail!  “Hail!” I exclaimed and went faster but not too fast or I would slip. The hail hurt a lot when it landed on my head or my hands. Before we knew it we all were standing and walking in one and a half inch deep hail, that was even extremely wet and soggy. My mom , Jäger and I all stopped and huddled together like a bunch of penguins underneath a thick tree. We were going to wait out the hailstorm, because hailstorms are often very short and don’t last long. And sure enough, the cloud was so extraordinarily large that it lasted at least one and a half hours. After about five minutes or so it was actually getting worse! Both of us knew we had to keep going. I felt so bad for Jäger for he had no protection or anything, all he had was a short fur coat. Again, before we knew it, we were wading and slipping in about two inch deep hail. But still, people were still hiking up!!! I said to myself multiple times, “That’s crazy they must be really crazy.” My shoes weren’t waterproof and they didn’t keep enough heat in. I tried to stay on the upper side of the trail, the hail had partly turned to slush so I kept sliding no matter how hard I tried. The lower side of the trail was a tiny river and the icy hail floating in it. Unfortunately I kept slipping into it. making my feet even colder, considering the fact that there was already hail coming in around my ankles into my shoes! I soon lost all feeling in my feet, they were cold an numb with some pain at times.

I had put my rain coat on back up on the saddle, but it was only  one of my three life savers I had that day, which included a plastic poncho and a pair of rain pants. When I looked at the ground again I saw how the hail’s depth was about three inches!,   My toes felt frozen solid for every step I took was strange, and I was glad I didn’t trip on the tree roots I saw on the way up.  My mom held my arm tight and walked next to me for balance and also to keep me moving at a fast pace.  We were trying to get to the warmer lower elevation as quick  as we could.  We let Jäger off the leash and I got a ride on my Mom’s back, I was crying for my feet hurt so extremely bad. We came around a bend and what I saw was the cutest and sweetest thing. Jäger was standing in a four inch deep, muddy, puddle with hail floating in it he was shivering, but no matter how cold he was it didn’t matter but he was waiting just for me. Jäger ran up ahead again and we all continued our moaning and groaning especially me. Our only worries were either Jäger or I would get hypothermia. At some moments it felt like every minute was a hour and every second seems like a minute.

Finally, (after the bad weather) we caught sight of the meadow, I even caught a glimpse of the Landy!!!  When we arrived at the meadow, we all felt relieved.  It was strange, I was scared for the past two hours, but then I suddenly wanted to laugh, we all did.  We just started joking around, and wondered what the rest of our group was up to at the campsite.   We all looked back at what nearly was a total disaster for Jäger, and I saw a mountain that looked like it was covered in  snow, but what it really was, was deep hail and there even was another big, dark cloud on its way.  We quickly removed our wet packs and coat and hopped into the Land Rover and turned on the heat full blast, and just sat there for awhile before leaving.   We dried off Jäger before we left the parking lot. Each of us ended our adventure with a bagel in one hand and hot chocolate in the other hand (except Jäger who has no hands and slept nder a blanket the rest of the day).   I was extremely lucky to escape without hypothermia. So that was my amazing, but scary experience on Mt. Humphreys.

I will always, for the rest of my life remember the day

The End

Backpacking in the Grand Canyon

 

 

 Backpacking in the 

  Grand Canyon

By: Izabella

Info

Land Rover:  1 2003 Disco

Diva:  Izabella

Location:  Grand Canyon National Park

     * put food or food like items in Ammo cans A.S.A.P. (ammo cans are provided)

DAY ONE

Gctopview

      This is the day I have been waiting for since December.  We were finally leaving for the Grand Canyon, for my first backpacking trip.  The trip was six hours, a ton of gas and alot of patience.  As we got closer I saw a forest, but no Canyon.  I looked at the map for one last time to be sure that I was not dreaming.  Yup… I was at the Grand Canyon,  WAHOOO!!!!  We entered the park and looked out the window and saw two elk, and 1 chubby Smoky the Bear statue, and alot of tourists.

                                             Our first stop was the back country office to weigh our backpacks Bcweightbefore they closed for the day. My pack weighed around 18 lbs. without water. Next we walked out to look at the Canyon.  I was amazed at how beautiful it was.  I had only seen it in pictures and videos, but NEVER in real life before.  The size was massive, something so big I can’t describe it.  Along the path to the rim there were examples of the different rock layers of the Grand canyon.  There is some beautiful limestone, that I could only imagine climbing. We walked around some more and saw some elk prints and scat.

It was time for dinner so we, drove around and found a spot to eat.  I had bowl of Chili and for dessert I ate cheese cake. I was loading up for tomorrows hike.  After Dinner my mom noticed that there was a gift shop next door, so we decided to look around.  I saw what I was looking for, a bandana that has a map of the Grand Canyon on it. We bought it and went back to our campsite. We waited for our friends Ella, her parents and her cousin,Tyler. My mom and I went to sleep early since it was so cold.  We had to sleep diagonally across the back of the Disco.  It was not so comfortable for her, but I did ok.

 

 DAY TWO

 The first day of Backpacking

        The Backcountry Office is where we started at. We left at about 8:15 since the bus was late.  We all rode the packed bus to the South Kaibab trail head.  The S. Kaibab is a seven mile trail to the bottom and Phantom Ranch, we will be camping there for two nights. I started out pretty strong, excited, curious, and amazed.  The further you go down the trail, the more exciting it gets.  You can look back and see all of the zig-zags which are called switchbacks.   Every time that I wanted to stop I looked around. I was surrounded by beauty, and found enough energy to continue my trek. Somewhere half way down I got so far sk2 colorado riverahead, I couldn’t see the group. SK iza

      Once I got a glimpse of the Colorado River I sped up from excitement.   I especially sped up when I saw the Black Suspension Bridge (or Mule Train). When we finally got to the tunnel

  (that leads right onto the bridge) we stopped, and waited  for Ella and her dad, that way we could get a picture and walk across together.

 

Once we had crossed we saw the livestock barn (A.K.A. the mule barn).   We took a smaller bridge across Bright Angel Creek (which is how Brighty the mule got his name). black suspension bridge Ella and her dad went to eat lunch while we grabbed a campsite. We found one and put our packs down and went to the bathrooms.   We were gone for less then 5 Min. and one of the grizzly like squirrels already got into the small unzipped side pouch of my pack, and had got a hold of my electrolyte gel pack.  I had to shoo him away and throw out my electrolytes and put all of the food in the ammo boxes,which are provided for you, by U.S.F.S..  We also found out that the Ringed Tail Cats will climb the posts(where you hang your packs from squirrels at night) and take any food or plastic bags. 

     After the rest of the group came down my mom, and Ella’s mom, went to get some lemonade.  So Ella and I played in our tent. Later in the day we had “Backpackers Pantry” black bean chili pie, it’s my favorite one, but I like the “Mountain House”  Macaroni and cheese, most of all.  After we ate dinner we went to bed, and as you try to fall asleep, you can hear Bright Angel Creek. You could hear the water rushing and the rocks tumbling. The water was higher and faster then normal, so the large rocks were rolling into one another under the water, and it all sounded so exciting, and yet it was all so soothing it put you to sleep.

Day 3

No hiking today

          Today we were going to just have fun, relax and go swimming, well not actually swimming but taking a dunk or two(in the Colorado River), but either way it’s fun !!!!!! I remember how cold the water was and it was …. 51 degrees F.  hanging at the cr But I still got in, despite the cold, it was a little numbing, but refreshing. I only decided to go under when we moved to a safer spot, because where we were before, was a parking lot for river rafters. Besides, the new area was much safer and protected from the currents.  I  submerged myself at least 6 times, including the time that I half dunked myself when my foot slipped underwater. From the new spot we saw about 4 small wooden row boats, called dories, and even more rafts coming around the canyon bend.

                I  met two girls about my age from North Carolina. We played and we put river mud all over our stomachs’ and our legs.  Then, we took some river mud and some sand from the small beach we were on, and mixed the two together and rolled them into mud balls.    We made one really big one named Mr.Mudball then we made a Mr. Mudball Jr., then got into a war.  It was so much fun.  While we were playing,mules above the colorado

I  looked across the river we saw a big dust cloud, and out from the dust cloud came a mule train with passengers.

They were going to go through the tunnel to use the black suspension bridge and cross the river.  I am not

sure but I think the bridge is forty feet above the river,  or more.              

Our parents decided we had enough sun for the day, and it was time to head back for lunch.

         My mom and I went back to the campground to find Ella and her family.  They had already headed back before we did. We found them playing games and drinking cold lemonade in the canteen, with other campers. At the canteen there is games to play, postcards to send (sent by mule), souvenirs to buy, and a few food items that were a little expensive.  Ella and I played Bananagrams, a Grand Canyon board game, and a couple of other games, all while drinking our lemonade. After that Ella and I  went to the ranger station(with our parents)  and became Junior Rangers of the Grand Canyon, they give you these really cool patches with a Grand Canyon Pink Rattlesnake on them and you can only get these patches  at Phantom Ranch, The Bottom of the Grand Canyon.

They say “GRAND CANYON JUNIOR RANGER , PHANTOM RATTLER”.

 I am going to put it on my bright red, OSPREY backpack. We also given a pin and a few stickers.   That night we skipped the Ranger talk, and went to bed early.  In the morning, we  would start our hike up to Indian Gardens campground.  We wanted to get an early start to avoid the heat on the way up the canyon.

Day 4

        Second day of Hiking  

      heading out silver bridge

           Today we would hike out, go across the silver bridge, hike along the Colorado River, depart from the river and start heading for Indian Gardens campground.   It is slight uphill and a a couple of steep sections, one is called “Jacobs ladder”.jacobs ladder I think that was probably the most tiring day of all.  But once we got there, it was worth it, because of the beauty.  At Indian Gardens there weren’t very many people camping. It was also very quiet, the bathrooms were well kept and clean and so were the campsites. We set up our tent, and took a nap.

It was Easter weekend, so we decided now would be a good time for an Easter egg hunt. I had some in my backpack that I already stuffed.  I distracted Ella and her mom while everyone else hid the eggs.easter egg hunt We came back from washing our hands and Ella said, “Why is there an Easter egg here?”.  She eventually found out that the Easter Bunny came through and set up an Easter Egg hunt. I gave her these cute little sparkly blue bunny ears to wear for her hunt. After we had found all the Easter eggs, Ella Had one more than I did so she gave one to me so it would be even.  We ate some candy and then we climbed into Ella’s tent and played crazy eights. It was a little hot, and some dark clouds were coming over the top of the canyon wall, so we stayed close to the campsite most of the day. 

                                                             

Day 5

Third day of Hiking

a beautiful easter morning

             Today is the last day, and also Easter Sunday. I cant wait to speak to my dad and Sydney. But, first I need to just hike all of the way up to the top of the canyon. Its about 5 miles and 3200’ of  uphill hiking. It would be a long hike considering the fact that  I had already hiked two days, and I was sore. Not only that, there was no more shade!  This section of the canyon felt steeper then the lower part.  We hiked for awhile, took rests and ate gummy bears for energy.  I had these “sport beans”, jelly belly beans with electrolytes and sugar for energy.  I had a hard time eating them, they tasted a little weird to me.  I just kept sipping my water to wash it down.    

             As I hiked up the canyon, I kept distracting myself from the tired feeling by looking at the amazing view, and listening to Ella sing from her carrier.  She makes me laugh  by singing silly songs from preschool.  Toward the top, we saw more and more people(Tourists too).  Some, are running, some are day hikers, and some are backpackers.  We also pass another mule train with passengers.  The rule is “get off the trail and wait for the mules to pass”, I recognized most from Phantom Ranch.  After the mules pass, I look up and realize that the rim is a long way up!,  The switchbacks feel like they will never end.

             We continued to hike slow, but steady.  If you stop for too long, it’s hard to get moving again, so we just go.  Then I see the arch over the trail, it’s like a window but the trail goes straight through, we are near the top!  At the trail end, we take a picture and look back at our long hike.  It felt really good to accomplish this trip. I learned alot and realized how fun being uncomfortable can actually be. I WILL go back again, next time I would like to backpack to the north rim.  But now, all I want is a big juicy hamburger and french fries at the Bright Angel Lodge!!!!!!!  After lunch we went to buy my board game  and also a little something special for my sister, Sydney. We wound up getting a small little mule stuffed animal, who is supposed to be Brighty of the Grand Canyon, which is a wonderful book that Sydney is reading. It was hard to part with such a beautiful canyon, so large and so historic!!!! But yet I managed to do so, finally!!!!

THE END!

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