So many feels around this trip. It’s amazing to me that after so much traveling that major lessons are still being learned. The Grand Canyon is one of Vlad’s most favorite places in the US. When he first immigrated to the states his family went on a vacation to the canyon, and when we took the long van trip last winter his only request is that we stopped to see it again. At that time we had never backpacked before but we were going to try and hike out to the plateau and back, which was ruined when I ended up with a high fever. I felt better later in the day but we had run out of daylight so we settled for a walk down to the 3 mile rest house. It was hard to ignore the heartbreak in Vlad’s face, he wanted to get down to the bottom of that canyon so damn bad. I promised him that we would come back to finish out that hike and I meant it. The last couple of years we have spent a lot of time and money chasing my dreams, this trip was all about chasing his.
By this time we have done a lot of backpacking. Joshua Tree, the Redwoods, Rocky Mountain, Red River Gorge, Chatahochee, and multiple northern Michigan spots. So I am feeling confident, we are experienced, we have all of the expensive lightweight gear, this is going to be a breeze. Well, not quite. The advantage of hiking the Grand Canyon is that you are one of a hundred doing so. There are a lot of people around you, running water and real toilets at the bottom, even a restaurant that serves steak and beer. However, this hike, is not one to be underestimated. Walking nearly 8 miles straight down into the earth and then crawling another 10 miles out of that hole a couple of days later, all in 100+ degree heat took a toll on my body. Vlad is a true Russian mule. He probably could of doubled the trek, smoked two packs of Marlboro reds, and still done kart wheels at the top. I think he only drank one liter of water the entire way up, compared to my six.
We were actually pretty beat post hike. The line at Wendy’s was probably 30 people long, but that french fry never tasted so good. One night while we were in the canyon I woke up to find myself alone in the tent. Vlad was gone, and so was the camera, so I knew he was out exploring the night sky. After he didn’t return for close to an hour I began to panic. I couldn’t stop imagining that he had slipped and fallen off of one of the trails and was now floating down the Colorado. I laid there shaking and choking down vomit silently waiting to hear footsteps. Just as I jumped out of the tent to start my own search party I saw his headlamp bouncing down the trail in the distance. He had gone out to the river to watch the moon rise, to stare at the stars and take in our last few hours inside the depths of the canyon.
The next day while we were sitting at the laundry mat, I watched his eyes fill with tears as we looked through the images on my laptop. Despite my anxiety and knee and toe injuries, seeing how much that hike meant to him made everything very much worth it. The beautiful suffering will be a story to tell for years to come.
Other than the Grand Canyon we did some exploring in New Mexico, stopped at Horseshoe Bend, hiked through Waterhole Canyon, visited Arches National Park, and spent a couple of days doing more hiking and relaxing in Colorado. We ended up returning home a couple of weeks earlier than initially planned because Vlad accepted a new position. His career change had made the trip more significant than expected. The goal is to be able to eventually work remotely, however it is likely going to be a year or so before he will have that flexibility which will change our ability to travel for such long periods of time in the immediate future. The realization does make me sad, but I am also incredibly proud of Vlad for successfully making such a big jump that I know he has been working very hard for, for a long time. I was already really trying to make this time about celebrating him, and the universe gave us one last big hoorah to close out almost a full year of being on the road. I am really excited to see how this next adventure plays out, and all of the new places our opportunities will continue to take us.
As always, so incredibly grateful for this life. For the ability to explore, for a partner who adores me and carries my pack when the trail gets too tough, and for loving being home as much as I do being away. Until next time.