I showed up to the Grand Canyon with Kevin, a timid kid in his early twenties from Tennessee that I had met at a hostel in Santa Fe, this annoying nineteen year old know-it-all Dutch kid and some girl from Germany that Kevin had met at the new hostel he was now staying at in Flagstaff.
It was 2pm and 10 miles down to the bottom on Bright Angel Trail. By estimation we should reach the bottom by roughly 10pm assuming we were hiking a little over a mile an hour.
But then two hours into the hike, deep enough so that when I looked up all I could see were walls of rock imprisoning me below the earth’s surface, I tripped on my ankle and hyper extended my knee.
By some miracle, I kept going but by the time I got down to the bottom, my knee was throbbing with pain so intense that the thought of having to climb out of that big fucking hole the next morning at 4am, five or so hours from the time we arrived at the campsite, I was legitimately nervous I might die. I could barely move. We had no permit to actually camp down at the bottom so on top of all that I had to lay stupid for an hour until the ranger let us stay the night.
We had one sleeping bag and my tent. And my hammock. But there was nowhere to hang from so all four of us slept in one sleeping bag.
So at 11pm I closed my eyes, dreading how I would ever possibly make it out of that fucking hole, and prayed I would be okay.
At 4am I awoke. The nerdy Dutch kid was all jacked up on adolescence and ready to get a move on. Even though Bright Angel Trail was the easier hike up, everyone wanted to take South Kaibab back, one of the hardest and dangerous hikes in the United States.
I took ONE step and felt my knee give out.
I can’t even type this story. I don’t even know what to say. I can’t explain what that experience was like. I had to tell the kids to just fucking leave me. I couldn’t take them hiking and waiting and hiking and waiting. I felt like such a burden. Plus I wanted to fucking kill them. If only they knew the immense pain I was in. I was alone in this huge hole with seven miles left, I’m talking climbing. Climbing out of a giant desert canyon hole with a backpack that was wayyyyyy too big and mule shit everywhere and narrow rocky paths and it got to a point where I couldn’t take more than twenty steps without collapsing under a rock in the shade. I started wondering how I would call 911. I started to see the crazy scene I’d be making as the helicopters were dragging me out. Then I wondered how would I even call 911? The next emergency phone wasn’t for like three miles. I was running out of water and had no more food.
I reached down to the ground and scooped up a bunch of rocks and dirt and put em in my pocket. My newest client had asked me to get her a rock from the bottom of the Grand Canyon and I couldn’t forget… So as I passed all these glamorous looking unique rocks without picking one of them up, I remembered how this time would never again happen. I couldn’t forget the damn rock. I was so fucked up mentally and physically by then that I just reached down to the dirt and without even looking scooped up whatever my hand could find and shoved them in my pocket.
I bumped into the Rangers and begged them for water. They gave me water and pretzels and they looked at me like I was some kinda moron for hiking the Grand Canyon with a shortage of food and water. Which I am.
Finally it was late enough in the day that other hikers hiking down while I was hiking up started appearing. I couldn’t talk. I could barely breathe. I was terrified I would not make it out. I had no idea if my knee would ever recover. I was hobbling step by step. Hikers started asking me questions as they passed me like
Are u okay?
Do you need water?
Are you coming from the bottom?
Can I offer you an orange?
Do you need help?
I swear I have never known how much pride I truly had. I was determined to do this alone with no help. Now, if you’ve been following along, you know I’ve been locked up in boot camps and homeless and beaten up on a daily basis for being Jewtalian and fed nothing but cheese sandwiches and all sorts of crazy hardships, but I swear this was one of the the most challenging I had yet to go through.
One thing was certain. People died in the Grand Canyon. Every year, people die. And I was going to be one of them. I knew I was.
I had to keep going. One more step. I looked up and had to twist my neck to even see where the next twenty steps would take me. It was like each foot I hiked was equal to seven meters of height. The incline was insane. And I still had five miles. I wasn’t even halfway there.
I collapsed at a shady spot after the mule train passed me. It was about 90 degrees. By then my pseudo friends were long gone. I waited for my fatigue to pass and my knee to stop throbbing and then got back up and kept going and going and stopped. Waited. Then kept going and going then
Think about good sex.
Think about my grandma.
Think about Fallon.
Think about a hotel.
Think about a bed.
Don’t drink too much water, conserve.
I can do it.
Up and at em and with it I went and then boom.
I saw the Rangers again.
They were helping hikers find their way and stopping quite frequently and the sight of them gave me so much comfort. I had to make it to them to see if they thought I was in serious trouble.
I went and went and went and
Am I almost there? How far have I gone? I don’t think I can make it.
You can make it. When you get to the bathroom that’s the three mile marker.
Am I okay?
But their look said quite a different story.
Take your time. Rest often. Hydrate.
And have fun. This is the Grand Canyon. Look at the views.
HAH! Fuuuccckkkkkk yyyooouuuuu the fuckin views I’m DYING here!
I started praying. Praying to God harder than I had ever prayed. I don’t know how. I cannot explain how I made it to that last one mile marker, but I did.
At this point my knee would not take me more than three steps at a time. I was hiking at about 3 hours per mile. People were passing me with all types of concern written all over their faces.
I was scaring people with my struggle.
Are you okay?
Are you sure?
Do you need water?
Here take the water.
Take this granola bar.
Here’s an orange. Take it
Fine. Give it to me.
By some miracle. I met a woman. A Canadian woman in her early fifties.
She looked at me and asked if I was okay. For the first time I said
My knee is exploding my ankle feels twisted and I can’t put any pressure on my left foot and my skin is burning and my shoulder is fucked up and I’m a mess. I can’t make it up.
Oh sure ya can. Here. Take these
And she offers me some painkillers.
Here is some Advil and here is some codeine.
I could REALLY have used that codeine but I happen to be sober so I opted for the Advil.
Here, take my hiking stick
And she gave me her hiking stick.
My husband disappeared anyway she told me. Let’s go up together.
I looked up at the last canyon ridge. It was an insane image. No way.
Don’t look at the top like that! Just look at the step in front of you!
I took one step.
And don’t worry we’ll take as much time as you want I’m in no rush so just take you’re time. So where you from?
And she starts telling me stories of her political endeavors in Alberta Canada and her husband and daughter and son and then all of a sudden she stopped. She was leading the way and talking and I was responding but I stopped cause I couldn’t talk anymore. My breath was gone.
You okay? You’re falling a bit too quiet back there.
Yeah. Okay. I’m okay.
Okay just checking. Why don’t we take a rest.
So we rested against the rock wall with my backpack pushed up high against the wall to take the weight off my lower body.
Let me take some weight for you.
So she grabbed a large book I brought for no reason and my propane which I also brought for no reason and she threw it in her daypack.
I swear to you. I have no way to ever thank that woman enough.
She saved me.
I was brought a miracle.
I made it out. I got her email address and I wrote her a thank you email later that day.
I could barely drive, my knee was incompatible in every position. I was in such pain.
I drove back to flagstaff and got a hotel room.
I hobble to the room, which I had not realized was upstairs… Another major obstacle. Everyone passed me and looked at me funny as I used my arms to pull me up the stairs.
I somehow managed to get my pants off and that’s when I saw it.
My knee was fucked. Inflamed like a blimp and red as hell.
I couldn’t move for days and had to spend two nights at that place and couldn’t walk right for two weeks.
Every time I think of what I am capable of, what challenges lie ahead of me, I grab that rock I scooped up. Ugly and mundane but now a whole new beauty has taken hold of it.
Like a new relationship that starts out slightly ehhh but then becomes, with time, the most beautiful connection and the most powerful energy on earth.
I think of that woman.
I hold this rock.
And I know I can overcome nothing alone, but anything with the help of others.
Asking for help has always led to my greatest success stories, like the time I was nineteen with no money and no clue how to live life.
I had spent my childhood institutionalize until I ran away and lived on the run till I was 18 and I was lost.
I called my grandma up and asked for help and something crazy happened.
If you’d like the good shit, you can read all the stories at once.