The Ascent

MarkGrandCanyonIn March 2011, I woke up at the bottom of the Grand Canyon (one of my favorite places on Earth) in a tent next to my oldest daughter Elise. It was our third day of backpacking, and little did I know it would very nearly be my last.

As beautiful as it is, hiking the Canyon can be rigorous and dangerous. For this reason, most people don’t hike to the bottom or on the lesser-known trails. We did.

We woke up early, excited for the challenge of powering up the steep South Kaibab Trail that would take us to the canyon’s rim. I wasn’t at all prepared for what was about to happen next. Just as we started up the very first steep climb of the 8.5 mile trek out, something began going terribly wrong. My legs fatigued. My breaths shortened. I began to perspire profusely. My heart raced. We were less than 20 minutes into a hike of what should have been about 4.5 hours and my body was already wasted.

I rested a moment and drank a bottle of water, disbelieving I could be in serious trouble and thinking that I was dehydrated from the 14 mile trek on the previous day. I seemed to recover and started off once more. 15 minutes later and BAM! It hit me again. What was going on? I’d never felt like this before. Imagine having the worst case of the flu you’ve ever had and attempting to climb the 2,109 stairs of the Willis (Sears) Tower in 85 degree heat… then having to do it 10 more times.

We saw no one for the first two hours of the arduous ascent out of the canyon. We were alone and I was in big trouble with no phone or cell phone service to call for help.

What follows in this chapter of the book is a completion of the hike out and discussion on the importance of milestones and goals in the process of Getting Better.

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