I’ve been to Grand Canyon several times before, but on the last drive-to-a-view-point-hop-out-and-take-some-pictures road trip, Souha and I decided that we were no longer going to just walk along the rim and descent a few hundred feet, but we will hike across the canyon and see what it is like to see up close the buttes and mesas, the streams and ravines.
We had a false start – thinking it should be no big deal getting a back country permit in the middle of the winter (because who would be there when major roads are closed and trails covered in snow) – but we were quite wrong… So by the time we submitted our permit application, our start date was pushed to the beginning of June.
When I think back now, the day was the hardest. We had a hiccup with our stove and had to talk to the rangers, so didn’t get to the trailhead until past 11 am. We thought down hill was going to be easy, but the afternoon sun beating down on us, and the relentless pressure on our toes, made us physically and mentally exhausted. There were few shaded spots on Kaibab trail, the only we could find was the shadow casted by the compost toilet structure. Dizzy and tired from the heat, we lied down right there right then and took a 45 min nap.
There are many more naps like this, some planned and some unexpected. At the bottom of the North Rim, we jumped into the Bright Angel creek, bathed, and napped on the bank. But on the return trip to the South Rim, I got horrible heat stroke, and had to just lie down next to the “Welcome to Bright Angel Campground” sign to rest, because that was the only shady, unoccupied spot we found.
I was surprised by how much life there was in the canyon. All along the trail, we could hear birds and insects. The Bright Angel creek constantly changes volume and elevation, morphing into a stream, a waterfall, a pool, a wash, and sometimes a gushing rush. We waded the creek as much as the time would allow, to soak our overheated, sore feet in the fresh cold water.
As backpacking newbies, we made a few newbie mistakes. One biggest regret was using a scented trash bag. The bag might have been fine in a trashcan in a well-ventilated kitchen, but packed with many days worth of trash, stuffed in a backpack, then steamed in near 100F for days… the worst thing was that mixture of decomposing trash and industrial strength odor-masking fragrance got into every piece of clothing we own, our packs, and all of our food. We smelled like walking trash cans, and even our morning coffee and meals smelled like that. I can still recall the odor today viscerally.
I brought my Zoom audio recorder, and at the end of each day we recorded summary and highlights of the day. I forgot about the recordings for more than a year, and only recently listened to it. They brought back so much memory of the details of the trip, that I have long forgotten. Even though we had pictures, they captured landscapes but the audio recording we made focused on events and feelings. I will organize and edit those one day.
I’m a grad student studying Applied Mathematics at SEAS, Harvard University. My interest lies in using mathematical models and computation to explore problems and phenomena in the natural world. Together with my Ph.D. advisor, Prof. Chris Rycroft and my collaborators, we explore topics such as numerical methods for fluid-solid interaction problems, simulations of diffusion-limited dissolutions, modeling bacteria growth and pattern formation in biofilm.
When I’m not doing math or coding, I enjoy being outdoors and playing music with Tobi.