1, 2, 3 Types of Fun
I finally understand why they say “the wind was howling”. We could hear it before we felt it, like a jet plane landing in the canyon, but when it finally came, it brought a blast of sand with it. I joked my skin is going to feel like a baby’s butt by the time we got out of there. I joked I needed to hike naked in order to get the full benefit of the sand blasting. I shouldn’t have joked because things were about to get a lot worse.
Izaak, my boyfriend, and I had already hiked over 9 miles into the Grand Canyon when the wind started. The cool morning was beautiful and the canyon was showing it’s true colors in bright vivid reds and greens. The show off. The last time I was in the Grand Canyon was October 2018. The Colorado river was tan and murky like a Starbucks latte, which inspired many conversations about coffee the entire way out. This go at the canyon was very different than the first, with a bright green ribbon of water greeting us as we descended 4,400 feet to the mighty Colorado River.
The hike down South Kaibab gave us the most spectacular views of the canyon. This places holds it’s secrets close, but if you hike down - only 1% of visitors actually go in the canyon - you get whispers of them here and there. After several miles we got our first glimpse of Bright Angel campground and the Colorado river. This is very different than hiking down from the north rim where you are almost 15 miles away from anything. On this day the sky was a bit overcast giving us some relief from an blazing sun. It took us 3 hours to go the 7 miles down to Phantom Ranch where we chugged lemonades and snacked as the wind picked up and clouds rolled in.
At Phantom Ranch you can mail postcards that will be carried out by mule. There are only two places in the US that still use mules for the mail. Havasupai is the other one. Both in the Grand Canyon. As I was writing out the two postcards I wanted to mail to my kids, I looked up at Izaak. He suddenly stopped talking and the look on his face told me there was something coming….the weather? No, a different kind of storm.
While he made his way quickly to the bathroom, I finished my correspondence and started digging in my pack for the Pepto. I always have Pepto but that’s a different story. I knew it was going to be a long 10 miles out of this place.
Long ago I read about the three types of fun. 1, 2, and 3 types. The descriptions seemed to fit, and I started telling people about it. We even recorded a podcast about them. What I was quickly realizing was that this trip out of the canyon was going to hover around the type 2/3 fun and it was yet to be determined which.
1 Type: Everything goes well. Perfect lovely time
2 Type: It wasn’t all easy. There were a few problems, but for the most part things were good.
3 Type: Not good. Very bad. We shall not speak of this again.
When we started to make our way out the wind started. Another emergency stop had to be made before the silver bridge and before we could start our 4,380 foot ascent. As I stood outside waiting fo Izaak ,the rain started. Gentle intermittent rain. It wasn’t feeling too bad at the moment, so I was still hopeful we would make it out before it got too bad. Izaak came out and didn’t look too dead so off we went.
Crossing the bridge was like walking home drunk from the bar. It was swaying and we were swaying with it. Such an unsettling feeling with the mighty Colorado river swirling beneath you. Once across the bridge the wind started it’s howling and pelting us with sand. I wore my sunglasses even though it wasn’t sunny. I was trying to save my contacts from the shredding sand.
Still at type 2 fun here. We can handle a little diarrhea and sand blasting. No problem. We can even laugh about it.
As we started really climbing the rain started really coming down. Still off and on so still bare-able. But 5 miles in we got to Indian Gardens with a steady pelting of rain and no end in sight. Looking ahead we couldn’t even see the top of the canyon. Clouds were rolling in and the rain was rolling down our legs, faces, and body.
Soaked and four miles to go.
The thing about the grand canyon is that the last three miles out Bright Angel are the toughest. It’s a climb. And since Mother Nature decided to throw down some heavy rain, we were not only wet and tired from already hiking 12 miles, but we didn’t bring rain gear so it was a soaked slog in the mud as we started to go up..
When we hit the last three mile mark I knew I was in trouble. I was tired. Real tired.
This was borderline type 3 fun. Those last three miles would be the determining factor in which direction the fun goes.
Y’all, I struggled. I kept walking because I knew that every step I took got me closer to the top. I just had to keep taking steps. I had to keep going. The rain never stopped and at about mile 2 from the top we were in the clouds and could only see to the edge of the switchback. This made it even harder to take because on a clear day you can see the top and know how close you are getting. You see people and buildings. We couldn’t see anything.
Once we got to one of the small tunnels we knew we were close, but it now it was getting colder and colder. We chatted with one of the tourists about how far down he would have to hike to see the canyon. I honestly couldn’t even remember when we lost visibility. I was probably too focused on my feet to look up. One step, two steps, keep going. Each step gets me closer. My mantra.
At the top we hobbled over to the shuttle and luckily the shuttle was only a few minutes away. We didn’t have to stand there long. The bus came and we clumsily climbed on just hoping our legs were still going to work after we sat down. It’s a long ride from Bright Angel back to the visitors center. At least it felt that way.
Finally back in the car we started it up and turned on the seat heaters. 34º is what the thermostat read once we got in. We were wet, tired, and amazingly the sleet and snow started to fall. We drove back to Flagstaff in a blizzard! But as we dropped in elevation the snow switched to rain and we stopped for burgers, fries, and a giant Dr. Pepper, thanks Mama Burger.
While this trip bordered the type 3 fun, and easily could have gone that direction, it stayed in type 2. No one got air lifted out of the canyon, no one shit their pants, no one cried. Okay, maybe I wanted to cry, many times in the last three miles, but I didn’t. Type 2 is where it stayed. We can joke about it now, and that’s what makes it the type 2 fun.
Now I realize this would be Type 3 for many people. We all have different adventure meters and fun meters. That’s totally okay! The only thing that makes the type of fun 1, 2, or 3 is how you interpret it. It’s all based on you. What I’m saying here is find your 2 type fun, whatever that may be, and embraces it. Embrace the struggle, the problems, and the joy. Embrace the fun, and laughs, and the mistakes. Strive for taking it all in stride. The good, the poop, and snow. It’s all laughable when you find the funny in it.