The first few days

The first few days

As Glenn put it, we should change the name of this trip to the Everything Hurts hike…

The night before we set out on 9th Sep, we went to town taking even more gear, which seemed essential only a few hours before, out of our packs to try to get them to the point where we could put them on without a crane.

The next day, the first part of the hike turned out to be a 400 metre (1200 ft) ascent up the side of a beautiful Navajo sandstone valley, home to Buckskin Canyon and the impossibly-hard-to-get-a-permit-for Wave, which was hard to appreciate in its full glory due to the 50+ pounds on each of our backs.

After the first mile, we were asking “are we there yet?”. However, after a gruelling day hauling our packs through spruce forests, barrel cacti the size of saucers with just their tops peeking through the gravely ground, flowering cacti, delicate wild red flowers, big white round mushrooms growing out of the sand and other strange wonders, and just before finding a beautiful wide ledge above the dry river bed to camp on, we were rewarded with an encounter with a tiny horned toad.

For the last 5 years, Glenn has been telling me about these little creatures and how you can stroke their bellies until they fall asleep (as long as they don’t spit blood at you through their eyes first). When Glenn was a child, they were all over Texas. Now the map of their habitat range doesn’t include Texas at all and I was beginning to wonder whether these little guys actually existed or whether they were made up as a story for gullible “aliens”.

So, we were pretty excited to see the horned toad and to stroke his belly, but he would have to fall asleep in his own, as we didn’t have the energy to stroke his belly for long.

20120915-194401The next day, my pack left a big blister and swelling on one shoulder and a pretty purple bruise on the other, a tick left his head in my leg and the backpack hip belt tried to saw off part of my hip. Glenn had his own list of aches and pains. However, another 7 horned toads later, the day’s comedy moment finally arrived: Despite setting out with 6 litres of water each, we were running very low, so after a failed attempt to manually pump water out of a muddy cattle wildlife drinking puddle full of red tadpoles and other nasty things I didn’t want to hear about, we found a rainwater reservoir and I was able to lower Glenn down its steep side slope by his ankles far enough for him to scoop up water we could later sterilise. The sand flies were biting my arms as I was holding his ankles and it took a lot of self-will to ignore them in favour of hanging on to Glenn’s ankles a little bit longer.

Today, it’s raining torrentially and we’re luxuriating in the comfort of Jacob’s Lake motel, ripping our backpacks apart in the quest to find every possible ounce of gear which we can live without. Apart from the food, water, sleeping stuff, medical kit and the clothes we’re standing in, nothing else seems so important that it has to be carried 800-900 miles. It’s amazing how quickly your priorities can change!

Tomorrow, we’ll set out for three days’ hiking to Kaibab Lodge; 19 miles north of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.


  1. You guys are crazy! This will certainly create memories and stories you will never forget. I like the cheap seats I am in because I do love to hear your stories. You will be strong and tanned when it is over. I have never heard of anyone who has walked so far. I mean anyone who was already legally in the state of Arizona.
    I remember seeing and playing with “horney toads” all the time when I was growing up. The tiny ones were my favorite. They can be as small as1- 2 inches. Jewelers used to make tie tacks from molds of the small ones. They were very popular. Do you remember that Glenn?
    Be safe and keep posting. We are enjoying reading them.

  2. Wow you are both amazing xxx I am a little bit jealous of the freedom of doing such a trip xxx However I am not jealous of all the pain – I will be following your trip with eager anticipation. I can live a little vicariously from my leafy Hampshire home xxx

  3. Ruth & Dave Slaughter
    Saturday 15 September 2012, 10:10 pm

    Enjoying reading about your adventure–what great descriptions and stories!! Will be following your journey and wishing you safe travels and lots of memories!

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