Excerpts from the Grand Canyon
Excerpts from the log of Dr. Paul Chan during his 50-mile Grand Canyon CROP Hunger Walk
On October 26, Dr. Paul Chan completed a unique CROP Hunger Walk: a solo 50-mile Grand Canyon trek – from rim to rim and back again in less than 24 hours – that raised more than $31,000 to fight hunger and poverty at home and abroad. Here are several excerpts from his personal log.
October 20: Before the Journey
I wanted to write you all to express my profound gratitude for the overwhelming support you have all provided me as I prepare for the trek next Tuesday, October 26.
My current plan is as follows:
- 3:00 a.m. (PST), 10/26: Depart from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Hike in the dark and capture the sunrise as I hit the bottom after descending 4800 feet.
- 6:30 a.m. (10 mile point): Eat breakfast at Phantom Ranch (all you can eat bacon and eggs--yeah!)
- 7:00 a.m.: Start up the North Rim and climb 6400 feet over 15 miles.
- 1:00 p.m.: Arrive at the top of the North Rim and eat lunch at the halfway point (25 miles in)
- 1:30 p.m.: Start descent from the North Rim back to the bottom over 15 miles and another 6400 feet. Arrive at the bottom as the sunsets.
- 6:30 p.m.: Eat dinner at Phantom Ranch (all you can eat beef stew-- I will need the salt then!)
- 7:00 p.m.: Start ascending the last, grueling 4800 feet over 10 miles out of the bottom of the canyon and back up to the South Rim in the dark.
- 12 midnight (my hoped-for finish time, 21 hours after starting the trek).
This plan will allow me a 3-hour buffer, in case I am running late. I plan to bring another 6,000-7,000 calories of food with me, in addition to the food I will get at Phantom Ranch, as I calculated I will need 9,000 calories for the trek.
The trek will occur 3-4 days after the full moon, so there will be some light in various parts of the Canyon at night. I promise to take special precautions against dehydration, hyponatremia, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, scorpions, and wild rams and elk (present at night on the switchbacks-- a potential hazard).
I have also read about how best to prepare for a mountain lion encounter, although if that occurs, all bets are off (while there are 200 of them in the Grand Canyon, there have been no documented animal to human encounters to date--whew!)
October 26: The Journey Begins
It is 3:00 a.m. PST. It is cold outside, hovering around 28 degrees with 10-20 mph winds. Fortunately, the forecasted chance for precipitation (rain/snow) did not materialize. I am starting on the trek after feasting on a half-pound of salted mixed nuts over the past 20 minutes. With walking stick in hand, 2 layers of fleece and raincoat, warm underwear, and headlight. Not sure how the descent will go, but will need to go fast enough to make it down by 6:30 a.m. to catch the family style breakfast at Phantom Ranch 10 miles and 4800 feet below. Have not descended rapidly in the dark before, but here goes.
Whew! Made it to the Bottom
I was able to complete this first part of the trail (10 miles) in time to sit down at Phantom Ranch for breakfast at 6:30 a.m. That is good news!! Warm food, lots of it, and even salt for the next leg of the trek. No major problems or injuries on the way down. It was very, very peaceful. Imagine walking in a huge crater in the earth without seeing anyone for 10 miles and guided by memories of the trail and a headlight. It was a bit dicey at times at "Devil's Corkscrew"-- the second major set of switchbacks which leads to the Colorado River, as the hiking trail was narrower there.
I will cherish the next part of the trek-- a 15-mile 6,400-foot ascent up to the North Rim. I have always been a better hiker uphill than downhill. Easier on the legs and much more contemplative. The temperature is about 50 degrees right now and it will be about 45 to 50 on the top at 1:00 p.m., which is when I expect to be there. If I get there by 1:00 p.m., that would be a good sign, as it would give me 14 hours to complete the return part of the trip.
It is now 1:15 p.m. PST, and I have been able to cover the first 25 miles within 10 hours. It was a beautiful day to hike in the Canyon. The North Rim trail was as I remembered it the last time I climbed it 9 years ago-- imposing, bold, majestic. The last 1-1/2 miles is a pine forest, so you really do get a sense of the change in altitude throughout the hike. The lodge at the North Rim has been closed since 10/15, because the possibility of snow impeding access, so there was really no one to see on the trail throughout.
When I led a one-way rim to rim trek 8 years back, I remember that thoughts of food and shelter were incentives to motivate my group of 7 up the trail. For now, I will cherish taking about 15 minutes to eat a bunch of nuts and Buckeyes that my wife Katie prepared for me yesterday before heading back down. My goal: to get back down the 15 miles I just ascended in 5-1/4 hours so I can partake of a beef stew family style dinner at Phantom Ranch that starts at 6:30 p.m. (and ends by 7 p.m.).
Back Down at the Bottom Again
I am SO glad I made it back to the bottom by 6:40 p.m.!! Another glorious descent into the canyon, with sunset greeting me this time around as I arrived. When hiking in a canyon dessert [sic], sometimes thoughts of food become overwhelming, and the hearty beef stew was a great motivator to be fast. I saw absolutely no one on the way down. Thought about doing a side 2-mile trip to Ribbon Falls, but then thought better of it.
So, I am now 40 miles finished, with 10 to go. Getting up from dinner will be the hardest part. I know my legs will be stiff and my back sore. But, the longer I wait, the harder it will be. That is because this last segment will be the hardest mentally and physically. Now, with headlight back on, hiking stick in hand, I have a little less than 8 hours to complete the last 10 miles by 3:00 a.m. PST. The hardest part will be staying awake and alert on the trail, avoiding trips and falls, and hiking as close to the canyon wall as possible so that if I do trip, I won't fall far.
Say a prayer for me tonight. I look forward to feeling your presence during this last stretch.
October 27, 12:58 a.m.: Trek Completed in 22 hours
The last stretch was hard, but not impossible. There were times when my body said no, but after a few minutes of rest, I was able to pick up again. And yes, the hike was completed in 21 hours 58 minutes--yeah!! And I am ok.
My mother-in-law's close friend, and my friend, Anne Owens, was kind enough to drive me up from Flagstaff Monday night and stay while I hiked. She and her son, Pete braved the 30-degree chilly weather and 10-15 mph winds tonight to greet me with hugs. Funny how 24 hours can be such a long, long time. I have never been to the Grand Canyon and not seen fewer than 30 people on the trail, but this was such a hike.
While this has always been something I have always wanted to do, it was really a meditation on eros-- the Greek word for love. I thought a lot about who I am and what I care about throughout the hike. It reminded me about my younger self, when I was willing to put more of myself on the line for others. It was good that I did this-- it felt like a cleansing. Now, the real work continues--Solidarity, Justice, and Compassion for all those less fortunate than we are.
Thank you all for thinking of me, praying and rooting for me, and believing in this cause. The needs are out there and they are many and are not small, but it will start with each of us taking our own unique steps to become involved. I find that the journey of being committed to social and economic justice is as important as the results of our actions or gifts, because in going through the journey, one becomes transformed (and hopefully liberated) from the inertia that binds many to inaction.
Peace and love,