What Am I Doing?
Aspen Trees in Snow StormJanuary 18, 2017
Some days you’re just defeated, something hard to admit after you’ve just hiked over 700 miles out of a goal of 800.
I had just crossed the Grand Canyon before camping on the North Rim. It was the last major obstacle along the Arizona Trail. The last major planned obstacle at least. The night before, an intense winter storm rolled in dropping a few inches of snow on the ground. I had hoped it would pass, but it didn’t.
I continued north, a mere 70 miles away from the end of the 800-mile Arizona Trail. The first few miles were simply hiking through the snow that was dropped the night before – manageable, but certainly preventing me from hitting my usual stride. And then it returned.
The snow was now getting thicker. The trail was getting fainter. The walking was getting harder. My feet were cold and soaked. Every step was becoming a battle against the elements. Every step was defeating me a little more. I had overcome everything the trail had thrown at me so far. I had overcome elevation change, lack of water, severe loneliness, severe motivation deprivation, heat, light snow, wind, cold, and more gear than I should have been carrying. But it hadn’t thrown blizzards my way yet.
The snow depth was getting thicker. Mile after mile and I was only getting more and more exhausted. My pace was slowing from an average of 3mph to about 1mph. Oddly enough, it was starting to feel like more work just to maintain that crawl. I wanted something to give. I wanted a break. A break from the weather, a break from the walking, a break from moisture, a break from trying to figure out what to do on my own. Could any potential break from any of it happen in a such an intense blizzard? Apparently, it can.
Ahead on the trail, through the infinite amount of falling snowflakes, I spotted a cabin, still within Grand Canyon National Park’s boundaries. A cabin where surely someone would be working during the park’s off-season. A cabin where, at the very least, I could wait out the storm on the porch.
With a light finally at the end of the tunnel, I pushed ahead to my relief. As I got closer, I made out a figure sitting on the porch. Even better! Perhaps a ranger to give me some food and start up a fire for me to warm up and dry off from.
I reached the porch and greeted the ranger, who turned out not to be a ranger. Instead, I found a thru-biker of the trail in the same predicament as me, so we relaxed on the porch and discussed our options, finally getting a rest and a break from the cold.
We discussed how we were in a closed part of the park with no road access for 30 miles aside from a closed highway. We discussed creative ways to get to Jacob Lake, the nearest sign of civilization 30 miles away. We discussed camping in the cabin, if we could find a way in. During the discussion, I looked out at the snowfall, and took a quick shot of some nearby aspens. That was the photo of this post. It was nothing more than a quick shot that I barely composed due to lack of energy, but in viewing it weeks later on the computer, I fell in love with it. It said so much of my struggle that day and was fortunately pretty well composed as well.
In the end, we went to the closed highway, and managed to find a government worker who gave a ride back to Jacob Lake. We stayed there for the night, then I was fortunate enough to find a ride back, amazed to find much of the snow had melted away, allowing me to continue the Arizona Trail.