September 8, 2010

scary dave

day three finds me up and ready to get everything together for the trip to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon the following day.  sooo freaking excited and nervous and filled with anticipation of a unknown journey.  i get myself a shower and head out to find the kennels. i check in and tell them i won't be leaving Willie until the next day because we are having so much fun. i go by the back country office looking for information on a float trip but they know nothing about it. this is the first of many times today i'll be asking myself if i am expecting too much. standing at the backcountry permit office asking about rafting permits and they just shrug their shoulders and assure me i should be able to find information online. okay. next stop the Bright Angel Reservation Desk to confirm i am planning to hike down to Phantom Ranch the next day.

there is a whole bunch of stuff going on here that is off the rails and when i ask a few simple questions i soon have two Xanterra employees barraging me with such nonsense i walk away thinking i must be the biggest bitch. well, now that all the administrative stuff is done i should be able to spend the afternoon enjoying views from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, right? well i head over to the visitor center and i chat with the park rangers. my last question is since i'm hiking down to Phantom Ranch the next day is there anything else i should know. this provokes a 15 minute discussion involving three rangers about options for getting me to the trailhead since the regular bus is not running due to the road construction. wtf? why didn't anyone at the Bright Angel Registration Desk mention any of this? let me tell you my opinion. Xanterra [the concession manager in the park] is in the business of making money and the NPS [National Park Service] is the business of conserving and protecting the park and the safety of the visitors. Xanterra has already collected my money at the time of the reservation so they don't care if i show up at Phantom Ranch. the rangers, however, don't want to be dealing with an escalating issue due to the fact that i planned on a 7 mile, 4000 foot descent to the river and because of a road project i have to add an additional three miles to that trip.

so, instead of leisurely stroll around the south rim i rush to call the kennels back. please, may i drop off my dog today instead of in the morning. [the kennels are fabulous and easy to deal with - just bring him by before five they say] with Willie safely tucked away in the kennel i sort through my gear and get ready to break down the campground early so i can get the 6AM shuttle to the trailhead which most everyone has agreed should be running. the campground is empty although i had noticed the guys who had set up camp earlier two sites over. first, because i heard them using a chainsaw. second, because when i was at the dish sink there were two baby chipmunks in it and since they were close and just lazing about their site i asked them to help the chipmunks find their way back home.

in a separate campsite across from me is a parked a white car which i was paying no attention to until the owner, Dave, came over. well i was planning a meditation on the rim over sunset since i was alone but Dave invites himself along and although i'm sure he is high on something i think he is harmless so i say okay. i put myself together and go by the camp of my chipmunk saviors. i learn their names are Justin and Eric and they are from Louisiana. they tell me the happy fate of my chipmunks and i let them know i'm camping alone tonight just a few sites over and i always sleep with my remote car alarm next to me in case a bear or any other critter comes uninvited into my camp [while i am silently pointing in the direction of the white car guy]. they say they have already met Scary Dave and will be keeping a close eye on me. i say i am sure he's harmless and that he had invited himself along to see the sunset at the rim with me. they do not like this at all. well, off i go with Scary Dave and i'm determined not to be judgmental of him.

 i lose him after he stops to get a cigarette from someone after the first shuttle ride. i don't think about him again as i ride out to the far rim and watch an incredible sunset. i end up at Hopi Point which must be in the European guide book because it's me and 100 Europeans. i find a rock to myself and enjoy every moment of it.

getting back to the campground is easy but i detour off to see if i can find a glass of wine and plate of pasta but Xanterra doesn't make it easy for travelers like me and it is not to be. as a result it is about 9PM before i make it back to the campground and as i'm rounding the final loop into my section a truck approaches. it stops next to me and i step aside waiting for it to continue. down comes the window and it's my chipmunk hero Eric. he asks about Scary Dave and i say i lost him right after i left the campground. i ask where he is headed and he says out to look for me. i am overwhelmed at the thought that these two guys who didn't know me were so concerned about my safety that they were going to leave the comfort and warmth of their campfire to go look for me in the Grand Canyon National Park. in the dark. with no idea where i could be. i am so blessed.

turns out they had been chatting with the rangers about Scary Dave and the rangers were keeping an eye out for him. about ten minutes after i get back into my site i see the lights go on in Scary Dave's car so i mosey on over to the chipmunk hero's site and sit with them for a while. it takes less than 30 minutes for the park service to get over, collect and escort Scary Dave out.  these girls and guys know what they are doing.

meanwhile, i need to get myself ready for a 5AM start in the morning. have i mentioned before i am not at my best in the morning?

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