Saturday, July 8, 2017

Faith and Phantom Ranch: A National Park Odyssey Days 13-14

Grand Canyon's South Rim to Phantom Ranch and Back

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Josh rode Fooler, I rode Sheldon, Kinley rode Maude, and Knox rode Mable.
If you haven't yet read my last post about preparing for this trip down the canyon, start here.  And, I'm giving you fair warning: this post is lengthy.  I'll forgive you for reading it in chunks.

Getting the Boyd train rolling – everyone dressed, packed, fed, car packed, and checked out - by 5:40 am is no easy task.  So as we bustled along the deserted South Rim Trail on our way to the corral for our mule ride down into the canyon hauling our clear plastic bags full of gear, our canteens filled with water, and our yellow rain jackets, it was no surprise that Knox and I couldn’t keep up with the pace set by Josh and Kinley’s long legs.  We eventually told them to go on ahead to prevent the mule train from leaving without us.  I finally ended up carrying my bag and Knox’s since the many items dangling from his neck – a canteen, a back-up camera in case our other one malfunctioned or was dropped, sunglasses, a hat on a string, a bandanna to keep the dust out of his nose, a blubandoo cooling neck wrap, and binoculars – prevented him from making much progress.

Note all the things hanging from Knox's neck.

When we arrived at the corral at the top of Bright Angel Trail, rim-to-rim hikers were just beginning to emerge from pre-dawn ascents from the canyon floor.  Looking around, the group of ten assembled would-be mule riders included a couple in their 60s, a grandfather with his teenage grandson, a couple who appeared to be in their late 70s, and us. John, the manager of the mule trip operation, was ready to begin his 45-minute safety talk.  He told us that they usually didn’t start this journey until 7:30, but the extreme heat conditions had forced them to change departure time to get us off the trail before the real heat set in.  He also said he was going to cram our safety talk into about 15 minutes so we could get going.  There was a real sense of urgency in his voice.

John gives us the rished version of his safety talk.

Things he said next that made me feel like maybe this whole mule trip thing was a stupid idea:

  • ·        People have been fainting from the heat while up on the mules all week.
  • ·        Serious injury or death is possible.
  • ·        Halfway down, every rider must dismount and wet themselves fully with a hose to prevent heat exhaustion.
  • ·        If the group isn’t forcing the mules to travel nose to rump all the way down and back up, the chances of disaster increase drastically.
  • ·        Most groups don’t make their mules travel nose to rump in spite of the wranglers’ continued insistence.
  • ·        It’s a rough ride, rocky and dusty and sometimes frightening.
  • ·        You will be sore.
  • ·        If you back out now, you get all of your money back; if you wait until the point of no return (a rock tunnel at the beginning of the trail) to back out, you don’t get back a dime.
It was at this point that the teenaged boy backed out.  The safety talk had effectively scared the bejeezus out of him, and his poor grandfather was going to have to do the trip alone.  We Boyds were all avoiding eye contact with each other (afraid that one look would cause one of the four of us to back out) while simultaneously wondering if this kid was the only one of us with any sense.  We stared ahead, wide-eyed and silent.

Our gear was taken and loaded into saddlebags on the mules, and then John assigned each of us to the beast that would be our mode of transportation for the next two days.  He joked that the people with the best smiles would get the best mules.  You’d better believe I turned on the Southern charm and flashed my pearly whites wishing in vain that I had been born with dimples to seal the deal.   

I’m not sure if my dimpleless grin worked or not, but John told me I’d be on Sheldon, a medium-sized bay who eyed me warily as I hopped up on his back and settled into the saddle.  I hadn’t ridden a horse in years even though I grew up showing American Quarter Horses, and I couldn’t remember ever having ridden mule in my life.  The animals I had learned to ride on knew how to neck rein meaning that the rider doesn’t pull on the reins to turn the horse; you simply lay the reins on the side of the horse’s neck opposite the direction you want her to turn.  But these mules plow reined.  That means you actually pull the reins in the direction you want the mule to go.  While that may seem easier to someone who’s never ridden, it was really hard for me to get used to.  Luckily, John told us that reins wouldn’t be needed at all to turn the mules on the switchbacks of the trail; they were completely accustomed to following each other and turning at the right time on their own.  I gazed at the dusty ground framed through Sheldon’s big ears and tried to reassure myself that this creature who was responsible for safely transporting me to the canyon floor and back was sure-footed and experienced at doing his job.

John introduced the wranglers who’d be our guides on the trip, two twenty-something girls named Alicia and Alex.  I had been watching them tack up the mules, and they clearly knew what they were doing.  They adjusted stirrups for guests, discussed with John the order in which we’d be riding, and handed each of us a “motivator” for our mule.  This was a small piece of braided leather with a loop to fit over our wrists.  We were instructed to motivate our mules with a quick swat to the hind quarters to encourage them to stay nose to rump because, “A tight group is a safe group.”  John had us repeat that mantra several times together to be sure we got it while I tried not to think about what might happen if the rider of the mule in front of mine refused to do any motivating, leaving a dangerous gap that I could do nothing about.  I decided right then and there that Sheldon was going to get himself plenty motivated so that any gaps in our little line would not be because of my mule.

John told Knox that his mule was going to get to carry the US Mail bag down into the canyon, and Knox was excited to get to carry on the tradition of his mail-carrier great-great uncle, Wilburn Empson.  Then, we were off.  Alicia went first followed by Knox riding Mable, Kinley on Maude, Sheldon and me, Josh on Fooler, the couple in their 60s, the older couple, and then the grandfather.  Wrangler Alex brought up the rear.  Hikers coming off the trail had assembled to watch us mount up, and the crowd split to let us get on the trail.  Sheldon plodded along behind the other three mules needing no motivation at all.  Hikers took pictures of us.  Little children pointed and grinned at us.  I hadn’t expected to be taken home in so many people’s vacation photos, and I jokingly asked one family to email me a copy of the picture they took of us. 

John hands the mail bag to Knox to carry on his mule.

The official US mail bag for Phantom Ranch

I smiled and waved and tried to look completely calm, but in reality, I was incredibly anxious.  I couldn’t see Knox or Kinley’s faces, and I was too scared to turn around to see how Josh was doing.  I was thinking about how much trepidation I felt in spite of the years I had spent riding horses, and that made me increasingly nervous for the rest of my family.  What were they feeling?  Were they wishing they could turn back?  We hadn’t passed through the tunnel-of-no-return yet, so it wasn’t too late to back out.  

We passed signs written in several languages warning hikers of the dangers of hiking the canyon, of taking too little water, and of the signs of heat exhaustion.  Other signs displayed what became our mantra, “Down is optional; up is mandatory.”  Reading the signs was not helping my nerves.  And then we hit the first real switchback of the trail.  Alicia told the hikers coming toward us to hug the mountain and stay put until we passed.  They looked at her warily but complied.  Alicia rounded the corner followed by Knox and Kinley.  As they passed beneath me, I could see that their faces appeared relatively calm.  Alicia rode with her torso completely rotated so that she could watch each of us and make sure we were ok, completely trusting her mule to follow the path on his own. 

As Sheldon stepped toward the edge of the 2-foot-wide path, his head went out over the canyon.  And out.  And out.  He wasn’t turning.  I felt as if we were about to go over the cliff together, ending my two-day journey significantly earlier than I had planned.  At the last second, he turned back toward the mountain, right behind Kinley’s mule.  It seemed like a crisis, but it was just a perception problem.  I hadn’t thought about the way a mule’s body works.  Its feet are located under its back, not under its neck.  Of course the neck would extend over the canyon at every turn.  The front hooves are actually a good 3 feet from the head on a mule!  Sheldon wasn’t going over the canyon; just his head was!  And, apparently, I was going to need to get used to that going-over-the-canyon feeling at every switchback pretty quickly.  We were approaching the tunnel-of-no-return.

Kinley and Knox followed Alicia through with no hesitation, so Josh and I went through, too.  We were in it for the long haul.  And a long haul it was.  6 ½ hours down and 5 hours up the next day. 

After the first 15 minutes, Sheldon decided he needed to check to see if I was serious.  He started lagging behind enough that I could see the trail between his head and Kinley’s mule.  I motivated him a few times, and he got the message.  For the rest of the two days, a half-hearted swat that actually hit the saddle bags instead of his rump was enough to get him going.  Most of the time, just seeing me raise the motivator (or sometimes just feeling me change the reins in my hands) was enough to let him know he needed to catch up.

Staying nose to rump is important because when the mules realize they have fallen behind, they know they need to catch up.  In order to do that, they break into a trot.  You DO NOT want your mule trotting on a steep switchback trail littered with rocks and hikers.  So you motivate that mule to keep up in the first place.  If you’re squeamish about motivating your mule, do not take this trip.  If your mule doesn’t keep up, all the mules behind you can’t keep up.  And once your mule decides to catch up on his own, you and all the other people on mules behind you will start trotting down a trail with grade as much as 15.7%.  Imagine trotting around a rocky mountain corner with your mule’s head going out over the canyon as he turns.  You don’t want that.  I promise.

Our first rest stop for the mules

After several minutes, Alicia pulled her mule to a stop.  All the other mules automatically pulled in beside hers with their rumps to the mountain and their heads out over the canyon.  John had told us that it was very important to make a tight pack as we stopped and to be sure that the mules could see down into the canyon so that they could see where not to go.  We let the mules rest, and Alicia talked to us about what to expect next.  Coming up would be Echo Corner, Battleship Butte, and “Oh, Jesus” Corner, so named because of how frightening it is.  Our rest stop was just about five minutes long, and then we were off again.

It was interesting to me that we saw the same hikers over and over again throughout the morning.  We would pass them on the trail, and then they would pass us as we let the mules rest.  We’d pass them again, and the pattern would repeat.  One Asian gentleman who was hiking alone smiled, waved, and spoke to us each time we passed, and he took several pictures of our little group. 

Pretty soon, I could feel nature calling.  Alicia said that a stop at Indian Garden was about an hour away and that there would be restrooms there.  I knew an hour was too long, so at the next rest stop for the mules, I told her I wasn’t the least bit squeamish about going right there in broad daylight on the trail.  The trail is only 2-3 feet wide, and there is little vegetation, but I thought I’d just kind of go around the next switchback, suck it up, and do my thing.  Alicia looked at me skeptically, but I hopped down and skittered off before she could stop me.  The great thing about these mules is that you can walk behind them without any fear of them kicking you as a horse would.  So I walked behind Alicia, Kinley, and Knox’s mules and found a decent spot to squat.  Mid-business, here came the Asian gentleman.  The smile on his kind face was quickly replaced with horror.  Being mid-business, I couldn’t move, so I just apologized profusely and finished up.  He walked on, clearly scarred for life.  We passed him several more times that morning, and he never spoke or made eye contact again.  Bless his heart.  He’ll have a good story to tell when he gets home.

I mounted up, and on we went.  Behind me, Alex shook her head and said, “That’s my kind of woman.”  I’ll admit, I was proud.

By 9:10, we arrived at Indian Garden.  Lush vegetation and gurgling streams replaced the dry and dusty landscape, and the trail flattened out and widened significantly.  We saw a ranger station and a shelter along with restrooms, a horse trough, benches, and a water spigot where several hikers were drinking deeply and refilling their ubiquitous Camelbacks.  We had been on the trail for about 2 hours and 40 minutes by this time.  We weren’t hungry, but this was our lunch stop.  Alicia and Alex tied up the mules, and we got off.  We all went to the restrooms, refilled our canteens at the spigot, and picked up our boxed lunches from Alex and Alicia. 

At the water station at Indian Garden, tired hikers sat for a rest while the mule riders filled their bottles.

Lunch at Indian Garden

The mules rested while we ate.

The lunch was larger and plentiful.

The lunches were huge; each contained a large sandwich, chips or pretzels, an apple, a cookie, an energy drink, a bag of baby carrots, and trail mix.  Alicia told us we only had 20 minutes to eat them because we needed to get back on the trail in order to get to Phantom Ranch before the hottest part of the day.  Knowing that Knox is the slowest eater on the planet, I immediately implemented “lunch triage” with him – fresh items first, packaged items last since they could be saved for later.  The rest of us wolfed down as much as we could, and after 15 minutes, Alicia told us to finish up.  Apples and carrots could be fed to the mules if we couldn’t eat them.  Unopened packaged food could be placed in bear-proof boxes to be picked up by staff later. Everything else had to be put into trash bags that the mules would carry or placed into our own pockets to be eaten later. 

Pesky squirrels hovered nearby hoping that we would drop a crumb or two since they had been trained by previous hikers to expect human handouts.  Signs everywhere instructed guests not to feed the wildlife, but it seems that not everyone understood the damage done when wild animals are trained to expect human food.

I couldn’t finish nearly all of my food that quickly, so I fed the rest of my apple to Sheldon hoping to engender some goodwill from my four-footed friend.  Just as Sheldon grabbed the last bits of apple from my hand and replaced them with a generous amount of mule slobber, I realized that we weren’t going to be leaving any time soon. 

It seemed that another of our compatriots was regretting the trip.  Remember the couple that I assumed was in their late 70s?  Well, it turns out that the gentleman was 80!  Doing this mule ride had been on his bucket list for years, and he’d lost 40 pounds in the last year to be able to do it.  But what he didn’t admit at check-in was that he also had some nerve issues with his spine that caused severe shoulder pain.  He’d had two epidurals recently to try to mitigate the situation, but the two hours on the mule that morning had seriously aggravated the problem.  He wasn’t going to be able to get back on his mule.

Alicia asked his wife if she wanted to continue with us on her own, but she insisted that she would stay with her husband.  Alicia advised the man to lie down on a bench, and his wife started fanning him in the heat and bringing wet cloths to cool him down.  He was pale, weak, and sweating profusely.  Then Alicia asked him if he would be able to ride a mule back up to the top or if he could walk.  We could all predict the answer to those questions.  There was no way that man was going anywhere on a mule, and he certainly couldn’t go anywhere on his own.  But “down is optional; up is mandatory,” so Alicia told him that she would radio for a helicopter to come and fly him out at no charge to him. Can you believe that?  No charge!  I was stunned, but this is evidently a relatively common occurrence in the canyon.  And it was clear that this was the only option for this couple.

Alicia radioed the ranger on duty at the Indian Garden station, and we all waited anxiously for her to arrive.  In the 25 minutes that followed, even Knox would have had time to finish his lunch.  But, of course, we had all thrown or packed away our uneaten items before we knew what was about to happen.  Instead, we spent our time resting in the shade and dunking our arms in the trough water to cool down as the temperature climbed 15 degrees to 100°F.

No caption necessary

Through all the stress, radioing, waiting, paperwork, and worry, Alicia and Alex remained completely calm and professional.  They reassured the man that he was making the right decision since the trail got more difficult after Indian Garden.  They cared for the mules and made plans for how to deal with the two riderless animals we’d now have in our parade down the steep trail.  (Obviously, we couldn’t just leave them at Indian Garden, and the animals certainly weren’t getting on a helicopter for a ride back to the stable.)  They reminded us to drink extra water and wet down any clothing we could to stay cool.

While waiting for the details to be worked out for the helicopter rescue, we took a family picture with our sleeves soaked with mule trough water.

We soon learned that this was only Alex’s second trip down the canyon.  What a way to start a new career!  It was going to be her responsibility to lead the two mules as she brought up the rear of our little band that was growing steadily smaller, and Alicia spent some time giving her pointers and instructions for how to deal with the animals who would be unaccustomed to making the trip without riders.  Both women were unflappable under pressure and made us all feel as comfortable as possible.  If they were scared, they never showed it at all.

We didn’t wait for the helicopter.  Once all the plans were made, Alicia left the ranger in charge and led us off further into the canyon.  What had started as a group of ten guests was now seven.  I felt as though I were living in an Agatha Christie novel.  As our mules carried us away all in a line, we said silent prayers both for the man and his wife and for the rest of us.

The next two and a half hours were a blur of cliffs, switchbacks, dust, and sweat.  We let the mules rest several times, and we were instructed to drink deeply from our canteens at each rest.   Eventually, the mighty, green waters of the Colorado River came into view far below us.  Yellow rafts, presumably filled with paddling thrill-seekers, appeared as tiny specks in the distance.  I began to imagine the cooling effects of the cold water rushing by, and the powerful river seemed to taunt me.  Hot, weary, and now sore from gripping the mule with my legs, I began to daydream about what a dip in the river would feel like.  Of course, that only made matters worse.
See those tiny yellow dots in the river?  They're six-man rafts.  That shows you how far away we are from the river.

The view from our mules

Evidence that I didn't always motivate my mule to stay right behind Kinley

The nearer we got to the river, the hotter it seemed.

Soon we rounded a corner that was the scariest yet.  It was a sheer 200 foot drop-off, with the rocks and rapids of the Colorado raging below.  I reminded myself that Sheldon was sure footed and had traveled this trail may times before.  And I reminded Sheldon that I’d given him my apple.  We made it around the corner unscathed, and I didn’t begrudge giving up that apple one bit.

Possibly the scariest corner of all was this one.  You can see a tiny speck of yellow in the river.  That's a raft full of people.

Six hours into the trip, we came to a suspension bridge spanning the Colorado.  Alicia informed us that we would be crossing the bridge on our mules and that we would need to be especially careful to keep our mules nose to rump.  Trotting on the bridge to catch up would mean that the bridge would begin to swing.  Neither mules nor humans would enjoy crossing a swinging bridge suspended 70 feet above the wild Colorado River. I kept Sheldon so close that Kinley’s mule kicked at him a couple of times.  But I preferred that to the alternative.

This is a view of the bridge we crossed as seen from the Phantom Ranch sided of the river.

As Sheldon and I crossed the bridge (which, incidentally, was built in 1928), I began to think about all the different ways I had exhibited faith that day.  I had faith in John to choose the right mule for me.  I had faith in Alicia and Alex to safely guide me and my family down into the canyon.  I had faith that the volunteers who maintain the narrow trail had placed rocks strategically to reinforce the unstable areas.  I had faith in the people who built that suspension bridge 89 years earlier.  I had faith in the structural engineers who (I assume?!) check the bridge periodically to ensure that it is safe to cross.  I had faith that Sheldon wasn’t going to dump me over a cliff.  I had faith in the tack that kept my saddle attached to my mule.  So much faith.

Crossing the bridge

And I wasn’t alone!  Ten people every day – even Christmas Day –make this trip.  They have to have faith in all the same things I did.  Things we can’t know for sure but that we’re willing to put our trust in anyway.  And yet, faith in Christ as Savior is so difficult for some.  I continued to reflect on these thoughts for the remainder of the trip.
We were so happy to see this sign!

Within 30 minutes of crossing the bridge we had arrived at Phantom Ranch, a veritable oasis in the rugged landscape.  It was built in 1922 0f wood and native stone and can only be reached by foot, by raft on the Colorado River, or by mule.  We plodded past the camping area that lined Phantom Creek, feeling grateful that our 6 ½ hours on a mule was not about to be followed by a night sleeping on the rocky ground and looking forward to a post-ride dip in the creek since the temperature on the canyon floor was now 116°F.

Yep.  That really does say to expect a high of 116.

We rode the mules into the stone and wood corral, and Alex and Alicia hitched them to the rails while we dismounted.  Saddle sore and stiff, we each waddled over to a covered area where one of the staff members brought us all cold lemonade and literally hosed us all down with cold water.  He gave us instructions about showers and meals, and then handed over the keys to our little cabins.  We were thrilled to learn that not only did our cabins have electricity, a toilet, and a sink but also AIR CONDITIONING!  Never did we imagine that a place so remote would have such relative luxury.  We grabbed our bags of belongings which were now just as dust-covered as we were and headed to the welcome cool air or our cabins.

Our little cabin was very comfortable in spite of the extreme heat.

Knox sits on his bunk in our cabin.

We quickly changed into swimsuits and walked to the nearby creek.  The cold water was a welcome respite from the heat, but the shallow depth and rocky creek bottom made it hard to sit or walk.  We cooled off for twenty minutes or so and then Josh took the kids to the nearby ranger station to get their special Junior Ranger booklets for Phantom Ranch.  Very few kids ever earn this badge because of the remote location, and the kids were excited to work toward the special rattlesnake patch.  We had discovered that poor Knox had actual saddle sores, so he certainly deserved some sort of recognition for his experience.
Kinley cools off in rocky Phantom Creek.

Josh and Knox made their way to the bench in the creek.

After the kids finished the activities for their badges, we felt like we should be exploring the trails in the area, but we were so zapped from the heat and the ride down that we just collapsed on our bunkbeds for a nap.  Later we showered in the (super clean!) bath houses, and the kids had an informative chat with the ranger who happily swore them in as Junior Rangers.

The ranger swore them in after they finished their booklets.

They earned the coveted rattlesnake patch!

Dinner was served promptly at 5:00, and we had sprung for the famous steak dinners instead of the cheaper stew option.  Everything was served family style, and we devoured it all hastily.  I marveled at the supplies that must be brought down daily to keep just the kitchen stocked; imagine all that lettuce and beef coming down on mules in the heat every single day!  And there would be bacon, eggs, and pancakes the next morning, too!  How in the world did those eggs make it down the canyon on mules without becoming omelets on the trail?  I have no idea, but I’m grateful to whomever is responsible for taking care of those details.

After cleaning up the dinner mess, the canteen opened again from 8:00-10:00 to allow guests to buy postcards, play games, or have a beer with fellow adventurers.  We wrote several postcards each, added the “carried by mule from the bottom of the Grand Canyon” stamp, and placed them into the mailbox to be hauled up the next morning.  Then we played a few rounds of Bananagrams before heading to bed.
Knox stamps a postcard with the signature Phantom Ranch seal.

The canteen had limited hours, but it was a nice cool place to write postcards and play games.

Breakfast was plentiful, delicious, and served at 6:30 sharp the next morning.  Kinley was asked to ring the dinner bell, and the caretaker told her without irony that she did an exceptional job.  Evidently, both Susan Sarandon and Oprah Winfrey have rung that bell, and Kinley’s skills outshone theirs.  Teddy Roosevelt stayed at Phantom Ranch in 1913, but his bell-ringing skills weren’t divulged to us.

Kinley got to ring the breakfast bell.

As we contemplated another day of riding, Knox was dreading sitting on his saddle sores for the return trip, and the rest of us weren’t looking forward to the aches in our knees and ankles from gripping the mules with our legs.  Of course, while going up we wouldn’t be leaning back as we had on the way down and our weight would be distributed differently.  We hoped that the difference would be enough to not aggravate our existing muscle aches further.

Alicia (left) and Alex (right) were wonderful wranglers!

Knox and Mable carried the mail back up the next day, too!

By 7:30 we were mounted up and on our way back up the canyon, this time via the South Kaibab Trail.  Knox would once again be carrying the mail pouch, this time with postcards we had written ourselves inside. Alicia told us that we would be making stops much more frequently today to give the mules plenty of rest.  I thought again about how “up is mandatory” and reflected once more on the faith I had in Sheldon, Alicia, Alex, and the countless volunteers who keep the trail passable.  This wasn’t a blind faith.  It was an intentional faith.  I was well aware that Sheldon wasn’t infallible.  He stumbled several times, in fact.  There were places that the trail clearly needed maintenance, and there was evidence of ongoing maintenance projects in some places.  But I made a conscious choice to have faith in man and in beast in spite of my fears.  As we lumbered along, I considered the similarities of this faith to my faith in Christ.  There are countless parts of the story of Jesus that seem impossible, and yet I intentionally choose to believe anyway.  That’s what faith is.  Riding a mule in the Grand Canyon gives you lots of time for quiet reflection, I suppose.

Josh and Fooler with a beautiful canyon view

Lunch isn’t provided on the way up, but we did get to dismount and walk around a couple of times.  Alicia continued to tell us stories on the way up, and our mules needed a bit more motivation to keep up with each other.  We were sore and hot, but we tried to embrace the experience and enjoy the view. 

This mule train carries all of the supplies for Phantom Ranch.

These switchbacks are known and the red and whites because of the colors of the soil.

After a stop at Cedar Ridge, the crowds began to thicken and we could tell that we must be nearing the top.  The train of pack mules that traverses the trail every day carrying supplies passed us at one point, and a few minutes later it began to rain lightly.  Most of us were thrilled with the cooling effects of the rain and cloud cover, but Knox, of course, insisted on putting on his yellow raincoat.  The rain was short-lived, and at about 1:00, we crested the top of the trail and made our way to the hitching posts.  We had made it!  We waited for Alicia and Alex to tie up the mules and then hopped off for the final time. 

I thanked Sheldon and gave him a loving pat before saying goodbye to the other members of our group.  I thanked Alicia and Alex for handling all the stress so beautifully and for taking such great care of us, and Josh tipped them before saying goodbye and boarding the shuttle that would take us back to Bright Angel Lodge.  As we trundled along, I thought about how “up” may be mandatory but faith is not. 

I was grateful for both.
The view from atop Fooler


  1. Whoa!!! Just WHOAAA!!

    That picture of the corner and the river below?? Oh my! Obviously I'm the teenager boy who backed out.

    Kinley, Knox... you have my respect!

    Miss you, Boyd Family!


    1. We miss you, too! I was so proud of Kinley and Knox for being brave!

  2. What an incredible family experience! You should all be proud of yourselves for conquering such a feat. Another bucket list item for me :)

  3. Great post! You brought back many accurate memories from our trip last October. It's a hard trip, but worth it

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading!