We’re back. We pulled into Peterborough, Ontario late one night last week, ending the journey by reversing into the same parking place in which we had loaded up the van one and a half months ago. There was an overwhelming rush of emotion – a strange concoction that never quite revealed what it was, but felt like a bittersweet mixture of relief, accomplishment, emptiness and slight anti-climax. We think they all stemmed from the fact that we never thought we’d actually do it. There were too many variables, too many ways in which something could go wrong. In the end, it all went fine. The things that went wrong had solutions better than the original plan
We last left you on our way to the Grand Canyon. We made it there as planned and cooked ourselves a simple meal whilst watching the shifting light of the sunset slowly leave the canyon floor and then its walls. We returned to Page, Arizona that night but not before seeing the moonrise opposite the setting sun above the eastern side of the canyon. Beautiful symmetry.
As the sun set in the west, the moon rose in the east. Photo by Sam
The setting sun burns up the walls of the Grand Canyon. Photo by Sam
The next morning we drove into Colorado, to Mesa Verde National Park. Robbie, our archaeologist had suggested this stop and we are thankful to him for it. Mesa Verde was one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites. The park is home to some of the world’s best-preserved Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites. It was almost as fun to explore the area and listen to the ranger-led talks, as it was to just watch Robbie walk around smiling. Absolutely in his element and so happy about it, his good mood was entirely infectious. We spent two days at Mesa Verde, a stay that unexpectedly became one of our favorites of the entire trip.
Robbie, a happy archaeologist. Photo by Sam
We left Mesa Verde to begin a journey that was ultimately the last homeward leg of the journey. Almost. First, we had one last stop to make – we had been talking about white water rafting for the longest time and our last chance to do that was before we left Colorado. We got out on the Lower Animas River after a period of extended rainfall. The water level had fallen enough for tours to restart just earlier that day. The rapids were insanely fast compared to how we’d imagined they might be and the water still rose to frightening heights at times. We made it though, thanks to the help of an awesome guide, who despite leading us through the most turbulent sections of water, managed to keep us all safely aboard. It was crazy good fun, a great last activity to do together before we got back into prairie country.
A break in the rainclouds, Colorado. Photo by Sam
We zoomed across Nebraska and Iowa to reach Chicago the next evening. It was here that we would be saying goodbye to Dian. She was flying back to Europe ahead of us to take up a great opportunity to work at a Dutch festival that had suddenly presented itself.
Having a quick (long) splash in Lake Michigan the day before Dian’s flight home. Photo by Sam
Saying goodbye hurt. It signaled the end of the road trip and the six weeks of fellowship that the five of us had shared. The journey back to Peterborough that followed was not the same, it was something different – it served no purpose other than getting us home.
The final tally. In a straight line around the equator that’s almost halfway around the world.
We’ve all gone out separate ways now. Robbie home to Scotland for summer, Lara to Indonesia for a research project, Sam to Indiana to visit friends and Ciaran to Washington D.C. to meet up with friends for another month’s worth of North American travels. After so much time together you begin to expect one another’s company forever. Now that we’re all apart it’s comforting to think that the journey we shared and unforgettable experiences that came with it will bind us together strongly enough that ten, twenty or fifty years down the line when we’re all grey and old, we can do it all again.
Of course, we plan the next trip to be much sooner than that – hopefully you can all join us when that time comes. Thanks for reading, and thank you to Osprey for the fantastic gear!
Osprey is 40 years young! I fondly recall the moment I selected “Osprey” for the new company, way back in 1974. At that time this beautiful bird was an endangered species and I thought, if that bird can survive the next few tough years, so can this new company! Like the bird, Osprey Packs has flourished since then, and continues to grow and multiply. Over all these years, we at Osprey have had the pleasure to meet and work with some of the finest, warmest people involved in this wonderful, friendly industry. We are indebted to all of you out there who have supported Osprey along the way, through thick and thin, and have made the last 40 years so fun and rewarding!
-Mike Pfotenhauer, Osprey Packs founder and Head Designer
Since 1974, when Osprey Packs was founded by Mike Pfotenhauer in the front of his rented house in Santa Cruz, California, our mission has been to create innovative high performance gear that reflects our love of adventure and our devotion to the outdoors. We’re so honored to be commemorating the 40th anniversary of Osprey Packs — thank you for 40 incredible years!
To celebrate, we’re giving away 40 Limited Edition bags over 40 days in celebration of our past, our present & our future. Enter to win #Osprey1974 by submitting a photo showing us where you’ve gone with Osprey: your favorite day hike, a long summer weekend backpacking, or satisfying your wanderlust abroad. One Grand Prize winner will win the Osprey pack of their choice!
Below are the winning photos from of Round 1 of the #Osprey1974 photo contest! Each winner will receive a 40th Anniversary Limited Edition Transporter 40 bag.
Have you entered #Osprey1974 yet? Join us in celebrating 40 years of Osprey Packs by sharing a photo of your adventures with Osprey! We’re thrilled to celebrate 4 decades of adventures with you and to give away 40 bags over 40 days.
Enter to win: tinyurl.com/osprey1974
Complete rules: tinyurl.com/osprey1974rules
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“Life comes from water,” my friend Erich explained at the kitchen table over a beer. “Everywhere you look is something” he quipped, describing the lushness that fills the banks and surrounding terraces along the Colorado river as it carves through the Grand Canyon. Although Erich had made a month-long voyage through the canyon by boat before, this conversation was just 22 hours after our visit there. A journey that made an immutable impression on me as I traversed on foot from one side of the canyon to the other and then back — doing something known as a Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim.
To know something, I must dive in, get my hands dirty and commit. This was my first adult trip to the Grand Canyon so I set my bar high. Always an eager ear to listen to my river-loving friends’ tales of the months of their lives spent exploring this place, one of the seven wonders of the world, I came away with a sense that the canyon was quite large and almost guaranteed to free you from the technological and municipal tangles of daily life. It has walls that are five-to-six-thousand feet high, hidden trails that can only be reached by water and tales of explorations in rugged environments as variable as winter and summer in the same day. My friends always echoed that planning is critical to success, keeping it in check is critical to success and luck… well, that would be a part too. I had that this weekend, that was the most critical piece to my success venturing into this stunning terra firma — not for a month, but for a very long day.
At 5:06 AM in sub freezing temps on November 19th, 2013, the three of us, Erich, Heather and I, dropped over the South rim of the Grand Canyon via the South Kaibab trail. A feathery wave of warmer air softly invited us to descend into the chasm, guided by a full moon and anticipation of our long day. The trail was wide and well worn, with each foot strike powdery bursts of red dust erupted and sent a misty cloud into the follower’s headlamp beam. Massive jagged shapes — like those drawn in Dr. Seuss’s books — slowly rose above us as Gotham-esque outlines. In an hour we were warmed up and dropping 4700′ of vertical to the Colorado river minute by minute. Then suddenly it happened…”Ben” Erich exhaled from behind me “I fell.”
I knew how he felt, the day before I had stepped off a snow-covered front porch in Telluride, Co and ate it so hard. I fell directly onto my butt and took a diagonal impact across my entire lower back and sacrum to the point of some immediate swelling, bruising and an occasional pinch since then. Content to carry on and visit the canyon anyway, I iced it in the drivers seat, took some ibuprofen and figured that a six-and- a-half-hour car ride was plenty of time to determine how it would play out.
Unlike my klutzy self, Erich made it to the trail before going down. He caught a foot step in a powdery pocket of dust, hyperextended his right knee and sent his body hurtling forward. Starting from 8 mph and ending at 0 with a white flash and nausea, a crumpled red dust covered being barely set atop a rock is a tough place to be 5.2 miles into a 42.4 mile day. I walked 150′ back up to Erich and helped him assess the situation. His gear lay strewn about the stark landscape like a gypsy yard sale at a Phish show. The impact had been “big” and he sat on a rock, reeling from mild shock.
“Man, what do you think?” I said. “I think I blew my knee and I’m seeing white” he said. Ughhh, I thought, THAT sensation, when you have cratered full-on superman style into a pain cave, disorientation and a sense of despair so low, so ominously coursing through every inch of your body that retching is all that sounds good. Erich was going to need a few minutes to recover, then we would see where he was at. He is a strong dude with a solid chassis.
In a little time, Erich shuffled to his feet and walked 100′ downhill and it was clear that he could move, but rather than take that as a sign to continue, he wisely chose to use his energy to get himself out of the canyon less injured. He was finished. We both knew Heather, tactfully descending somewhere above us, would be a solid back up as she was doing a burly 14 mile day with 9400′ in vertical change, turning around at the bottom of the canyon and heading back up. I cleaned his shades, put his visor back on him and said good bye with his confidence I could still complete the day alone.
Off I went into the dark maw until dawn. I crossed the Colorado river and arrived at my first water break at Phantom Ranch some seven miles, 4700′ of descent and two hours into the day — a slow setup to a long sustained effort. Forty extra minutes of darkness and low temperatures were absorbed in the scenario above and it was important to cruise with a little urgency in the cool morning up a 6200′, 14.2-mile climb to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I had time thanks to the early start and I wasn’t bothered at all about being off schedule, just aware that the sun would be up soon. I took off from Phantom Ranch after hastily replacing the half liter of fluids I had consumed and had a nice time running a little harder on the North Kaibab trail’s lower reaches and seeing the life Erich had spoken about, the life that comes from water in the depths of such a stark and craggy stack of monoliths.
As I strode through a broad section of opening valley, a hole burst in my hydration reservoir, right at the bottom of the pack and like that, at mile 13 — I had potentially blown this attempt. I had fumbled around in my pack in the dark and placed a sharp object too close to the durable plastic. When I filled the bladder to capacity at Phantom Ranch it put too much pressure on it. My jacket, gloves and two McDonald’s cheeseburgers were soaked in an orange solution of gatorade and fresh water. I was super pissed, this was my fault and now jeopardized successfully completing the traverse to one rim, making running back to the other nearly impossible. All I had left were two gels, three blocks, one granola bar and 29 miles to stretch it out.
I have not had an episode like this in a while, where a total meltdown could be so imminent, with nearly no solid food and no water or way to carry water. I was in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, six miles from people in one direction and going to have to pull off 22 more miles with what I had with only two chances for mere sips of water in between. This was a moment for contemplation as a bright wave of sunlight slowly pushed silhouttes of the enveloping 5000′ canyon walls down into the valley and soaked into my bare shoulders for the first time. I made my decision and went for it; I like to finish things, and figured that if had to hike out to conserve energy — I would, I could — even if it meant going into darkness.
This was my sixth “ultra marathon” distance run. I went into it expecting to just cruise it, albeit with a partner, food and water. I had strategically wanted to run hard from miles 21.2 to 35.4 for training, but other than that, I had no real goals other than finishing before dark and having a nice day on the trail with some friends. This was not a race, it was a day out. I had never set foot on a trail in the Grand Canyon so it felt like I should allow time for photos as well, you know, like a tourist. But now this, a chance for an epic draw on my deepest reserves instead became part of the experience. I hadn’t explored that kind of distance totally alone before and this was my last run before a mandatory prolonged break for a few weeks in between seasons.
Without belaboring the point or disrespecting the canyon, I will say the eight miles and 6200′ of uphill in the sun were hard with no water! As I neared the top and mile 21.2, I felt the pangs of desperation uncoiling from within and sequestering my brain to intervene and stop this messy attempt if I saw anyone at the parking lot. When I arrived, there in the frost-covered shade of a stone-planted National Park sign were three spigots of water I had planned on seeing. I strolled up, tried all three and not a trickle flowed. “Shit, no water, oh man, it’s over,” I thought! I sat down, it was cold, my clothing was soaked in my pack and I sort of zoned out and was trembling from the still, cool air in the shade. Moments later, a trio of climbers I passed on the way up appeared and I asked them if they had any disposable water bottles. They gave me a fresh 24 oz. water bottle that I opened and chugged. Damn I was lucky. Flat out, that gesture took this from being the longest day ever to the longest day on empty.
I crammed the awkwurd bottle in my pack and had revitalized my hydration to a manageable point that could be recovered. Cramping in my side due to dehydration and the fall off the porch from the day before inspired me to jog down the trail a little easier until it abated and soon the trail was flowing singletrack and a river ran nearby. I was never afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it and even got to push the 14 mile section I wanted to, not a ton, but enough to feel like I really “ran” the rim to rim to rim.
By mile 35 I had been through everything, I had lost my partner, my water, my solid food– but I gained the confidence I needed to carry forward and I took a chance that paid off because of luck. As I sat at Phantom Ranch the second time passing through, seven miles and 4700′ below the South Rim in post lunchtime sun, I wiped my salt covered face off with a wet handkerchief. Autumn’s golden foliage flowed from side to side and I sat undisturbed at a drinking water spigot outside the ranch’s canteen for nearly a half hour. Wow, I thought, it’s nice to sit down for a moment and reflect at the actual lowpoint of this trip. I had almost totally crossed this huge feature on foot with the bare minimum and couldn’t really complain about anything. It was all working out, just with some readjusted expectations. I was fast enough to get it done and slow enough to see it for an experience and not just an achievement, it was real and not just a blur.
With this in mind, I departed down trail to the Colorado River and stopped to observe portaging boats as they made their way to and through the beach at Bright Angel campground in the midst of their own three-week journeys through this magnificent feature — the same journey my river-loving friends were always bating me with. I thought about how still and tranquil it must have felt for them at times and how glad I was at the time to know my compressed journey was almost done and it was long before sunset. I was ready to head back to the world to friends and family.
Ascending out of the valley and up the South Kaibab’s 4700′ trail winding through dreamscape and postcard views, I soaked up the last of my water, an 80 calorie espresso flavored gel and just plodded along on empty. In perfect light above wild steppes and crumbling mountainsides carved out of a vastness so immense, I could understand now that which can only be understood after 42.4 miles and 22,000′ of elevation change in a place. My expectations were totally vanquished, I couldn’t help but revel in the sheer magnificence of this iconic National Park and at the same time still obsessively eyeball every 10th of a mile on my GPS watch until the end — about 54 in a row on the grueling return uphill. There is no way to come here and say it should be called, “pretty big canyon” or “yeah that’s a nice canyon.” This thing is the definition of Grand to the core. The running part, totally secondary.
The final four-tenths of a mile at the top were steep but Heather and Erich were there cheering as I approached the end of my first journey through the Grand Canyon. With sunken eyes and waning energy I was thankful for hearing their voices, the jug of water they handed me… and sitting down. Life comes from water, sharing a few sips and scanning the horizon for the last rays of the sun dappling the many features of the sterile and parched upper canyon, life indeed was coming back.
Today, The Conservation Alliance is proud to announce the release of Grand Canyon, the fourth video in its worthWILD series. This film in particular tells the story of the Grand Canyon Trust’s successful effort to convince the Interior Department to impose a 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims on one million acres of land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. This ban now provides long-term protection for this pristine National Park.
Behind it all lies the Grand Canyon Trust, an organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of the Colorado Plateau. Throughout the process of establishing the protection necessary, the Trust successfully led a coalition of concerned citizens and residents, local and national organizations, and advocates of the National Parks to protect the Grand Canyon from the threats of new uranium mining. The Conservation Alliance funded the Trust’s campaign in 2010, two years into the project.
This film and the Grand Canyon itself depict how these diverse stakeholders’ collaborative efforts resulted in Interior Secretary’s Ken Salazar implementation of a 20-year moratorium on new uranium mining on 1.1 million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon.
“The Trust’s campaign to secure a favorable decision was greatly enhanced through a powerful strategic alliance with national conservation organizations and their members as well as with businesses such as those supporting The Conservation Alliance and Save the Colorado campaign,” said Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust Program Director.
“Grand Canyon Trust did a terrific job protecting the Grand Canyon watershed from new uranium mining,” said Conservation Alliance Executive Director John Sterling. “We’re proud to have supported this effort, and are thrilled to tell the story in this short film.”
Produced by Alexandria Bombach’s Red Reel Video, Grand Canyon is the fourth documentary the Conservation Alliance has produced as part of the worthWild series launched in 2012. Four additional films will be made in 2013.
Congress is poised to gut protections on 1 million acres of public lands around the Grand Canyon — if we don’t take action right now to protect this national park from uranium mining.
A new uranium mining boom is threatening further harm to the people, water, wildlands and biodiversity of the Grand Canyon region.
The Obama administration is considering a plan that would protect up to 1 million acres of the Grand Canyon’s watersheds from new uranium mining. But only one of the alternatives they’re considering — Alternative B — affords protections across the entire 1 million acre watershed.
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What can you do?
1. Knowledge is power. Watch the video and learn why we need to use our voice to speak up for the Grand Canyon right NOW.
2. Share the love! Post this video on your FB, Twitter or blogs. Tell your friends, neighbors, family what’s up.
3. Take action! Send a letter of support to the Obama administration urging them to stand firm and protect the Grand Canyon from nasty uranium mining.
May 4th is the last day the government will be accepting public comments, so please act today!
“If the mine poisons our water, it will be the end of my people.” — Carletta Tilousi, Havasupai Tribal Council member
For more than 25 years, international mining companies have aggressively pursued uranium deposits in and around the Grand Canyon. The Havasupai Tribe, other First Nations, conservationists and citizens of Northern Arizona have joined forces to inform the surrounding community of the dangers and everlasting health effects caused by uranium mining.
Past uranium activity has caused direct health affects to the local First Nations communities living in and around the Grand Canyon region. For instance, many Navajo families have been diagnosed with many types of cancer because of the abandoned uranium mines located all over the Navajo Reservation. The proposed uranium mines on the rim of the Grand Canyon are located directly above the Havasupai Tribe’s groundwater source and near their sacred site at Red Butte and the uranium mining companies have proposed to transport uranium directly through First Nations and other communities
in Northern Arizona.
TAKE ACTION HERE.
It is approaching time for the Bureau of Land Management to once again consider whether or not to allow bids for uranium mining on more than one million acres of land near the Grand Canyon. The two-year moratorium that is now set to expire was a challenge to win in the first place, and lobbyists are putting the pressure on to let the mining begin.
Prior to the moratorium, BLM had already authorized uranium exploration despite a congressional resolution the year before that barred new claims near the park, and the issue continued to be a controversial one even during the moratorium.
Other recent BLM decisions in the West do not lend much confidence that the agency prioritizes protection and conservation over exploration.
If the federal government doesn’t renew the ban, writes social action site Avaaz, “a ‘Uranium Rush’ of mining would permanently scar the face of this unique and priceless land, devastate local communities, and endanger water supplies for millions who live nearby.”
A public outcry helped secure the embargo last time, and thanks to a wave of citizen outcry last week, the deadline for public comment has just been extended through May 4. Write comments to urge Secretary Salazar and the Obama administration to protect the Grand Canyon and extend that protection for the full one million acres of land for at least the next 20 years.
Thanks to First Nations communities, The Grand Canyon Trust, The Sierra Club and local conservationists and citizens for leading the charge.
TAKE ACTION HERE.