Sunday, June 28, 2015

Arizona Trip: Biltmore Time!

Every moment after I made our reservations at the Arizona Biltmore, all I could think about was laying by the pool with a pina colada in hand.  

We woke up our first morning after a wonderful night sleep and slowly made our way to the pool. We ordered lunch, pina coladas and did not move until after 5:00 pm.  Six hours of lounging by the pool was just what we needed.

This was the best pina colada I had ever had in my life!

I had so much fun floating around on this raft and drinking my pina coladas!

At some point I switched over to mojitos, which were just as tasty as the pina coladas.

We ended our first day of relaxing with room service in our room and watching a movie.  It was the most relaxing day I have had in a very long time.

Our second full day, Ken's former boss picked us up and took us to lunch.  We enjoyed lunch and wine while spending the afternoon with her.  

When we arrived back to the hotel, there was a surprising thunderstorm that happened and we got to see a rainbow.

The beautiful grounds of the Arizona Biltmore

A peek at the rainbow

We ended up having a wonderful dinner, complete with table-side smores.  They were absolutely delicious!

Table-side s'mores.  Be still my beating heart.

On Friday we woke up and packed our bags.  We did not have to check out until 2:00 pm, so we decided to head down to the pool for a little more pool time.

We sat under our umbrella while it began to rain.  It was very relaxing.

One final yummy pina colada at the pool.

Relaxed and ready to head back to the real world!

We had the best time lounging around the Biltmore.  Between school, Ken's work schedule, and of course the hike, we were pretty worn out.  I am grateful for the time spent with Ken in such a beautiful place.  Thanks for the wonderful vacation Ken!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Arizona Trip: Day 5 &6...

We had another early wake up call for the hike from the North Rim to the South Rim.  Ken woke up and did not feel 100% and decided that the should not hike.  With him not feeling his best, he did not want to take a chance of getting sick in the heat or ruining our pool time we were taking at the Biltmore.

We set off at 3:00 am.  I hiked with our friends Grant, Molly, and Chad.  The hike from the North Rim is usually a hotter hike than hiking from South, mainly from the added sun exposure on the South Rim.  Plus, it is three miles further by taking the Bright Angel Trail.

The four of us rolled into Phantom Ranch around 7:45 am and waited for Phantom to open so that we could get ice and a few other things.

One of the things that we had to get was a beer for Grant!  Apparently you cannot take the beer outside, so Grant stood at the door and drank it.

Grant enjoying his beer.  I almost ordered one in Ken's honor, but it really did not sound good at all!

Molly, Me, Katie, Julie, and Mike at Phantom Ranch

After leaving Phantom Ranch, there is only 10 miles to get out of the canyon.  Most of the 10 miles is in the sun, which makes for a long hike.  The first thing that you have to do is cross the Colorado River on Silver Bridge.

I am completely terrified of this bridge.  I realized this year that it is the rapid below that terrifies me.  The sound of the water rushing below almost makes me vomit.

Silver Bridge 

The Colorado River

After crossing the river, I always look forward to making it to the Devil's Corkscrew, which is a series or switchbacks that look like a corkscrew.  This is one of my favorite parts of the hike.  I guess my favorite part about it is hiking up above the corkscrew and getting a view/picture of it.

Devil's Corkscrew

Another view of Devil's Corkscrew

Chad, Grant, and Molly

Molly, Me, Chad, and Grant with a little more than a half mile to go

The four of us had the best time hiking together.  Molly and I talked nonstop the entire way.  Molly recently became a nurse practitioner so we discussed all kinds of things during the hike.  Molly inspired me to go to nursing school after we hiked together in 2011.

We finished the hike and relaxed and enjoyed a few beverages with our crew waiting for us at the top.  Shortly after we came up, Mike and Katie mad their way up as well.

Mike was thrilled to be finished

Katie and me.  The two of us have been plans for hikes next year in Switzerland, along with Ken and Mike of course.

My proudest moment of the day was the double scoop cone that I enhaled.  When I walked out of the ice cream shop, people were staring and pointing at me with my super large cone. One lady even stopped me and said, "You can do it Honey!" while giving me a thumbs up.  I told her not to worry, I had it handled!

After we cleaned up, we met for drinks and appetizers in the bar.  It was a very long day, but gathering to tell stories after the hike is always the best part.

Grand Canyon Cooler, do not mind if I do!

On Tuesday, we made our drive back to Phoenix.  The highlight of the drive is always stopping at In-N-Out Burger.  

Good bye Grand Canyon!

The rest of the crew headed to the airport, but we made our way to the Arizona Biltmore for a few days of relaxation.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Arizona, Day 3 & 4: Hiking South to North and the North Rim...

We woke up at 1:45 am on Saturday to get ready to hike the 21 miles to the North Rim.  It had been two years since we had hiked, but we did not skip a beat getting ready and out the door by 2:30.

Our group ready to take on the South Kaibab Trail!

We were at the trail and starting at 3:00 am on the dot.  The first part of the hike is my least favorite since it is downhill and in the dark.  I feel like I have to really watch my footing and am really afraid of falling.  Plus, I am not a huge fan of wearing a headlamp and using just put it around my neck instead.

Ken and me at Skeleton Point just as the sun is creeping up

The sunrise is always very beautiful inside the canyon

Ken all bright eyed and bushy tailed at 4:30 am!

As the sun rises, the rocks reflect a beautiful red.  In my opinion, this is the most gorgeous part of the hike during both days.

At the hitching post greeting Mike and Katie

Our friend Grant

Ken enjoying his first site of the Colorado River!

I enjoyed hiking with Ken and Grant for the first part of the day

Making our way toward Phantom Ranch

Crossing the Colorado

Ken's stopped for his signature pose

Grant took a picture of me taking Ken's picture

We arrived at Phantom Ranch and stopped to eat, refill water, and apply some sunscreen and started our journey towards Cottonwood.  I hiked with our friends Bernie and Molly for awhile, until they decided that they wanted to go to Ribbon Falls. I had been to Ribbon Falls before and decided that there was no reason to go again.  I made my way up the large hill before Cottonwood, knowing that I would see Ken and Grant once they arrived there.  

I waited for the boys and started to get worried about them, since I thought they were only 10 minutes behind me.  It turns out, they stopped to play in the stream for a while.  Ken and Grant insisted that I go ahead on the trail.  Knowing how hot it gets in the canyon, I decided to go on and hike the last seven miles alone.  

I was about a mile and half past Cottonwood when I noticed something blocking the trail.  I stopped dead in my tracks and knew what it was.  It was a rattlesnake!  

I just about peed my pants and was not quite sure what to do.  My first thought was that I wished Ken were with me to see!  I, of course, grabbed my phone and took a few pictures of my new friend.

My friend, Ricardo the Rattlesnake


I kind of started to panic a bit.  I was all alone and was kind of scared.  I needed to get passed him, but was not sure what to do.  I was not going to get any closer to him and debated about tossing rocks at him so he would get off the trail.  The reality was that I knew he would shake his rattler and get really mad if I threw rocks at him, so I chose the more Keri approach to get him to move.  

I stood in the middle of the trail, motioned for him to move and said, "Buddy, you have got to move."  Imagine my surprise when he started to slither away!

Ricardo being a good boy and leaving the trail at my request

Naturally, I waited until he was completely off the trail before moving.  I still had a fear that he would leap out after me, even though I was so nice to him.  

After my run in with Ricardo, I was terrified of every sound I heard and kept jumping and screaming anytime I heard movement.  My eyes were glued to the trail, in fear that I would see another rattlesnake.  When in reality, I had hiked the trail six times previously and had never run into a rattlesnake before.  Alas, I was still terrified.

I continued on, passing by the pump house/ranger station.  It is after this area, that in my opinion, the steepest part of the hike happens.  After you cross over the bridge, shit gets real.

I have named this bridge the I cannot believe how steep it is from here on out bridge.

I was in complete sun for the remainder of the trip.  My main goal was just to get out of the Grand Canyon and to hopefully beat the mules.  

I talked to one lady that told me she was terrified of heights and she hiked with me a bit because she was so scared.  I felt bad for her, because I am not one to offer comfort in moments like that.  I am more of the I know it is super steep and you are kind of making me scared now too, type of person.

I could see the Supai Tunnel and knew that I was getting close.  I feel like once I make it to the tunnel, I am home free.  

The Supai Tunnel, you either love or hate what this landmark means

The Supai Tunnel means only 1.7 miles until the end.  Unfortunately, it is 1.7 miles straight up.  I have never minded this part as much, since the trail does become a little on the shady side.  The only bad thing is that I usually run into mules making their way down up back up from the tunnel.  

I ran into three different groups of mules this time.  One of the mules stopped and was eye to eye with me and I was quite concerned that he was thinking about attacking me.  It was then that I realized he had just pooped.  He pooped right next to me.  That was a first.  I ran up the switchback to escape him and was mumbling curse words the entire way.

I saw the medal cart that represents the final switchback and was so excited.  It is a super long switchback, but I finally reached the area where I could see the light and knew the trail head was so close.  

The sign of the final switchback, but don't get excited, it is a long one!

An elderly man stopped me and asked me for help.  The nursing student in me knew I had to help, but the I want to be finished with this hike part of me wanted to leave him in the dust and shout out "SUCKER!".  The nursing part of me won, and I stopped and helped him and we made our way out of the trail together.  

I waited for about 10 minutes and our Rim Wranglers showed up with our drinks.  I spent the next few hours with Patrick, Mary, and Kari laughing and enjoying a few frosty beverages, waiting on the rest of our crew.

Ken finishing South to North!

Abby and me

Rim to rim finishers!

The next day we spent the day at the North Rim relaxing.  We enjoyed lattes, the views, and took a walk to the general store.  It was a beautiful day of relaxation.

The view from the North Rim deck

Up next is the hike from the North Rim to South Rim!

Previous GC Adventures:

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Arizona Trip: Days 1 &2...

For vacation this year, Ken and I decided to travel to Arizona to hike the Grand Canyon with our friends.  This was our 4th year to participate and we enjoy the time with our group even more than the hike itself.  Our friend Mike has mentioned that maybe all of us should go on a beach vacation together instead of hiking vacation.  Good point, my friend.

The first day is always spent at the pool in Phoenix relaxing and enjoying a few cocktails.  We all tipped back an extra cocktail after our morning at KCI.  It seems that every single person in Kansas City was flying this particular day, causing the normally easy breezy airport to be chaotic.  It was a mad house!  Alas, we made it to Phoenix, along with our luggage.

Enjoying pool time with Mike and Katie

Grant spent some time under the fountain.

The pool day in Phoenix is one of my favorite days of the trip.  We all have so much fun relaxing, laughing, and telling stories.  

On Friday, I woke up and went for a run on the trail by our hotel.  I ended up running six wonderful miles and ended up in an area with view of downtown Phoenix.  

I love desert scenery

After my run, all of us loaded up to make the drive to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Our first stop is always in Sedona for lunch.

Ken, Mike, and Grant enjoying the creek

Ken and me at lunch at L'Auberge

Part of our crew enjoying lunch

After lunch we made the remainder of the drive to the South Rim.  One of the things I love about this trip is getting hear things about your friends that would never come up when you are out for coffee.  For instance, we learned that our friend Abby hit a 14 point buck with her car when she was in college and her dad sold the head.  Just a random story that came up in the five hour car ride...

We made it to the Grand Canyon!

Even though I had already hiked the canyon several times, it is still shocking to see and imagine the wildlife that lives there!

After dinner and a drink, it was time to get to bed for the hike for the South to North Rim!

My drink of choice was a Canyon Cooler, naturally.

Up Next, the hike from the South Rim to the North Rim!