December 15, 2013

R2R2R My Day In The Grand Canyon


"I have never ran it without doubting on the way back that I could finish."
                                                                                     -Steve Anderson


"I had a dream so big and loud"


     Years ago, I first read of the difficulty in running across the Grand Canyon rim to rim (R2R) in one day. The same article I was reading mentioned the real “crazies” in this world, the ones that would then turn and go back to their starting point in one day (R2R2R), and this idea instantly jumped to the top of my bucket list. Running, like life, takes many different turns. We find new reasons and new ways to enjoy these precious gifts. My running returned to the roads, where I felt that I had unfinished business/ fun. I have spent the past 3 years getting into the best running shape of my life, and had all but forgotten the dream of R2R2R. Then in October, my friend Steve Anderson posted a video of his solo R2R2R (Steve's Video). The video got my blood pumping, and I started trying to figure out how I was going to do this. The Grand Canyon was back on my radar.


"I jumped so high I touched the clouds"


     It was just days later, when I read the post on facebook that would make my dream come true. Steve, along with Walter Brown posted that they were putting together a R2R2R trip, and that all were welcome to join. Without hesitation, I said I was in, and I spent the next torturous, blissful days preparing for the adventure. I briefly questioned whether I could do this or not. Steve claimed that if you could go out and comfortably jog a marathon tomorrow, then you could most likely do this. I was close to the best shape of my life. I was ready. What Steve failed to elaborate on, was that using that “jog a marathon” effort would make you capable, it would get you from the North Rim to the South Rim, but once there, you would be as tired and exhausted as you have ever been after a marathon. Then you would have to dig deep, go places you have never physically gone before, and go back across the canyon.


     I think Steve and Walter were overwhelmed by the response they were getting for this trip. It was turning in to something big. As the days grew closer though, the 15 plus people who had originally planned to go started to drop in numbers. Some just couldn't make the trip on a Thanksgiving weekend, some realized it might be too much for them at this time, and some of the more elite runners didn't want to be part of such a large diverse group, feeling that some type of disaster was on it's way. By the time we started on our way, there were 8 of us riding the fun bus (38' RV of Steve's) down to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, with 3 more meeting us from St George the next morning.


     Riding the fun bus was a great adventure all it's own. It was getting to hang out with “the cool kids”, Christmas eve anticipation, and a great road trip all rolled in to one. We set off the day after Thanksgiving, with Steve picking up myself, and my sister in-law, Mandi McBride in Wellsville. In South Jordan, we picked up Walter, Wan, and Maurine. The fun bus was getting funner. At Payson, we picked up Christie, and somewhere down the freeway, we picked up Clyde. I think we could have powered a small city for a year with the nervous energy inside the fun bus. Even little children on Christmas eve don't have the sense of anticipation that we all had.


     Shortly before picking up Clyde, we had our first stumbling block, a blown tire. Fortunately, we were able to get it replaced, and were once again headed on our way. The fun bus rolled on through the day and early evening. Just 40 miles from the North Rim, the fun bus blew another tire. It was dark, cold, and we were a ways past the middle of nowhere. We limped the fun bus up the road with one of the dual wheels on the left side still keeping us going. Plans were going to need to change, but for now, we had at least made it to our starting point, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, elevation, 8,241'.


"We danced with monsters through the night"


     We had barely parked the fun bus, when Steve decided he needed to see how much snow and ice was on the trail. I couldn't pass this up. The two of us grabbed lights, and stepped out into the 19 degree star filled night. We hit the trail for a short run. This was not at all what I had expected. At 8300', the North rim is forest. We started down the trail. It seemed like a tunnel with our lights shining off the bright snow, and the dark evergreens on both sides. It only took a minute to see that the trail was well packed, and going to be very runnable in the morning. We turned and headed back to the fun bus.


     Excitement was running high inside. I'm not sure anybody slept more than a couple hours. Every time I would close my eyes, the part of the trail that we had just ran was there, and I was cruising down it. No alarms were needed to wake us at 4am. We were all up, moving, and getting ready. This is where we lost the first person out of our group of 8. Steve insisted on dropping out so that he could get the fun bus fixed. We tried to talk him out of it, but he didn't want to risk us not being able to get home on Sunday. Instead, he decided to run the first few miles with us, and then return to borrow the car of the St George group when they arrived, to go get help with a new tire.


"I howled at the moon with friends"


     We stepped out into the frosty 17 degree morning just before 5am, took a couple quick photos, and off we went into the dark abyss. For the past couple weeks, I had tried to mentally picture what this moment would be like. I thought that it may bring on this solemn quiet respect for what we were attempting to do, and this beautiful place that we were entering. NOPE! We howled! All that pent up energy was let out in joyful shouts to the stars. ...and there were millions of stars. Steve may be the most energetic person I have ever met, and it is contagious. We took off down the trail, headlights illuminating the path I had been dreaming of through the night. Our steps were somewhat cautious at first, as we got used to the feel of ice and snow beneath our feet. All of us except Steve that is. As we took off, looking somewhat like runners, Steve would just plod along in a stride that I can not quite describe. It is so loose, so casual. He almost looks like he is out of control, yet he just easily zipps past, stops to film with his go pro, then casually flies by us, with what looks to be no effort at all. My first time running past Steve, three words slipped out of my mouth, and these three words became my mantra for the rest of the day. Three words that kept ringing between my ears. “This is awesome!”


     When I looked out across the dark void, I thought I was looking across a river of clouds. In the black of night, you couldn't tell for sure. I mentioned that I thought we were dropping into an inversion, but the others thought I was seeing things. It turns out, that they were having a rare, but beautiful phenomenon in the Grand Canyon that weekend. This happens only once or twice a year.




     By the end of the first mile, we had left the snow and ice behind us. That will happen when you are losing close to 1000' per mile. We were running along a path with cliffs and rocks on one side, and the black emptiness on the other. The trail is about 4' wide, so there is plenty of room, but had we been able to see down below, it still may have been a little unnerving. The trail is broken up with logs across it about every 4 or 5 feet on the steeper parts, for the sake of water run off. We hopped over the logs easily as we made our way down. I purposely kicked the thoughts of climbing back up this trail aside. That would be future Brett's problem. There was also a small section of missing trail, where a rope had been attached to the cliff, to hold on to as you skirted around the obstacle. About the time we reached Supai tunnel, Steve turned and ran back up the hill to see how everyone was doing. Up front, it had been us, Christie, Walter and Clyde. The rest of us just kept running on down the trail. It didn't seem like it took long for Steve to catch back up to us. Maurine was struggling with the elevation, and had fallen about a mile behind already. (Note: this means Steve had been a mile behind us, and already caught up. The man is amazing) Mandi and Wan were together, and not too far behind. Steve ran a ways farther with us, then decided he should be getting back. Now, up front it was Christie, followed by Walter and Clyde (the fast group), and myself. They had put Christie up front so she could set pace. Christie later mentioned that she might have been holding them back, but her setting a good pace that wasn't too fast probably made all of their times both, more enjoyable, and faster over all. I had sent back message with Steve that I was going to run with the front group to Phantom Ranch (14 miles), where I would wait for Mandi and Wan. About 6 or 7 mile in though, I heard the fast group talking about staying ahead of the St George group, keeping one watch running, and stopping one when they took breaks. This was not what I wanted today's experience to be, and I could already tell that I was using too much effort when we were on those rare flat sections of the trail, and the occasional up hills. If I stayed with this group to the South Rim, my day would be over. So with a little regret, I stopped, caught my breath, and watched their three lights weave their way down the trail. It was fun to watch. I pictured myself as the father character in “A River Runs Through It”, watching as his boys go down to fish the rough water, and wistfully saying “...there was a day”. However, there never was a day for me. Those are three seriously talented athletes. Perhaps my day will be in the future.


     I went back to an easy run, and tried to soak in some quiet moments of solitude on the trail. I rolled on through Cottonwood Campground, thinking I would enjoy some alone running before joining up with Mandi and Wan. Shortly after Cottonwood, I came to a fork in the road. I had looked at maps fairly close, but still would have been slightly confused, had I not seen the lights from the fast group when they went past this spot. I decided to wait here for Mandi and Wan. I did not know Wan well, but was pretty sure Mandi had not studied any maps. Plus it was warming up, and getting light enough that I no longer needed my flashlight. This would be a good place to change gear and take a short break.


"and then the sun came crashing in"


     The temperatures were probably still in the high 30's to low 40's, and I had started to get cold again, so I thought I should slowly start moving on, but by the time I had decided to start moving, Mandi appeared out of nowhere, and Wan came running down the trail. It felt good to be together as a group once again. I love running alone, but experiences in life are better when shared.


Mandi

Wan and I

     We had got to the part of the trail that is by far the easiest to run. So the 3 of us took off at a decent pace, to cover the next 7 miles to Phantom Ranch. I stepped off to the side to take a couple photos, and it took a hard pace for about 10 minutes to catch back up. The scenery through this section is amazing. We were running along side small cliffs, with a creek on the other side of us. Wan and I chatted a little, while Mandi stayed out in front of us. The run so far had been rather easy, yet I was feeling slightly beaten up already when we pulled in to Phantom Ranch. Although downhill and at an easy effort, the steep part was brutal that we had started on that morning.


     We took a break here. I switched in to shorts, and got rid of my jacket. I also found a hand dryer in the mens restroom here. I was glad that I took a moment to dry off my under armor shirt. Between that, and putting on dry socks, and a lighter shirt that I had been packing. I was feeling pretty fresh, and ready to start on to our next section, the 9.5 miles to the South Rim, by way of Bright Angel Trail. We were around 2500' here by the Colorado River, but after a couple miles of running near the river, we would be climbing up to the South Rim which sits at 6,860'. With a little soreness already making it's way into my legs, I was looking forward to using some different muscles for awhile. We stashed some of our gear (later finding out that this is an absolute “no no”), ate a little, filled our water, and off we went again.


     Having never been in the Grand Canyon, I loved getting to the suspension bridge, and crossing the Colorado River. It is one of those things that I have seen so many times in photos, but it's different seeing the muddy water flow by beneath you. After crossing, we hit a section of trail that was fairly sandy. My first thought was that it was going to be harder with the soft sand. My focus switched though, when Mandi pointed out how good it felt to be running on something soft. It was true. Every time we stopped, it would take me a mile or more to get the pain out of my feet and ankles. I think that was as much of the fault of cold temperatures, as it was the terrain we had been covering. Leaving Bright Angel Campground, and crossing the river, we started to get in to lots of hikers as well. The next few miles were filled with people, and we even passed a couple mule trains as we made our way up towards the south rim. When we hit the steeper parts, we would go in to a power hike. It may not have been actual running, but we were still flying past everybody on the trail, even the serious hikers. I dare say that someone trying to run would have had a tough time staying ahead of us. We were moving quickly.


     About 4 ½ miles after having crossed the river, we came to Indian Garden Campground. Wan had been falling behind through that section of trail, and then catching us when we would take short breaks. We waited here for Wan, ate a little, and filled up our water so we would have enough for the climb out. The water we had got had Phantom Ranch needed a little bit to be desired. So it was good to have this chance to get some fresh water.


     As we left Indian Garden, we came across my new favorite sign. It was a reminder of what an incredible thing we were attempting to do. The smile on my face shows both, how much fun we were having, and the fact that our first 18 miles would be the easiest miles of the day. Our run was about to become a little more intense.


The sign reads: “Warning DO NOT attempt to hike from the canyon rim to the river and back in one day. Each year hikers suffer serious illness or death from exhaustion.”


     We were not trying to hike from the canyon rim to the river and back in one day. That would be crazy. We were running from the north canyon rim to the river, up the other side to the south rim, then turning around and running back in the same day. This was insane. ...and we were loving it!


     As we continued our fast paced power hike up through what is called “the Devils Corkscrew” (I would love to post a photo of this, but there are no photos that do these switchbacks on the trail justice.), we came to what I think of as our biggest bump in the road. In just a matter of minutes, Mandi and I had pulled far away from Wan. Our legs were burning, we were getting more tired with each step, and we were seriously questioning our ability to complete this R2R2R. From the start, I had felt that we needed to get to the south rim doing our own thing, and be started back, before we started trying to help others as a group. Climbing the south rim had put us back up in to the cloud cover. There was frost on the ground, and it was getting cold. To wait 30 minutes for Wan to catch us, would seriously hinder our ability to get going strong again. If we stopped too long, we would stiffen up. Had I known Wan back then, like I know him now, I think we would have made a different decision. Wan was not only in great shape, but has outstanding character, will, determination, and faith in both himself, and God. He was going to get through this trip. At the time though, we just didn't know that. All we knew is that he was falling behind on this section, and we were thinking that it was likely that he would not be able to make it all the way. If we waited here, it would also hinder our chance to complete this trip. With some regret, Mandi and I made the choice to keep moving, thinking we would see him at the restaurant on the south rim.


     With about a mile to go to the top, we ran in to Christie, Walter, and Clyde on their way down. They had taken the South Kaibab trail up to the south rim, shuttled over to the top of Bright Angel, and were now on there way back. The trail they took was a couple miles shorter, but also had a more wicked climb. We talked to them about our concern for Wan, and asked their opinions on how to proceed. They said that they would try to talk Wan in to going back with them, and would for sure find out what he planned to do. This made us feel a little better, but still left us in the dark, as to what Wan's plans would be.


Christie and Mandi


     After leaving the fast group, it seemed that we climbed for hours, but we actually made good time up to the south rim. Climbing next to the large cliffs, seeing the beauty of the canyon, and looking up at what seemed to be a trail that would climb right into heaven (and did climb into the clouds), a new mantra was added to the continual “this is Awesome” that had been repeating in my head. “I feel so small.” It was like looking out into the vastness of space from a mountain top. The canyon is so big, deep, and beautiful, and I felt so small.

     Shortly before noon, we made it to the top. I had been pulled here by the dream of an ice cold mountain dew (sadly, all we ever found was Coke products). The south rim was not what I had been expecting. Being in the middle of a cloud, it was very surreal, dream like. We came out in a parking lot, and were not even sure which way it would be to find food. I had expected one small diner, but found many buildings, that included gift shops, a lodge, and several places to eat. It took us awhile just to find the restaurant that we could sit down in, and relax for awhile. Inside, Mandi and I had some stew that seemed to be the best stew ever made, but that may have just been our appetite's opinion. I drank a couple cokes, and we took inventory of our situation. We were both sore, and exhausted. I felt as if I had just ran a very difficult marathon. I have been more sore, and I have been more tired, But I had never experienced feeling like that for as long as I had been feeling that way. We asked the question out loud. We acted as though we were seriously considering our options. However, neither of us really considered any of our options for even a split second. We were going back, and it was about time to get started.

"I'm never gonna look back"

     In the lobby, we ran in to Steve Hooper. He was the first of the St George group to make it to the south rim. John Beckstrand came in shortly behind him. We asked if they had seen Wan, but they hadn't. They were planning to take a quick break, and then follow us down the trail. They told us Ben Ford was coming up behind them, but that he planned to call it a day, and catch a ride from the south rim back to St George. We headed out to the trail, looking for Wan, wondering if he had turned and headed back, and anxious for ourselves to get started back. We passed Ben as we started down the trail. He wished us luck, and we were on our way. It felt good to get that first mile in down the south side. Not only did the temperature rise fast (it had been in the 20's on the south rim), but now all doubts had left my mind. We were doing this, all the way.

     Going down the south side was a lot of fun. We both had a lot of pain in our legs, but it was cool to see the “shocked look” from hikers climbing out that we had passed earlier in the day. We got several “you're doing this again”, and “didn't you just pass us” comments as we ran down the trail. We enjoyed hiding our exhaustion, and replying casually, “yup, headed back to the north rim, that's where we're parked”. It's the little things in life that make me smile.

     Down along the Colorado River, it felt good on the legs to hit the sandy stretch of trail once again. Mandi's calf was starting to hurt. To notice it above all the rest of the aches and pains we were feeling, it must have been pretty bad. We were still making good time though, with me leading, and Mandi right on my heals. John caught us with about a mile to go to the suspension bridge, and he ran with us to there, where he took a couple photos for us.

Mandi & I at the Colorado River

     Other than Mandi's calf, I think we were both feeling relatively good at this point. Steve H caught up to us here as well. He said he was hurting pretty bad, but other than running a little slower, it wasn't showing. We all crossed the bridge together, planning a last big break at Phantom Ranch in a quarter mile, before starting the final 14 miles back to the north rim.

     As soon as we started running across the bridge, I ran into my first real trouble of the day. Nausea hit me hard. I knew going in to this adventure that getting sick when I am pushing my body to it's limits is an Achilles heel of mine. Evidently, after running farther than I had ever ran before and still having over 14 miles left, made my body think that I was pushing it too hard. Go figure. I knew right away that I was in trouble, but of all the runners on this trip, this may be the one area I am more experienced in than any of them, the crash. I knew the crash was coming. I knew it would get ugly. However, I also knew I had a little time left before it got too severe.

     At Phantom Ranch, Steve took the time to put some kinesio tape on Mandi's calf. She had brought the tape with her, but was not sure how to apply it. While they were working on her, I gathered up the clothes we had stashed, and filled up our water. This would be our last chance for water until we were done. I also forced myself to eat a little, although it was already a struggle. The grapefruit sized lump I could feel in my stomach, told me that my body was done digesting food until I calmed down a little with the physical exertion. There needs to be an “override” switch, for when the body starts shutting down what it thinks are nonessential functions.

     Steve and John were in a hurry to get back, so they took off as soon as Steve finished taping Mandi's calf. We told them to let the others know that we were doing good (it's all relative), and that we were on pace to be there by 8pm, would probably be there at 9pm, but not to worry until 10pm.

     Shortly after the two of them left, Mandi and I were once again on our way as well. The next 7 miles were the most frustrating for me. I knew that I was in trouble with my stomach, but I really wanted to run this stretch of trail. It is by far the easiest section of the trail to run, and even though it was all up hill, it looked flat compared to what we had been on most of the day. However, every time I would break in to a running stride, my body would protest with nausea. I wanted to do everything I could to keep my body happy for as long as possible. Mandi was content to stay in power hike mode with me, and we still made great time all the way to Cottonwood campground. We may have even pushed a little too hard. I wanted to be there before dark, and knowing that the crash was coming, I didn't want to take any breaks until I had to. Once you start resting due to exhaustion, it gets harder and harder to continue on. (“As if the fall matters, when the fall is all that's left, it's all that matters”)

     We had made it to Cottonwood well before 6, and just as the darkness was overtaking the canyon. I put on my warm clothes here, and we sat down a minute to try and settle my stomach. I was no longer able to eat or drink, but it wouldn't have mattered. Everything I had been putting in to my stomach was just sitting in there still, useless. I couldn't remember if we had 6, or 6.5 miles left to the north rim (it was 6.8). Neither of us had wore a GPS, so we really had no way of knowing any of the distances, other than memory. I did know we had about a mile and a half to the Pumphouse Ranger station, and although it was a good climb to there, that is where the real work would begin.

     Surprisingly, we made great time to the Pumphouse Ranger station, but after just that short distance, I had to stop and rest. I only sat down for a minute. The nausea was getting real bad, and all my (super powers) energy was gone. Things were getting ugly fast. We passed the time over the next couple miles by coming up with new vulgar expressions to describe our predicament, but we finished off every twisted phrase with the truth, “this is awesome”. It was all part of the experience, and in our own sick, twisted way, we were loving every minute of it.

"never gonna give it up"

     The distance between our breaks kept getting shorter and shorter. I never gave Mandi a chance to need a break, because I was always needing to stop first. The temperatures were dropping fast now that it was dark. My flashlight and head lamp both became useless. Mandi would stay close behind me, so I could see with the light from her headlamp, athough I was mostly just struggling my way up the trail through shadows. I was somewhat entertained with my shadow swinging so far back and forth across the trail ahead of me. It looked like a drunk person staggering his way home.

     Somewhere on this part of the trail, I had my one and only scared thought. I sat on a rock, and instantly fell asleep. When I jerked awake, my thought was, “if I fall asleep here, I will never wake up”. Just as instantly, I was relieved by the truth of my situation. Mandi was with me, and she was doing okay. She wouldn't let me fall asleep. After that brief moment, I knew everything would be fine, it was just going to be a grueling journey up these last few miles of the trail. ...and a line from a song started playing over and over in my head, ...ours "is not a victory march it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah". 

     Once the puking started for me, my body started to feel more and more drained. We were moving so slow, and having to break so often, it felt like this night would go on forever. I would feel better after vomiting, but the feeling was always short lived, and with each break we took, it became more and more difficult getting to my feet. At one point, sitting on a rock for a moment wasn't enough, I had to lay down. I had yet another mantra now that I kept repeating to Mandi for the rest of our journey, “just give me a minute”. I would then find my way back to my feet, and we would continue on at a snail's pace.

     Although I couldn't express it outwardly, with 2 to 3 miles left, we saw something that brought joy to our hearts. Below us, a light was weaving it's way up the steep trail. We had been worried all day that perhaps nobody had found or talked to Wan, but here he came. We kept struggling on up the trail, knowing that he would overtake us quickly. Wan had covered about 25 miles of trail alone. He started his way back up the north rim, in the dark, not sure if he was on the right trail. He was super strong, mentally and physically, and that is really what it takes to complete this adventure. I think Wan was as happy to see us, as we were to see him. I will always regret that we hadn't stuck together, yet the way things happened gave Wan the chance to have his own incredible experience in the canyon.

Wan Ho Jerry Kou

     Now I had two people to help me through this last difficult climb. I kept telling them that at least one of them could go ahead, but they wouldn't even consider it. It was the three of us to the finish. For all of us, things began to get worse. As temperatures dropped, Mandi and Wan became very cold. On top of that, they were both starving half to death. As for me, it was just the continual take a few steps, then sit down, asking them that they just give me a minute. Occasionally I would puke or dry heave some more, and my energy kept getting lower and lower. I had already laid down again, but when I laid down for the third time, in the snow, my companions really became worried. I knew I would eventually start moving again, and I wasn't scared, but the same wasn't true for my friends. The next day, in a text to Angie (my girlfriend), Mandi wrote “I have to say I was $&#!!ing my pants when Brett started crumping. You know me. Not much ruffles my feathers but that was some scary $&#!”. I feel bad that I put her and Wan through that, but I must have looked bad. They had no way of knowing what I knew, we were going to be fine.

     As I lay there in the snow, Mandi and Wan were quietly discussing options (there weren't any) (...unless they were talking about putting me down. If that was an option, I never heard it.). I told them I was thinking clearly, and they should talk out loud. I could help with our choices. Mandi, being a nurse, had an IV in the RV. I explained that there was no way they could get it, and get back down to me, then administer it in those conditions, without me getting severe hypothermia. I asked about sending one of them to get some trekking poles from Maurine, perhaps that would help me if I could use my arms more. Wan shot that idea down. He knew Maurine had not brought her poles. So the only solution was found. ...just give me a minute.

     I rolled over on to my hands and knees, and actually thought about starting to crawl, but even with the thought fresh in my mind, I slowly stood up, and we moved on, into the cold dark night.

"Everything is looking up now"

     After what seemed like days, Wan spotted a small yellow light. He excitedly said that he thought it was the RV. In my sickened state, I may have seemed honery, but up until now I had never lost my smile on the inside. In some sick twisted way, I was still enjoying this experience. However, here I did have my one negative thought from the trip. “That lights a long ways away”, I told them. Thankfully, after just a couple more steps, I saw that I was wrong. We were basically right there. It still took everything I had not to stop for another break, as we covered the last short distance to the RV.

     We arrived at the north rim just before 10pm. Steve Anderson had been worried, and was just getting dressed to send out his own little search party of one. They were all pretty excited to see that it would not be necessary. The last of our group had came in, victorious! There was nothing about our finish that made me any less proud of what we had just accomplished. We had just ran 47 miles (run walk crawl ...semantics). We had 22,000' of elevation change. We had done this in 17 hours, on foot. It was by far, the most physically challenging thing I have ever done (so far), and the most rewarding adventure I have ever had. It took me to places I have never been within myself, and I caught a glimpse of the fact that there is still so much more there. As I finish writing this, 2 weeks later, I still have not come down from the high, the sense of accomplishment that I felt, that I feel.

"I feel it in my soul"

     I climbed in to the RV, and collapsed to the floor. Somehow removing my pack on the way down. Mandi asked me about an IV, and I told her to “just give me a minute” to see how I would recover. It didn't take long for me to feel the need to hurry out into the cold night, and Puke up what little was left in my stomach. Once back inside, I decided I would take the IV if I couldn't hold down the cherry coke I was sipping on. I even took a little advantage of the situation, and had people running around helping me. Someone would take the coke out, and put it in the snow to get it cold. Then on my demand, someone else would go retrieve one for me. I rarely ask for help, but truly needing help, I took what I could get. A couple cokes later, and I was ready to attempt to stand in the shower long enough to get clean. We were all so very excited from what we had just done, yet somehow we all managed to finally make our way to beds, and get some sleep.

only 'mostly' dead” ...yet so alive!

     I awoke at 3:47am, more hungry and thirsty than I can ever remember being. The rest of the day was spent traveling home on the fun bus, and trying to quench that hunger. Although the fun bus was every bit as much fun traveling home, I feel that this will be a good place to end my tale. I will end it with a big Thank You to Steve Anderson and Walter Brown for taking on such a challenging adventure. For them to have an open invite, and include so many people, then to have 8 of the final 11 make it successfully from rim to rim to rim in the Grand Canyon was just amazing. I am so thankful that I was included, and I can hardly wait to tackle this again in 2014. I will sum this up with an eCard, and the lyrics to a song that must have been written just for us.



I had a dream so big and loud
I jumped so high I touched the clouds
Wo-oah-oah-oah-oah-oh x2
I stretched my hands out to the sky
We danced with monsters through the night
Wo-oah-oah-oah-oah-oh x2

I'm never gonna look back
Woah, never gonna give it up
No, please dont wake me now

Oo-o-o-o-oo
This is gonna be the best day of my life
My li-i-i-i-i-ife
Oo-o-o-o-oo
This is gonna be the best day of my life
My li-i-i-i-i-ife

(instrumental)

I howled at the moon with friends
And then the sun came crashing in
Wo-oah-oah-oah-oah-oh x2
But all the possibilities
No limits just epiphanies
Wo-oah-oah-oah-oah-oh x2

I'm never gonna look back
Woah, never gonna give it up
No, just dont wake me now

Oo-o-o-o-oo
This is gonna be the best day of my life
My li-i-i-i-i-ife
Oo-o-o-o-oo
This is gonna be the best day of my life
My li-i-i-i-i-ife

(instrumental)

I hear it calling outside my window
I feel it in my soul (soul)
The stars were burning so bright
The sun was out 'til midnight
I say we lose control (control)

(instrumental)

This is gonna be the best day of my life
My li-i-i-i-i-ife
Oo-o-o-o-o
This is gonna be the best day of my life
My li-i-i-i-i-ife
This is gonna be, this is gonna be, this is gonna be
The best day of my life
Everything is looking up, everybody up now
This is gonna be the best day of my li-ife
My li-i-i-i-i-ife

-American Authors

December 13, 2013

Legend Of The Great White Ape

     This is a story that I wrote for my children when they were still very young.  It was intended to be a story to be read out loud to children, and I was hoping to have the story illustrated some day.  I would still love to some day see it as a book.  So, if you know of anyone that loves to draw, I would love to see what they can do with this story.  Until then, if anyone reads this to their children, I would truly like your feedback on how it went.
Thank you, Brett


     Not so long ago, in a land called Idaho, there was a story of a great beast. The beast stood ten feet tall. He was covered from head to toe with thick white hair. The old folks thought he must be “Bigfoot” and many of the people called him “Sasquatch”, but now days he is just known as “The Great White Ape”.  Many people did not believe that he was real, but some did. Some people claimed to run into the great white ape while hiking up in the mountains of Idaho, and these people spoke of him as a terrible monster that would capture anybody who crossed his path. This was the legend of the great white ape.



     Jack Brave was an explorer, perhaps the greatest explorer that had ever lived. Jack loved to explore the mountains, and to take pictures of the marvelous creatures that he found while exploring. He had taken pictures of deer, elk, moose, mountain lions, bears, eagles, and all other types of creatures that can be found out in the wild. Jack even claimed to have pictures of a whole herd of jackelope. He was truly a great explorer.

     One day while visiting a tavern in Idaho, Jack heard the stories of the great white ape. Jack knew right away that he wanted to see the great beast for himself, so he could take pictures of this wonderful, scary creature. Jack also knew that this would be his most dangerous job ever, but Jack wasn’t afraid, he was Jack Brave.

     Jack would never be able to find the great white ape on his own, so he hired a mountain guide who knew right where the great white ape lived. The mountain guide was scared. He did not want to go anywhere near the great white ape. However, the mountain guide needed money, and Jack promised to pay him lots of money if he would just show Jack where the big beast lived. The mountain guide finally agreed, and on a dark rainy afternoon, the two started their journey into the Idaho wilderness.

     The journey took several days, and many times the mountain guide wanted to turn back because he was so scared, but each time he tried to turn back, Jack Brave would talk him out of it, and the two would continue on their journey. Finally, after ten days of walking through the Idaho wilderness, the guide stopped. Their journey had taken them many miles over wide rivers and huge mountains. They were almost there now. The mountain guide looked ahead and told Jack that he could find the great white ape up the trail a little farther in a large clearing. The mountain guide refused to get any closer to the beast that Jack was searching for, because he was much too scared.

     As the guide turned to leave, he gave Jack one last bit of advice. “The beast will be standing in the clearing, holding perfectly still. You can take all the pictures you want, but whatever you do, NEVER TOUCH HIM!” With that said, the guide turned and started back towards town as fast as he could go.
     Jack stood there for a moment, staring at the dark scary trail up ahead. Then he started for the clearing where he could find the great white ape.

     When Jack Brave reached the clearing, he could not believe what he saw. Right in the middle of the clearing was a huge beast that was covered with white hair from his head to his toes. The beast was even bigger and more scary than Jack had expected.  It must have stood at least twelve feet tall, and it looked strong enough to lift a whole house by itself, but the creature just stood there, not moving at all. Jack even thought that it might be nothing more than a statue, but remembering the words of the mountain guide, Jack did not dare to touch the great beast.

     Jack pulled out his camera, and spent the rest of the day taking pictures. Nobody had ever photographed the great white ape before, and Jack was sure that he would become even more famous when the rest of the world saw his pictures of the huge beast. Finally, Jack ran out of film, and he knew he should start his long journey home. However, first there was one thing that Jack Brave wanted to do. Jack wanted to touch the great white ape to see what it felt like. After all, the ape had stood there perfectly still while Jack had taken many pictures. What could it possibly hurt to touch the creature?

     Jack slowly moved towards the white beast. He got closer, and closer, and closer, until finally, he was close enough that he could reach out and touch the thick white hair. Jack Brave slowly reached out his hand, stopping just before he touched the beast.

     Should he do it?

     Jack decide he should. He reached out his hand, and touched the beast.

     “ GRRRRR!”, with a great big roar, the giant creature came to life.
     The great white ape truly looked frightening as it roared and came chasing after Jack Brave. It was all Jack could do to get away as the beast swung his huge arms at Jack. Jack dropped his camera and all of his belongings as he turned and ran from the terrifying monster. Jack no longer felt so brave, and he ran as fast as he could, in hopes of escaping the terrible monster. Then, as Jack reached the end of the clearing, he turned to see if he was still being chased by the great white ape.

     “GRRRRRRR!”, the monster was right there, closer than ever.
     Jack continued to run as fast as he could. Then Jack thought of a brilliant idea. Seeing a very large tree up ahead, he ran for it and jumped up into the low branches, climbing as fast as he possibly could. He climbed until he was right up to the top of the big tree, sure that he would now be safe.

     “GRRRRR!”,
     What? The monster could not have possibly followed Jack up the tree, but there he was, closer than ever and grabbing at Jack.
     Jack jumped out of the tree in hope of escaping the beast. He was very high up, but luckily Jack landed in a big deep river. The river swept Jack down it, banging him into rocks all the way, but soon Jack found a place he could get out of the mighty river. As he climbed the river bank, Jack felt that he would now be safe.

     “GGRRRR!”
     NO WAY! Yes, it was the great white ape still chasing right behind Jack.
     Jack was sore from banging into rocks and tired from running so far, but he couldn’t give up hope. Jack jumped to his feet and ran off as fast as his legs would carry him.
     The great white ape grabbed at Jack, but he missed him as Jack started running again.
     Jack soon found himself standing at the top of a very large cliff. If he jumped, Jack could get hurt, but Jack thought that this might be his last chance to escape the hideous monster chasing him. As the beast grabbed at him, Jack jumped from the cliff. Jack landed hard on the ground below and he could no longer run, but at least he was still alive.

     GRRRRRR!”
     How could this be? The terrible monster was right there ready to grab at Jack.
     With all the strength that Jack had left, he began to crawl away as fast as he could. Finally, after several miles of crawling, Jack could go no farther. The chase was over, Jack had to stop.

     The great white ape had been chasing Jack the whole time, and now he had finally caught up with Jack Brave. The monster slowly moved in closer to Jack. Closer, closer, now he was right over top of Jack. The great white ape looked as if he was about to do something very very terrible to Jack. Then the beast reached towards Jack with his huge hand.
     He touched Jack Brave softly and said, “Tag, now you’re it.”.
     Then the great white ape turned and ran off into the woods never to be seen again. All along, the kind beast had thought they were only playing a game of tag.




The End