Triple A – Arkansas, Arizona Adventure


What better way to spend quality time with my sister Gail and her husband Jon, than to live in a pop-up with them for 10 days? We couldn’t think of a better way, so of course we did it!

Arkansas’s Horseshoe Canyon Ranch was the first extravaganza. For several years, Gail & Jon have climbed in this competition. Endurance is the competition’s MO. 24 hours of climbing as many routes as you can. I’ve led about 3 sport routes in the last 3 years, and hadn’t climbed in several months to boot. Why, therefore, did I enter this competition?  Well, why not? Gail & I had some great sister climbing time. All four of us hit some personal bests and came out exhausted. Our youngest sister Stacey lifted our morale with a late-night arrival, laughter, and walking the miles with us. She even put up with Jon’s semi-snoring, so award to her!

[see pictures below]

6:30 am Sunday.  We packed the camper, lamented Stacey’s return to classes, stepped in horse poop (it IS a ranch, after al), and got on the road.

5:00 am Monday. Sean wins the award for driving us through the night and across New Mexico & Arizona. Gail wins the award for keeping Sean awake! We pulled into a free camp-ground north of Flagstaff, popped up the camper in record time & slept! We headed into town to get bearings, breakfast, and ideas.Stopped at Babbit’s Outdoor Store. Sweet dude told us about Water Holes Canyon, near Page, AZ. We all got inspired, bought a book, and started dreaming. We decided to embark on a 8-14 hour canyoneering trek through the lower Water Holes Canyon, so in order to see what we were getting into, Jon, Sean, and Nicole did a 6 hour canyon trek through James Canyon, just south of Flagstaff. Gail dropped and picked us up, ran errands, got creeped out by being in the camper alone – who WOULDN’T?! – and rested up for other big days.

Tuesday was a rest day. We had some couple time. The Madills explored some Painted Desert and a Crater, I think. Sean & I cycled up a small mountain for a great view. There were sun showers and s’mores and Settlers for all.

Wednesday we packed up super early and drove to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The Boehrigs hiked the Bright Angel Trail, down to Plateau Point. Not allll the way to the bottom, but six miles down felt pretty good. I really started to come alive after a few miles. Often when we got hiking (or do anything active for that matter), Sean blows me out of the water and leaves me in his dust. And if he doesn’t leave me in the dust, it’s because he’s waiting for me to catch up, or slows to my pace. I would really like to think that I pushed him that day, clocking 30 minute-miles both down and UP. He did get covered in sweat, but I was the one ready to chillax when we got to the top again!

6 am Thursday. or was it 7 am? We lost ourselves in AZ’s time zone. Apparently the state doesn’t observe daylight savings time. Who knew?! Well, we got up sometime before dawn. I was cranky, tired, sore, and exhausted from our 3 previous days and not entirely sure I wanted to throw myself in another canyon. Not wanting to poop on the party, I grouched my way into the car. After a pit stop for camera batteries, we parked on the Navajo Nation’s land and searched for the entrance.

This canyon experience is one of those “Rose Garden” moments. If I try to tell you what happened, you won’t believe me. If you believe me, you won’t fully understand. If I show you a picture, it won’t do the place justice. Surreal. Incredible. Beautiful. Glad we made it out. Just a few highlights for the curious: Canyoneering was a new world for us. Lots of down-climbing, walking along wash-outs, rappelling, finagling through NARROW, skinny, skinny spaces, wading across water holes. This canyon was like Big Papa. It left nothing out. We may or may not have swum across more than 10 pools of water that smelled like horse poo. Murky. Brown. Stink-nasty. Bone-chilling sludge. Now I’m not one to be too grossed out at things. I’ve seen cow surgeries, waded through cow poop, eaten intestines and tube-y animal parts, not showered for days. But this horse-poo made me gag and even whine a bit! Whew! The ultimate downer for me (and upper for everyone who got to laugh at me) was the narrows. After 5-6 hours of covering less than 2 miles of ground (it is slooow moving in a canyon) we found ourselves simulanteously descending and traversing through some narrows. This formation is shaped much like a ice cream cone. Wide enough up top for my shoulders, but so narrow I can’t get my hips in lower. Therefore you end up edging sideways. Like toes on one wall. Heels on the other. Back on back wall. Arms bent into a push-up position. And you push-up your wall across and down this tiny space. Without crying . . . I managed everything but the crying. Overcome with exhuastion, unclear of where to go next, I desperately pleaded for Sean’s help. He came running back across horse-poop water to help. I got out of that tight spot, so he went back across the water. Two seconds later, I got my pack stuck below me and couldn’t get it out. I growled in frustration, expelling all my frustrations in a “AHHHHH!” I look to my dear and loving husband for help. And he is laughing. Just bent over laughing. Turning in the direction of my pack, away from my loving husband, and towards Gail & Jon, I say the only thing a frustrated woman can say at that point, “I’m going to F*** you up!”  . . .

Gail & Jon debuted themselves on multi-pitch raps. We descended about 350-400 feet on one wall. Hiked out the bottom washouts and came to the Colorado River. Whew! With dusk upon us, we blew up our $15 yellow kiddie rafts named Rubber Duckie 1 & 2, piled our stinking selves into the two boats, and took off. We floated this upper section of the Grand Canyon for 4 miles. Thousands of feet of canyon walls stretched above us. We hoped to be warm, see a bobcat,  get there safe, and never leave.

Jon got a bit restless with floating slowly, so about 1.5-2 hours in, he tied us to his belt and pulled us down the chilly river for .5 mile. We found a dock. Exited the water at a Ranger Station just before the rapids. And walked the mile back to our river-side campground at Lee’s Ferry. Simple. Easy. Exhausting. Long. Exhilirating. Priceless. Grateful.

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