I had about 90 minutes to sit there and think about my decision before the shuttle was picking us up. I chit-chatted with the two guys I was hitching a ride with for a bit, and one of them decided to lay down and try to take a nap. So, I sat there and watched people come off the trail.
The North Rim Trailhead is insanely disappointing compared to the South. The South Rim is THIS:
Scenery that I could stare at for DAYS.
And the North Rim is all:
Just a sign, some trees, and dirt.
I might as well have been in Percy Warner Park.
Let me be real with you for a moment. Normally, I am quite friendly and outgoing. I enjoy talking to people and meeting people (particularly when I'm alone. If I've got a friend around, I'm likely to just talk to them and judge any new people. Sad, but true). But, if I'm cranky, hungry, sad, angry, disappointed... any little thing will piss me off. Even the most ridiculous. Case in point:
There was an enormous group of people who had all traveled together from Texas to do the R2R2R. They weren't all necessarily hiking/running together. But everyone that came up the trail during those 90 minutes were people from that crew. They were all super friendly! But the mental state I was in at the time was not one of friendliness. For one, I had spent the last 9 hours mostly in solitude. I mean, sure, we talked some, but in general... there were pretty big gaps between all 4 of us, so it's not like we were constantly playing games of I Spy or singing campfire songs or whatever. So, this huge, loud, bubbly, excited group was especially jarring to me. There were so many of them and one of them sat down practically on top of me and they were so loud and having so much fun, that I was trying to mentally stab them all with my eyes.
The interesting thing to me was that they hung out there for SO LONG. So, instead of being able to wallow in my self-loathing, I had to basically keep from getting up and kicking all these people in the shins for 90 minutes. Partially, I was jealous, too. Here they all were.... having fun with their group and feeling good. And here I was. Alone and done for the day.
Finally, it got to be about time for the shuttle to pick us up. The guy pulled out his reservation sheet and was like... Shit! It's going to pick us up at the North Rim Lodge! We all looked at the sign post that was at the trailhead that said... North Rim Lodge Trail... 1.7 miles. The shuttle was due in 15 minutes. FUCKITY FUCK FUCK FUCK!
We (there were 3 of us total) made the decision to try to hitchhike to the lodge, so, instead of taking the trail (which was shorter) we hopped on the road and started jogging/walking trying to look pitiful enough to need a ride, but safe and friendly enough to not look like scary ax murderers. And of course... most people were driving TO the trailhead, not from it. Multiple cars passed us... it was not looking good. But finally, we looked pitiful enough, that we got a ride to the lodge, just in time to catch our shuttle. (I had never hitchhiked in my life and now I'd done it twice in two months).
When I heard "shuttle" I guess I thought a nice travel shuttle, with comfy seats and privacy. But in fact, "shuttle" just means a 1992 12 passenger van with bench seats and an air conditioner that doesn't blow out cold air. We loaded up and it was just me and the other two runners and then a group of younger guys who were hiking the R2R the next day.
It turned out to be just what I needed. Instead of sitting there by myself all sad and disappointed, staring out the window, hearing a Sarah McLaughlin song in my head and fighting back the tears in typical dramatic Amy fashion, I was sitting with these guys who were nervous and excited about their hike the next day. They were super friendly and outgoing and since the van was small and tight, and there was no way to stretch out or take a nap, we all talked the entire 4 hour drive. It was nice, I got to give them advice and tell them about the trail and it made me feel better about the day.
The guys that I had taken the ticket from had originally told me that we would all get off the shuttle at our lodge (they were staying the same place as me), shower/clean up/grab a beer and then head over to the South Rim together to wait for our groups to finish. But as we got closer, I graciously declined that offer and had the driver take me to the South Rim Trailhead. I didn't want to be showered and buzzed when my boyfriend and friends got off the trail and I sure as hell didn't want to risk missing them on the trail.
After a 4 hour ride, I was feeling great. Pretty stiff and sore, but overall... really good. So, I decided to hike back down the South Rim until I met up with them and then I would hike up with them.
I stood at the South Rim for awhile and tried to see if I could spot any little dots coming out of Indian Garden. I started to take some pictures with my camera completely zoomed in. And then I would zoom in on the picture. I kept doing this as I hiked down the South Rim and eventually...
Red shirt, grey cap? That's The KoB!
I kept hiking down, trying to be encouraging to the THRONGS of people making their way up the South Rim. (I actually passed a woman passed out on the side of the trail, getting medical attention). And after not too long, I was able to yell at The KoB. As we got closer to each other, he said to me... "I'm close to PRing..." And he was HAULING ASS. I mean, let me just say this about The KoB. He is a slow walker. Like... I'm a fast walker and I always feel like he walks EXCRUCIATINGLY slow. But... hiking... holy fucking shit... he's the fastest hiker I've ever seen. (He's got a bit of experience, I suppose). He also told me that Jeff and Melissa were probably 90 minutes behind him. I told him to go, go, go and get his PR (I can't believe I'm even typing that about the R2R2R) and I followed behind him. Hiking back up the South Rim.
Finally, I got to the top and he was sitting there. He had PRed and he was happy that this "shuttle" that I had taken had not actually been a shuttle into a human trafficking ring.
I urged him to go back to the lodge and shower, we figured he had enough time before Jeff and Melissa finished, and just in case... I would stay at the South Rim and wait for them. He got back all clean and showered and we waited for Jeff and Melissa to finish.
A picture of The KoB's salty shirt.
I think it would have stood up on it's own, it was so crisp.
Jeff and Melissa finished and we all hobbled over to Bright Angel Lodge to grab dinner before they stopped serving for the night.
While I was on a shuttle, sitting down, eating a bag of m&ms, and
chatting my head off to strangers. The Kob, Melissa, and Jeff
were hiking/running their asses off for 23 more miles.
In the end, I made the smart decision. I really did. I think with the cloud cover and with a little time at the North Rim to rehydrate, I would have been fine... but, who knows? It was the responsible thing for me to do. Was I extremely disappointed in myself? YES. Was I extremely jealous that everyone else did it? YES. Was I extremely sore after doing 25ish miles? YES. Honestly, I probably would have required a wheelchair the next day if I had done the whole thing.
That said... As The KoB and I stood in line at the Nashville airport to get on the parking shuttle to go home... he looked at me and said... "Same time and same place next year?" It's a date! I can't wait to go back and do it knowing what I know now. 2014 R2R was just a practice round for me.
See ya in 2015, South Rim!