Hiking/Camping/Eating in the GRAND CANYON

Porter and I have launched most of our big adventures–hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail, and biking the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, at Easter, so this Easter we descended and ascended the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Our son, Philip, and his triathlon buddy, Constantine, joined us for the expedition.
Constantine, Gail and Porter, Philip

The three guys headed down into the Canyon for three days of hiking and camping, while I hiked the entire South Rim solo from the South Kaibab Trailhead to the Hermit’s Rest Trailhead, with spectacular views the entire way.

From the South Kaibab Trailhead they descended all the way to the Colorado River at the bottom the first day. Constantine, a Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgical Fellow, is also a stellar photographer, and had a blast photographing the Grand Canyon up one side and down the other. Philip, currently a Surgical Retina Fellow, and Constantine raced up to the North Rim and back on the second day. Porter, Jolly Good Fellow who outfitted all three of them with gear including tent, backpacks, and clothes, cooked them all gourmet breakfasts (frittata, fruit muesli and cinnamon rolls from scratch) and dinners (chicken pad thai followed by cherry/blueberry cobbler, salmon risotto followed by fresh hot gingerbread with lemon icing) on his homemade steam-baker.

Meanwhile, Amber spent the entire week riding the free Grand Canyon Village shuttle bus from snack bar to snack bar, fortifying herself for the ride to the next snack bar.


RMNP #1: Winter Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

After thru-hikes of the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and a thru-ride of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, what’s a guy to do? Ultralight solo winter-camping in Rocky Mountain National Park–why not? 

“Wait,” Porter said, studying routes and vital info in Snowshoeing Colorado
by Claire Walter, “was this written by our Claire Walter?” Indeed it was, so with consummate trust, we set out for Rocky Mountain National Park with full confidence that our friend Claire would not lead us astray. With a pack base weight of 18 pounds plus food, and snowshoes strapped to his pack, Porter set out from the Wild Basin Trailhead.  Snowshoes with steel cleats enabled him to negotiate both ice and snow on the trail.

He camped first above Finch Lake, and later above Ouzel Lake. It was so cold that the famous flowing Ouzel Falls was frozen solid! He had adapted his winter tent by designing and sewing an ultralight cuben fiber vestibule to the front for protection from wind and blowing snow.

After tamping down the deep snow with his snowshoes to make a campsite level enough to pitch his tent, he dug a snow pit in front of the vestibule to protect his stove from the wind. Didn’t work for cooking, though, because the cold kept the fuel canister from warming up enough to keep the fire going. Cold supper, but his stove is a work-in-progress, so stay tuned.

Gail hung out in Estes Park to do a solo meditation retreat by the river, and to be ready to pick up Porter as a big snowstorm moved in. Water ever-flowing beneath the stillness of the ice is a great teacher. 

Winter-camping to Amber means meditating on cold pints of peppermint ice cream.

May winter warm your heart with your own heart’s desire!


GDMBR #13: Colorado and HOME!

Porter is so done! We’re  home from our Great Divide Mountain Bike Route adventure, after 2,700 miles through five states and two Canadian provinces; 82 days; 41 hotels, cabins, and campsites; four sets of tires; more glasses of wine than we care to disclose, and a lot of ice cream cones! 

The final 701 miles of Colorado were challenging–afternoon thunderstorms and the biggest mountains to bike over, here the highest point, Indiana Pass at 11,910 feet on Grayback Mountain in the San Juans.

This has been above all a journey to discover new strengths in ourselves, and to open to what we’re called to be in the world now. For me, it’s been dropping from the mind into the heart. 

“I am so pumped,” Amber told Porter as he topped off his tires one last time. “I’m ready to go home and open to the turmoil in the world.”

Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for following our journey with such enthusiasm and love. Love back atcha on your own journeys. 


GDMBR #12: Say Yes to Everything. Colorado!

Porter got so sick in the Grand Teton National Forest that I drove him ten hours from northern Wyoming to a Colorado Kaiser Urgent Care clinic open late. Abdominal x-rays didn’t show anything definitive, so I drove him the rest of the way home to see what would happen next. 

We took heart from the comments so many of you made on our previous post, about why we’re doing this, and a few days later were able to drive back out. We’d completed the rest of Wyoming from the Great Basin north earlier this summer, so have just the 701 miles in Colorado to go. The weather in the mountains is already turning colder. Driving over Rabbit Ears Pass in a scary ice storm, we figured we’d better go on and finish the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route a.s.a.p.  Porter biked and I hiked over aptly named Inspiration Point in a cold rain. 

It was cold but sunny when we met up at Boreas Pass at 11,482 feet. 

We’re learning to say Yes to everything–to the flow of Nature in our being. Yes to getting sick and yes to getting well, grateful for the body’s way of knowing how to heal. Yes to the changing landscapes of the wilderness and the heart. Yes to storm clouds building in the blue, blue sky. 

Yes even to the vicissitudes of bike mechanics. “Move that thingamajig to the left of the doohickey and whack it with the whatchamacallit,” Amber advises Porter. Yes, yes, yes. 


GDMBR #11: Why Are We Doing This? Wyoming

Why are Porter and I on this four-month, 2,700-mile Great Divide Mountain Bike Route adventure? It’s a fair question and one we’re often asked, in light of Porter’s bike exploding, grizzly bears, logging trucks on narrow mountain roads, getting lost in the wilderness, storms, and all manner of physical and emotional risks. Nearly 2,000 miles into it, we’ve been doing some soul-searching to counter weariness.  So why, here in Wyoming? 

Because wide open spaces, wildlife, wildflowers, the Tetons, windswept sky.

Because, well, love.  

Because Western wit.

“There is no Wyoming, there is only the journey,” Amber says, waiting for Porter to come biking and Gail to come trekking down the pass.