The Grand Canyon (Day 2 Night): “Grow by The Inch, Die by The Foot” by Shelby Seals Foster

After dinner a thunderstorm was rolling in the distance, so a pack of river rafters came ashore and decided to camp with us. There were 30 of them, so they set up tents on every flat and flat-ish spot possible. A loud, joyful bunch, they knew they were in “our space,” so they offered to refill our water from their plentiful boat-held tanks and carry off our trash. Very thankful for both of these. It meant no slow filtering or boiling from the next creek up. There is no drinking from the Colorado, even filtered or boiled, and this was the one place we were told to “tinkle” directly in the water – everywhere else was 200 feet from any water source. We also had plenty of trash to offload. Every scrap of everything has to be packed out. That includes obvious things like food wrappers, but also micro trash (tiny bits of package corners, etc), tissue and toilet paper(!), and all uneaten food. All hikers must diligently follow these rules, as we never saw evidence of prior hikers/campers. Kyle also admonished the boys not to swing sticks at the plant life and be careful not to kill the lizards and bugs they caught. Survival is hard in the desert canyon, and as guests we should not make it harder. His phrase was “in the desert you grow by the inch, die by the foot,” meaning human feet. The boys washed out our clothes in the river, after our second day in them. I couldn’t bear getting in the 48 degree water beyond rinsing my hands and feet. However, they swam in it like fish, which is considered safe even though you can’t drink from it, and this counted as their “bath.” My bath was a wipe down with a baby wipe each morning and night. I laid out our “washed” clothing on the cliff under the shelter of a small outcropping to hopefully dry overnight. I didn’t put them in the kitchen cave, because it was covered in evidence of bat activity, and I didn’t want to wake with them covered in guano. Tonight’s toe count: 5 blues, 2 from last night and 3 new, and one blister in the oddest place – on the top of my toe. With the now familiar rain and distant thunder all around, I went to sleep worried that Michael and Tess were worried about us, since we were finishing day 2 of radio silence.

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