The Grand Canyon (Day 3 Night): “Birthday Pudding” by Shelby Seals Foster

We exited the Tonto Trail at Horn Creek, a dry campsite despite its name, and climbed back down into a ravine for camp. I was excited to learn there was a composting toilet a short hike away, the path marked by cairns. Yes, I was very excited about a dead-body-stinking, solar-compost, wooden-top toilet facing a canyon wall with some sense of privacy.  I shoved a scented wet-wipe in each nostril and stared at the caves that the California Condors nest in on the canyon wall, watching for one to fly out. I never saw a Condor, but I made peace with nature, and life was good.

We camped under a lone large tree we dubbed “Home Tree.” The boys set up their tent all by themselves. Camp fully set up, damp sleeping bags laid out on a large rock to dry some in the minutes before dark, pockets and packs emptied of food and trash and turned into Kyle for safe storage in steel-mesh critter bags, we were ready to relax. The boys headed out to explore and use their monoculars and the grown-ups sat back to chat. Christy, a mother of four, relayed how she’d enjoyed their company, and how even from the first day, she could tell everything she needed to know about them from watching them hike in front of her. One was steady and determined, eyes focused on the trail, never asking for breaks, constantly confidently moving ahead. The other danced happily along, stopping often to point in every direction at things they needed to see. She reminded the former to stop and enjoy the view and the latter to be careful. Pretty smart lady.

Kyle taught us the three trail rules for decision making: never make a decision if your heart rate is over 100, you haven’t eaten in two hours, or it is dark outside. Most adventures are abandoned or altered under one or more of these conditions, and if you just stop, eat and/or sleep you may find it’s not so bad after all. Sound advice for many stressful situations.

For supper Kyle made us a fancy cork-screw pasta in tomato sauce, spicy and warm. For dessert, the only night we had dessert, Kyle made instant pudding in mini graham cracker crusts. This was pretty remarkable considering that, knowing it was a dry camp, he carried the extra water and saved the dessert for this night so he could make the pudding in honor of my nephew’s birthday the next day. Kyle secretly put the honoree’s initial on top in mini marshmallows. We all sang and the birthday boy blew out the lighter. We were planning an extra early start to our last day, so we turned in right after supper. Just as we pulled our sleeping bags in, a cold, windy rain blew in. This was the only night we were cold, sleeping in all of the layers we brought, even the damp items. Wet is a relative term at this point. Before falling asleep I surveyed my tired body: 6 toes down, 3 on each foot, and a right hip that hurts. Complaints from boys so far: none.

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