Queen of Trades; Travel and Photography- Category [Travel/Stories/Tips]

We are hitting the slopes in Wolf Creek here in a few days. I'm excited to get back out in the powder and work on my skills as a snowboarder. 

Last year when we were at Wolf Creek I was able to stay up on a board for the whole run and even do the blues over there. it was wonderful and for the first time, I didn't feel too scared to try boarding. I felt pretty strong and found out that I am better on a twin board than I am on a regular board. For me, that was an interesting thing to learn and changed the whole game for me. Being able to switch from one side to another whenever I needed to was a way for me to keep upright. It's apparently not as common for people to be able to use a twin board which I found interesting and a little exciting in its own way. 


My least favorite part is the journey out there. Unlike last year I'm not in the area and I will be coming back home instead of traveling to a new location/area after we are done. I'm excited to get back on the board and give it a go and of course, to have an espresso at the top of the mountain with Dad. 

So here we come Wolf Creek. We will be shredding the slopes here soon. 


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It's been a month since we returned from our trip, and the inevitable finally happened. 

Yesterday, as I was trimming my toenails in preparation for a weekend climbing session, something unexpected happened – one of my toenails came off. Yes, it just fell off. While I was cutting it, it unexpectedly detached, barely clinging on by a tiny piece of skin. It was both unsettling and surprising. Honestly, I had anticipated that my big toe's toenail might be the one to go, but it turned out to be the second toe on the other foot. The toenail on my left big toe is still somewhat discolored, and a portion of it has come off, but it hasn't completely disappeared, which is perfectly fine.

Fortunately, the toe itself isn't painful, and I can already see some new growth starting at the edges. I'm uncertain how long it will take, but at least there's no bleeding or oozing to worry about.

So, for anyone planning to undertake the rim-to-river trail, be prepared – you might lose a toenail or two along the way or experience some discoloration.

Nevertheless, in the end, the sacrifices were well worth it.

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I'm sure there are a few of you who have already read about what happened in Albuquerque but in case you haven't let me go ahead and fill you in. 

While on the way back from the Grand Canyon my Dad and I had decided to stop at a Dunkin on our way back East. The closest one from the Interstate was one in town. It was a ten-minute detour and we made our way to the Dunkin. Getting our elixir we got back in our vehicles and started back on the road. Not even twenty minutes into this drive my driver's side window broke. While driving at least 40 to 50 mph in a 4-lane. 

Naturally, my reaction was to duck down and step on the break. I Slumped in the driver seat as glass spilled everywhere I looked around bewildered by what just happened. Mind you I have been through a lot of near-death experiences and heart attacks from the van since I bought it but this incident went near the top in heart attacks. 

While driving this massive vehicle I managed to not Crash into anybody and I did look around after a minute of letting my heartbeat in my chest along with widespread panic of looking around at other cars (and in my rearview mirror). All the cars behind me seemed to be aware something happened as the glass fell from the window and into the street as well as down my shirt and pants. After the initial 60-second panic I texted my Dad letting him know "My window just broke" followed by another thought to just call him. He was in front of me when this happened so he had no idea and when he picked up I tried my best to tell him that the window just exploded while keeping a slow pace and an eye on the last remaining pieces that were hanging in the window. 

Mind you if I was alone I would never have pulled over anywhere in that city. I would have kept going panicking at an all-time high and just hoped nothing else happened. But with someone else there and the fact that I felt the glass scraping my skin, we found somewhere to pull off. There was a casino parking lot with security around. We pulled into the lot and a guy came around in a golf cart and checked in on us to see what was going on. My Dad told him what happened and he relaxed some and called the inside of the Casino while we cleaned up. he then asked if we needed anything and after I settled some more we told him we were good and he left us to the task. 

After some time passed we had cleaned up the van the best we could and I stripped down to get rid of the glass that was against my skin. After that, we rigged a towel where the window was and started our way back on the road. I'm not going to lie that drive felt like an eternity. We were going to the Big Texan in Alamo and while Alamo is garbage and I had a broken window I said **** it and knew I needed a steak and drink after this incident. 

For four hours I drove replaying what happened. Trying to remember what I saw but I came to the conclusion that it wasn't anything physical I saw but I did HEAR the impact before the shatter. It wasn't a gun but a hard object of some kind. It hit the window and bounced away causing the window to wobble before it busted. It's unmistakable what it looks like when it gets a wave-like look from a high impact. 

For the next part of the 16-hour drive, I slept a total of five to six hours in between drives after that. We pulled into a rest area with Truck Drivers and I stayed in the middle of them. I trust truck drivers more than anyone on the road when it comes to sleeping arrangements. They don't fool around and they SEE everything. 

I made it home safely and we managed to get the window replaced. I haven't done any investigating in the van just yet but I do plan to look around while I work on things just to make sure I didn't miss something. Of course, If I find anything it will be reported and my assumptions will be updated but for now, I think it was an object that was thrown at me NOT shot at me (like a bullet) and that is an important distinction. 

I also would like to point out that I don't think this is from me driving a "van" and that it made me a target. I think that they saw a young person driving and probably tried to take advantage of a high panic situation hoping I would pull over or crash so they could rob my vehicle. Of course that did not happen so they lost that day. I do believe in Karma and I do believe it's coming for them in 100 fold and the universe will give it back to them. 

So I grant the universe permission to do as it pleases with whoever tried that stunt. Good luck to you stranger. Karmas is a bitch. 

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Alright, folks. I am here to bring you my thoughts on the trail that my father and I completed at the Grand Canyon. I will put a note here and say that this trail is rated DIFFICULT and it is no joke for most that have even attempted this trail. The whole trail is roughly 17-19 miles all around depending on detours and stops. 

So with that out there let's dive in. 

The trail that my father and I completed is Rim- RIver- To Rim or some people just call it Rim to River. The trail starts on South Kaibab and ends up Bright Angel. A while back we did Suuth Kibab and came back up the same trail and it was terrible. We had a late start, it was super steep and we learned a lesson about water and how much we really love to drink it. It was very intense at that time. 

For this adventure, we had planned this out over the years and talked about how we wanted to finish a hike that didn't require permits. In the end, this was the route we decided on that would be best for us to do in one day and not get a backpacking permit. 

To begin with this adventure I would advise having a campsite at Mathers Campground and to make sure that you have a day or two in front of the trail and a day or two after you have completed the trail to rest. This also will give you a weather window. Please make sure to check for rain/ wet conditions or you could find yourself scurrying out of the trail in mud and that is never ideal in any situation but definitely not ideal in the Grand Canyon itself. We planned for a week of staying in the campground and we were there at the end of September when the weather would be cooler. Ideally, you want the weather to be anywhere from 50's to 70's  up top and maybe high 70's to 80's at the bottom. You don't want to get caught at the bottom of the canyon when it could be in the 100 heat index. That's how people end up being rescued or dying from heat exhaustion. Always, always, always check conditions before attempting this hike. 

Once you have planned out your time frame make sure to get plenty of rest and pack your bag the day before. We planned to have our camelbacks completely filled and brought several snacks to eat every few hours. It is also highly recommended to have trekking poles and a hat or shirt that is breathable for the hike. Once your pack is ready set your alarm for being up at 4 a.m. We made sure to have coffee before we left and I ate chicken and potato for breakfast as a starter of fuel. The first bus is at 5 a.m over on Bright Angel. Take your car over there so that you have immediate access when you get up from the trail. The bus that comes at 5 a.m is an "express line" and will take you to the trail. By the time you get over there, it will be roughly 5:30. If you need to use the restroom they do have one at the start and we both went ahead and used it since the next bathroom wasn't for 3 miles or so. 

The trail itself is outstandingly beautiful but it is VERY steep. South Kaibab is around 7,200 ft high and as you go down you lose around 4860 ft of elevation. Getting down to the river is about 6.3 miles and even though it is down the real truth about this is that it's not smooth going down. It has steps and they are all different heights. In the beginning, you will need a headlamp but by the time we got a mile and a half in you can start to see first light. By the time we got down to three miles, the sun was rising and we no longer needed headlamps or long sleeves since it started to warm up quickly in the canyon. 

Every corner you turn will reveal an amazing landscape and it will take your breath away. Make sure to stop and take photos and videos along the way but be aware of your time. The best way to accomplish this hike is to be heading up and out of the canyon before noon. 

I will say that by the time we got down to the river, my toenails were hurting. A lot. They were sore from the stepping down and I loved it when we ran into areas on the trial where it was Smooth and it had zero human-made steps. When you get down to the river you cross over the first bridge and go towards the famous Phantom Lodge. This is your first water point. So for reference, you have to have enough water for the first 7 miles. When you get there refill what you need to and water your hat or shirt. For us, this was an amazing way to keep us smiling and stop us from being miserable. The heat at the bottom of the canyon is a lot to take when you are doing long hikes and by being able to cool down I felt so much better. I also brought sunscreen since I didn't have a long-sleeved sleeve breathable shirt. But that's honestly ok. 

After you refill your water and wet your hat you continue onward towards the second bridge and then follow alongside the river for quite a while. It's a beautiful view and we even saw some mules on their way to the ranch with supplies. After some time of following the trial, there will be a river "resting house" on the left-hand side and that is the start up the box canyon to make your way up. Here you can stop to take a rest and use the restroom. 

The box canyon hike up isn't too steep but it does have switchbacks with a gradual incline afterward. You follow this up until you get to an oasis of sorts. To be honest I didn't know how green the Grand Canyon could be but it was super green. It has trees, a stream, and is full of plants. It was shaded and a nice change of pace from the usual scenery you see in the Grand Canyon. 

After a while longer of hiking you make it Indian Garden. From here it's 4.5 miles to the end of the trail. This is a great place to replenish water, wet your hat, and take a rest. By the time we got here, we were pretty much in the clear and knew we would be alright. Around that point, it was a little past noon so we knew that the heat wasn't the issue but the steep trail ahead was. We talked to some other hikers and a ranger that was around and after having some electrolytes and a snack we put on our packs and started up the steep trail. The next resthouse is at Mile 3 (3 miles to the top) and you gain roughly 950 elevation in that short trip. 

After mile three your next resthouse is at mile 1.5. From here you start to gain elevation rapidly. I highly recommend having those trekking poles and using them as it is almost a 12% grade from mile three onward to get out of the canyon. 

Once you get to the next resthouse you are roughly at 5,729 feet. Around this point, I remember thinking that I wanted to get out of the canyon. My right foot was on fire and it was starting to get excruciatingly painful. Of course, there's nothing you can do at that point but push through the pain to get out. In truth, I think the last three miles would have been ok if my foot hadn't started hurting but I remember thinking to myself that it sucked ass. We kept going back and forth with these other hikers and one made a comment that the hike was taking a toll on me. It was in the sense that my foot was throbbing but the rest of me was ok. I made sure to try to stretch my leg and back when we stopped for a breather and take in plenty of water. 

Once you get past the 1.5 mile resthouse there aren't any other stops. You now have the home stretch to get out. From here it's constant switchbacks and the elevation continues to climb. By the time you leave the canyon and are done with the trail, you are back at 6800 feet. From mile 3 to the top it's a struggle. Luckily there is shade going up the trail in the afternoon so you are not constantly in the blazing sun cooking away as you work up the trail. 

When we finally got out of the canyon and were in the parking lot I felt like a sack of potatoes. My foot was hurting like crazy but I managed to limp my way to the truck. In truth, my foot only started to hurt the last three miles and while it was annoying to have it flare up I am still proud I finished the hike. It's strenuous but amazingly beautiful and only 1% of people that go to the Grand Canyon attempt this hike. It honestly is a memory I will not forget. 

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Great news! The van maintenance is complete. Not going to lie the list was a lot longer than I expected it to be when it came to things that needed to be fixed. For a long time, the van has had this growl and I thought that was part of the van, thinking that he just liked to make noise. To be honest I don't mind a little bit of grunge. My Volkswagon has this grungy sound and even though it's annoying to most people I love the way it sounds. It gives it character so when I bought Gimli I thought that was just part of his character. Turns out it wasn't. 

The alternator was the source of the growl and luckily there was a place in town that was able to fix it. Along with the alternator being the source of the growl, the intake had a pretty good leak going on which lead to high long-term fuel trims. Along with these issues stacked on everything else, the list was quite long in terms of what needed to be fixed or changed. Of course, there are a few other things to be done before I head back out but in terms of the main components that make the van safe and ready for travel, we now have those completed. 

The next step in Gimli is the last part of the build. Currently, we're looking for a way to make the passenger seat rotate so that I can use that as a seat for work, and we're going to build a cabinet area that goes all the way from the passenger seat to the bed frame on the passenger side. The passenger doors will be able to be opened for airflow if I so choose, but you will no longer be able to get in and out. This will also stop the power drain on one side and hopefully stop me from accidentally draining the battery by having one of those doors accidentally propped open. 

It will also make storing kitchen supplies easier as well as make my life easier for food quality. With a cooler, there is always a chance of it being ruined by temp, ice, dunking in water for a long time, etc. So we will also be upgrading to a fridge for more of a boondocking experience. 

It's a relief to know that were so close to Gimli's completion. I can't wait to see how everything turns out. 

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