Our adventure begins at Bright Angel Lodge in The Grand Canyon on Wednesday, March 8, 2018.
We excitedly arrive at the Bright Angel Lodge in the mid afternoon after spending the night in Williams, AZ (right on Route 66). Although we were just "scouting" and getting oriented, we elected to stop at the “backcountry” desk (which is just to the left of the hotel check-in counter) to check on the status of our long reserved (over one year) mule trip.
It turns out a pipe is broken down at Phantom Ranch so there is no toilet or bathing water. Pit toilets are available and there will be no showers. We are told that several people have cancelled. (Can't imagine cancelling for this reason when reservations must be made one full year in advance!). Since we didn’t know there were showers in the first place, that was a non issue. Also, as old
experienced “dry” campers, pit toilets were also a non issue. Plenty of drinking water will be brought in and the steak dinner is still on ... what’s not to like?
We commenced to sign papers absolving the mules and their owners (the Xanterra Corporation) of any liability in the "unlikely" event of injury or death. We received our plastic bag for personal effects we wish to take down with us (toiletries, medicine, sweatpants ... that's about all there is room for) and we received a cool “bota” bag ... but for water.
We also received a bright yellow rain jacket with the words “mule rider” in black on the back. I suppose this is so if you do fall down the canyon they can spot you and then subsequently identify you as a “mule rider.” We get to keep the plastic bag and the bota bag, but not the cool yellow rain coat.
All the time we were filling out paperwork and getting our “equipment” I was under the impression I could go back to the van, put on my very light gym shoes, very light gym pants and very light nylon t-shirt in order to insure a lighter weigh in total (recall, that if you weigh even an ounce over 200 pounds you cannot go). (It will help to know that I have been eating carefully and exercising regularly for over a year with this one defining moment in mind, having started out at 215 pounds with just a swim suit for clothing)
As I said above, I was under the impression I could put on lighter clothing UNTIL ... Sue quite innocently asked, “So, when do we weigh in?”.
The heavily bearded, gravelly voiced, crusty, gold miner looking fellow behind the counter wryly smiles and says, “Why, right now.”
Fear and terror gripped me since I was wearing heavy levis, heavy hiking boots, and a heavy sweatshirt. I meekly asked him if I could remove my hiking boots to weigh in. Without missing a beat he replied, “Nope, you gotta wear somethin’.” At that demarcation moment I realized he had been asked this "newbie" question before.
So, I gingerly stepped on the scale (it’s just like what the airlines use for baggage). Guess that makes it easier to measure people’s “excess baggage”. I figured if I stepped lightly I would weigh less in total.
I was so jittery and nervous the scale kept moving around. I told him the scale was moving. He said, “No, you are.”
So, he silently writes down my "final" weight ... which I have not seen ... and proceeds to process our paperwork. It appeared to be good news as he didn’t ask if I wanted to come back after maybe going to the restroom ... ultimately, I couldn’t stand the suspense so I had to ask ... "Um, so what was the final number on your scale?" (In the back of my mind I’m calculating boots =3.5 lbs, levis =1.5 lbs, sweatshirt =1.0 lb ... there is 6 pounds in clothing alone) ... He smiles, clears his throat and calmly says “193”.
Air fist bump ... MADE IT!
The mule will be thrilled!