The final leg of our journey. Up, up, up we go! Unlike the downward trail with its constant pounding on our knees, this trail ride provided a rocking motion as we sit forward in the saddles to counterbalance the uphill terrain. (It also created some tender spots on the derriere.) First the mules place their two front feet on the upward step, then with a jumping motion the two back feet followed -- first a rocking motion backward, then a jarring motion forward. Back and forth, back and forth as we make our way to the top of Grand Canyon.
Our progress is slow as we frequently provide rest stops for the mules. This is a hard climb for them with the steepness of the trail and the change in altitude. I will forever be grateful for the mule's strength and sure-footedness as my own legs would not have been able to conquer this journey.
Our final stop was spectacular. We got a chance to look down into the massive canyon below and catch a glimpse of a small portion of the trail we just negotiated. Then we looked up to the top of the cliff where we would finally dismount and say good bye to the mules. You will have to look closely to the cliff's edge in order to see the hikers meandering back and forth, back and forth. We are so close but still a long ways to go as we, too, must traverse upward through several switchbacks.
We can hardly believe the adventure is over. After a wait of nearly 10 years, Patty finally got her wish and wore her "straw hat." This mule ride and exploration of the inner canyon was far beyond our expectations. It is truly a magnificent place, magical, sacred -- the change in color, the geological variation, the rock formations (spears and plateaus), the deep crevasses, the plants and shrubs, the Colorado River... It is immense to say the least.
Grand Canyon -- 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep. Nearly 5 million people every year stand at one of the lookouts on the South Rim and gaze downward in awe. Only a few get to experience the true wonder of the inner canyon. We are thankful we did!