"It's overcast, there won't be a sunset...", my famous words before the most incredible display of color I've ever seen in the Grand Canyon, possibly anywhere! Just getting to the canyon rim for sunset that day though was a monumental accomplishment.
The whole adventure started when I planned a group trip to the GC to complete the famous 42 mile Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim ultra run. As part of the Denver trail running community, I had made many other numerous friends committed to physical punishment for the pleasure of seeing some of the best scenery the world has to offer. After sending out invites, I soon had over 15 fellow runners signed up and ready to dive into the open earth. With campsites and a large passenger van reserved, plane tickets bought, and meals planned, I thought the worst of the logistics were over.
Fast forward to the day of the trip and Megan and I were already facing a major challenge and possible end to our excursion before it started. Our amazing dog and fellow mountain adventurer of 4 years, Sierra, was going through a fight with an auto-immune disease for the past month, and while she had been getting better, she was starting to relapse again. I had committed to the planning and organizing of the GC run and I didn't want to bail, but we weren't sure if Sierra would be alive when we returned. In our attempts to say our possibly last goodbyes, we were somewhat late to the airport.
Our late arrival wouldn't have been an issue if the Denver airport had been operating more than 2 security lines per side that day. The line was relatively short, but unfortunately the typical TSA incompetence meant lots of people standing around and little actual security screening going on. After spending over an hour in line we finally made it through, and although the timing was down to minutes, we thought there might still be a chance. As we ran down to the gate we saw the aircraft was still there and we thanked our limited luck, too soon as it was.
When we showed up to the gate we noticed the agents were missing only to turn around and see a swarm of Southwest employees attacking a box of freshly bought Voodoo Donuts. We attempted to get their attention, but our cries were muffled by the sounds of sugary delight in a pretty pink box. After finally breaking through to a couple hypnotized employees we were told the aircraft had already left, which I then quickly corrected by pointing out the jet still sitting outside. They then countered that the door was closed and no more boarding was possible, to which I again pointed out the door was in fact still open, but we rebuffed that no one was available to open the gate. At this point we decided pointing out their continued inaccuracies was futile, and we headed to the nearest staffed gate.
Thankfully the employees at the other gate were free from donut enslavement and they not only helped us get on the next flight in 2 hours, we were refunded a few points as the later flight was cheaper. We settled in to wait for the next departure to Phoenix with another friend that fell victim to Voodoo Donuts and a few hours later we were in Phoenix. Regrouped with the rest of our friends we loaded up our behemoth van with hopes for smooth sailing forward, but again, it was not to be.
After a stop for running fuel (In-N-Out), we worked our way north on I-17 towards Flagstaff and not long after leaving Phoenix we came to a complete stop on the highway. Luck had been even unkinder to others and a vehicle driving the wrong way caused a head-on collision closing the interstate for hours. By the time we finally got going again we were madly behind schedule and unsure if we would see the canyon before nightfall. After a few more short stops, we finally made it to the park shortly after 5pm and got to work setting up camp.
Despite the exhausting day, we decided to head out to the canyon for sunset and to glimpse some of our future running route. As we piled out of the van and headed to the viewpoint I grabbed my camera but left my tripod and bag. "Won't you want your gear for sunset?", I was asked. "Look all the clouds, it's overcast, there won't be a sunset", I famously responded as I watched another photographer lug his gear down the trail.
As we enjoyed the view and talked about tomorrow's trial, I noticed the sun starting to come through a break in the clouds on the horizon. "Shit, I need my gear!", I yelled as I handed off my camera and ran for the van, sandals slapping hard rock and pavement. I tore into the van, grabbed my bag, and ran back for the rim. As I clumsily extended my tripod and attached my camera, the sky glowed with color. My viewpoint wasn't the best angle, but I knew the incredible sunset would more than make up for it; one of these days though I'll actually be setup before the incredible light starts...