DEEP SPACE 2.0, THE GRAND EXPANSION: Southwest Adventure takes to the Grand Canyon
Sgt. Ida Irby,
24th Press Camp Headquarters:
Flagstaff, Ariz. – A group of seven explorers came together under the guidance of Greg Mai and Kenny Coppedge, outdoor recreation experts with the Southwest Adventure at Fort Bliss, for a four-day quest into the Grand Canyon National Park Oct. 5 through 8.
According to Coppedge, a native of Pinetop, Ariz., the America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Annual Pass of 2012 allots free entry for Active Duty Soldiers for the year. The pass can be used for National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Amy Corps sites that charge amenity fees.
Day one of the hiking quest began with a one and three-fourths mile hike on the Grand View trail for three nature lovers and five hikers went further going three miles to a historic mining site titled Horseshoe Mesa Campground at 4,800 feet elevation.
Once the group arrived they shared the community trails with hikers of all ages and experience levels. On a map, the 2,600-foot vertical drop to Horseshoe Mesa Campground looks like a stroll through a park; but amateur hikers were put to the test on the steep and rocky cliffs of the Grand View trail, said Mai, a native of Denver, Colo.
For many Soldiers the canyon was all about the view.
“Hiking into the canyon for five hours versus viewing it from the sidewalk for one hour is so different,” said Paul Nouhan, a senior noncommissioned officer from 1st Battalion, 13th Calvary Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. “I feel content, I feel the temperature change, most of all I feel it on my entire body.”
Day two began with a hike from the South Rim of the canyon. Coppedge said that coffee and painkillers were the first two things he thought of after waking up from what he called “perfect weather for camping.”
Nouhan mentioned that he enjoyed hiking, a break from the military training he has grown use to after 20 years in the Army. Growing up in Saline, Michigan, he enjoyed hunting and fishing as a boy. Lizards and bees dashed across his path as he hiked a total of 18 miles in the canyon in two days, looking for small caves and any signs of wild life.
“Hiking the Grand Canyon has been something I always wanted to do; I guess you could say it’s been on my bucket list,” said Nouhan. “Rim to Rim, maybe I can do that in the future. The view was amazing, I enjoyed seeing the small bridges and climbing the large boulders.”
Bianca Dellossie, an 8-year-old student at Vista Hills Elementary in El Paso, was the youngest hiker of the group. Will Dellossie, her father, of the El Paso Intelligence Center, joined her for a total of 4 miles hiked in two days. Bianca hiked with a backpack and what she felt was essential for any camping trip: graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows.
Joseph J. Sanchez, an El Paso media producer, hiked a total of 18 miles in his two days.
“I was apprehensive about my abilities to handle the arduous journey, but I am glad this trip was available to the community,” said Sanchez. “My hobbies include rock climbing, snowboarding, and camping.”
The group camped at the Mather Campground in the Grand Canyon National Park, also a home for families of deer, raccoons and elk.
“I want to see a bear and a bunny,” said Bianca who couldn’t have known that the campground chosen was the habitat of wild animals too.
Day three was a day hike where trailblazers traveled the Bright Angel trail to view the Indian Garden, found at four and a half miles into the canyon, or a chance to view the Colorado River at six miles into the canyon.
“I’m here, at the heart of the canyon and it’s awesome,” said Spc. Noe Ruiz, 1st Battalion, 13th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, standing on the cliff that overlooks the Colorado River, which divided the vast canyon in what he called, “God’s creation.”
As Ruiz traveled up the canyon and his body temperature changed, he said, “I wanted to touch the water, and bathe in it but I didn’t get to.” Ruiz then ventured to the top of the canyon and stopped to encourage walkers who had grown weary of the winding trail.
“The most important thing I packed was water and wet-wipes,” said Spc. Marco Villafana, an artillery mechanic in the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, as he listed off the contents of his rucksack. He was one of three hikers to travel additional three miles to collect river water for the five mile hike out of the canyon on day one.
“I don’t think I did anything special. I hike for fun, and eventually I gain more and more strength,” said Villafana, who was the fastest hiker of the group – hiking a total of 21 miles.
Coppedge, used a Beacon Emergency Location Device to send an updated status alert of the campers while they slept deep in the canyon where communication assets were limited. He said the canyon measures 26 miles from rim to rim, giving an opportunity for experienced hikers to push themselves further and amateur hikers to learn the spirit of the hobby.
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