Heavy Heart

Our shadows wave across the Grand Canyon



KATE KANE DUBEL 7/14/1917 — 10/13/2011

Kate has been my friend since I was about fifteen years old.  My blog post dated 4/29/11 and titled “Skillets in the Oven” described my last visit with her.

We’ve had several great adventures together.  This shadow picture is from the time we went to the Grand Canyon for a short day hike and ended up spending the night at Phantom Ranch next to the mighty Colorado River – unexpected guests of the National Parks Department.  The story sounds like an unpleasant misadventure, but it wasn’t.  Kate sprained her ankle two-thirds of the way down the South Kaibab Trail, which is a little over six miles one-way.  It seemed impossible for her to limp back to the top, so the only other choice was to get her to Phantom Ranch where we could hire a mule to give her a ride out.  It bears noting that I was in my mid-twenties and Kate, strong and spirited as any of my peers, was in her late sixties.  So she sat on the trailside with the last of our water, assuring me that she would be fine and was delighted by the view, while I hustled the two remaining miles to the bottom and found a ranger.  With a female ranger leading the way, we headed back to Kate, and then the three of us hobbled her down the trail.  For me, the hiking miles were racking up, and I wondered how I was going to find the strength to make it out myself.  I couldn’t afford a mule trip, and Kate wasn’t offering to pay my way.  Unbeknownst to us at the time was the fact that mules go only one direction in a day.  A mule was sent down for her, but it wouldn’t be able to take her back up to the rim until the next morning.  Personally, I was relieved.  Kate was given a couple of aspirin and an Ace bandage.  We were also given two used, cast-off sleeping bags and shown a spot in the dirt where we could sleep.  This was all happening on a cool, clear autumn day.  Aspens along the river’s edge were ablaze in fall color – vermilion reds and oranges and plenty of canary yellow.  With the exception of Kate’s ankle, it was a perfect day.

Neither of us was carrying any cash, so we rationed our lunches so that they became dinner and breakfast too.  That night, despite being a little cold, hungry, and on the ground, I slept like the dead.  However, double misfortune befell my friend in the middle of the night – a scorpion stung her.  Not deadly, but painful.  Ouch, ouch, ouch, but no worries, Kate was tough and did her best to laugh it off.  What were the odds for such a crazy combination of events to occur?  The next morning, before sunrise, I began my big trek up.  I chose to go up The Bright Angel Trail because it would be the one Kate would ride up.  It was a slightly longer distance, but spectacular.  About 11:00 Kate and her personal escort were gaining on me.  I could hear them several switchbacks down the canyon wall.  As they rode past me, Kate was having the time of her life.  She had bonded with her mule and thoroughly charmed her guide.  I’ll never forget the parade wave she gave me as they twisted out of sight at the next zigzag.  My muscles were twitching with fatigue, my stomach was folding in on itself with hunger, and the uphill grind had me sweating out ever sip of water that I was drinking and running out of.  While I was still within earshot, I hollered, “Kate!  You owe me!”  Her infectious, cackling laugh echoed off the canyon walls.

We had over three and a half decades to care and love one another.  She was an amazing woman.

Have a great week, and I’ll post again next Friday.

2 Responses to “Heavy Heart”

  1. Lisa Eden says:

    Beautiful Terry! Seeing pictures of Kate brought back so many amazing memories…xoxo

  2. miguel sanchez says:

    lovely memory of your dear friend kate. thanks terry.

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