When last we met our entrepid heroes, my son and I were just arriving at the tunnel to the Black Bridge that leads over the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
We’d hoofed it pretty fast, with very few stops, to get down while the trail was still not too hot.
And then . . .
As a reminder, here’s me at the tunnel last year. I’m shod (okay, moccasined) because last year I’d gotten a late start and otherwise my feet would have fried on the sun-baked trail.
So, we made it right to the mouth of that tunnel and decided to stop. There was a bit of shade to sit in and we could rest and drink up.
I took off my pack and started feeling light-headed. I sat down, and kept feeling light-headed. Then my eyes rolled up into the back of my head and I passed out.
I came to with my son pouring water on me.
I repeated the procedure a couple of minutes later.
There were plenty of folks around helping out. After a short time, a Park employee arrived. (It seems that when I passed out the first time, another of the hikers ran ahead, found the employee, and told her that “a man was having a seizure”.) The immediate suspicion was heat exhaustion.
Keep in mind that the bottom of the Grand Canyon is usually about 20° hotter than at the top, so it was probably about 95° there.
About that time another hiker showed up with similar symptons (except for the passing-out part). She was over-hot and flushed.
The remedy is to cool the person down as quickly as possible, involving pouring water on them. There can also be metabolic things happening, like not enough salt or calories.
The Park employee was Victoria, and she worked hard at cooling me until a official Park volunteer arrived with a lot more water. His name was Sjors, and had been a volunteer there for 22 years.
Anyways, after I’d been doused a bit and looking okay, we slowly moved the last half mile along the Colorado toward Bright Angel Campground. We went in stages, hopping from shady place to shady place, with them checking how I was feeling at each place. (I thought I was feeling fine, but one should not take passing out lightly.)
I should mention that to do this I put on my moccasins. As much as I would have preferred barefoot, did I want to get into an argument over it? No. Did I want to get expeditiously to my campsite? Yes. So, moccasins it was.
Here we are at a picnic table just outside the Bright Angel Campground.’
You can see Sjors and Victoria (and a couple we “borrowed” the table from).
Part of what they do it take a bit of a history, and history of the day, and send that to Park medical people for a diagnosis and suggested treatment. What eventually came back was probable heat exhaustion and lack of calories. I’d had enough to drink (the recommended 500ml/hr) but my breakfast had been pretty light (because we rushed to get out of our campsite), and I hadn’t had much on the way down (one butterscotch hard candy).
So, the treatment was for me to stay cool and eat.
My son pretty much set up our camp, here.
The tent is shaded, but the real technique that everybody uses is just to get into Bright Angel Creek.
(This picture, and subsequent pictures, was taken two days later.)
I saw people reading books with their legs in the creek. Heck, I did it myself.
You get in the creek but you also dunk your shirt in the creek and then put it on. That cools you pretty good for a while.
The next question was how much we should follow our original itinerary. Of course we want to do it, but we also don’t want me collapsing out there somewhere. So we just kept monitoring me and keeping me cool.
One thing we did do right was that our dinner was ramen (nice, salty ramen), enhanced with dried shrimp. Every ranger that saw the ramen thought it was great.
So, on we went the next day to our next campsite, the Cottonwood Campground, halfway up the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
In the end, my suspicion is that, while exacerbated by the heat, I had a low-blood sugar reaction. I’d had that butterscotch which rushed a bunch of sugar into my system. My body rushed in insulin to bring it down and overshot (I’ve had that happen before). And the low blood sugar combined with the heat is what made me pass out. After all, I was just fine when I was hiking—it was only when I stopped that I got light-headed.
Let me finish with a few more photos from the Bright Angel Campground.
Here’s the official map that shows you the layout.
And, there were any number of deer wandering around. Here’s one nibbling on a tree next to our campsite.
Next entry: we head up Bright Angel Creek towards the Cottonwood Campground.