Tag Archives: grand canyon

Getting the Blood Flowing

Nigel and Aidan come from a long line of national park enthusiasts. When I was a child, my family combed the western states, visiting nearly every national park from Yosemite to Mt. Rushmore (technically, that’s a national monument, but you get the idea). We went to the Grand Canyon three times. My mother has been a ranger at Lassen in California and is currently a ranger at Crater Lake National Park here in Oregon. For many years she was a tour guide in Yellowstone. I have taken Nigel and Aidan to all of those parks and several others.

And so, my sons were looking forward to our recent trip to the Grand Canyon (their first) as much as I was. Along the way, we stopped at Hoover Dam, per Nigel’s request. He insisted on walking half-way across the dam so that he could stand on the border of Nevada and Arizona, as you will see in the photo below. It was hideously hot, well into triple digits. We slid into our (mercifully air conditioned) rental car and connected with I-40 all the way to Flagstaff, where the boys were only too happy to leap into the hotel pool. We rose early the next morning to head to the busiest national park at the busiest time of year.

Having been to the GC before, I knew that the best way to experience it is to get down in it, even just a little. There are two trails along the South Rim that you can take. One, Bright Angel Trail, is more like a thoroughfare. You’ve got tons of people like me who want to hike into the canyon, and you’ve got the mule trains going forth and back. Not ideal conditions for two boys with sensory issues. So I took them on the Kaibab Trail, which is far less crowded and – according to a website that turned out to be wrong -not used by the mule trains.

So we get to the trailhead, strap on our hydration pack, and head out, or down, I should say. Nothing like a good hike to get the blood flowing! We have barely begun, are only fifty feet from the trailhead, and Aidan, with his vestibular hypersensitivity, stops short. “I don’t think I can do this, Mom,” he tells me. “It’s okay, honey,” I assure him. “We’re not going to be near any cliffs.” I put my arm around him and try to gently lead him forward. He does not budge. “I can’t do it, Mom!” We are five feet below the rim, and he is having an attack of acrophobia. This I had not planned for. Nigel is barreling on ahead, and I call out to him to slow down for Aidan. “Can’t I just wait at the trailhead for you?” Aidan asks. I tell him I don’t want him waiting alone for an hour and a half. Then I put him on the inside of the trail, and I explain to him that we will walk together slowly and that I will switch places with him whenever the trail switches direction. He reluctantly complies.

At every switchback, Aidan complains a bit, but he walks with me, staring down his fear. I tell him how well he’s doing and how proud I am of him as we catch up to Nigel. We are five minutes into the Grand Canyon, and Nigel has the mother of all bloody noses. As he usually does whenever he gets a bloody nose, he has smeared it all over his face. We have been on countless family hikes, Nigel has been hiking with Scouts for almost five years, and he’s never had a bloody nose on a hike. Of course now I don’t have any tissues. Of course. One small stroke of luck is that Nigel is wearing a navy blue shirt, so the blood will not glare as much, and I tell him to use his shirt to wipe his face. The blood is pouring out of his nose, it’s a proverbial faucet, so I sit him down and instruct him to pinch the sides of it. Aidan sits down next to him. I try to wipe more blood with the blue shirt.

At this point, people -other hikers – have started stopping and asking if Nigel’s okay. I mean, it looks like a rock landed on his face. I tell them he’s fine, it’s just a bloody nose. Two different parties of people stop to offer us tissues, and I couldn’t thank them enough. Who goes on a hike and doesn’t bring tissues?! Good grief, you’d think I’d never been on a hike before. So we lost about a half an hour with that. Nigel would get antsy from sitting, say, “I think the bleeding has stopped,” and we would start walking. Seconds later he’d be bleeding again, so we’d stop and sit and blot and pinch. Then we’d get up and keep walking and sit down again when he needed to. Finally the bleeding stopped for good.

And Aidan, acrophobic Aidan, continued on alone up front. I guess he realized that the trail was actually pretty safe, or maybe he just got used to it. I was shocked but knew better than to make a big deal out of it. We met up with him at Oo-Ah Point (yes, it’s called that because of the view), which he quickly surveyed, unimpressed, and then turned around to head back up. I snapped a few photos and headed back with Nigel, pacing ourselves. Aidan must have felt much more confident going up, and he was quickly out of sight.

Aidan at Oo-Ah Point

Nigel at Oo-Ah Point, with his blood-soaked shirt and tissue-stuffed nostril

About half-way up, we ran into a mule train coming down, maybe eight of them. They were in training, with blocks of wood on their backs. We stepped to the side as they passed, and I hoped that Aidan had managed okay. Soon, we reached the top and found him waiting at the trailhead. I couldn’t wait to praise him again for being so brave in the Canyon, but before I could, he said, “I thought you said there would be no mules on this trail!” I told him that I had been misinformed, and then we headed straight to the lodge for ice cream. Because really, that’s our favorite part about national parks. Bring on the heat, acrophobia, bloody noses, and mule trains. Just don’t forget the ice cream.

After ice cream, Nigel meets a new friend

at Wupatki Indian Ruins the next day

a centuries-old ball court

Boys and sticks in the desert

The Adventure Begins


Some of you may recall that a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I would be taking Nigel and Aidan to the Grand Canyon when I go to visit them during their two-month stay at their dad’s house. Some of you may also recall that in April I mentioned that I would be going to Nepal this summer with Knowledge for People to do an autism educational volunteer program. And some of you may be as excited as I am when I tell you that I am doing both trips!

Friday morning I fly to LA, and I’ll spend the 4th with my extended family members who live there – Dad, brother and sister-in-law, and my sister. (In case you’re curious – I’m actually from LA. I moved up to Oregon to go to college and ended up staying. It’s that beautiful. Funny thing, Nigel and Aidan’s dad is also from LA, but we met and married in Oregon. Just a little Tanya Trivia for you.) Anywaaaayyy, then I am renting a car and picking up the boys to go to the Grand Canyon for a few days. This will be my fourth time there, and the first for them. I’m looking forward to sharing it with them, but really, I just can’t wait to see them and hug them. I’ve missed them so much already.

After I return Nigel and Aidan to their dad’s house, I will fly out of LAX for Nepal. I’ve spent the last week preparing two presentations I’ll be giving – one on sensory issues, and the other on my parenting experience. I’m the only parent of an autistic child on the team going to Nepal, and I feel so humbled to be speaking to these parents and teachers (through an interpreter). How can I talk about the challenges of raising a child with autism, when I have no idea how challenging their lives already are? Who am I to talk to them about challenges?! They are in a country with no resources for their child! But we are hoping to help with that, and I am honored to be a part of this.  I prepared outlines of my presentations and sent them to the director of Knowledge for People, and she will forward them to the founders of the newly-formed autism center in Kathmandu who, I hope, will have the outlines translated prior to our arrival. That way the parents will have something to refer to while the interpreter and I are speaking to them, and they’ll have some written material to take home with them.

And in case I sound all nonchalant as I’m mentioning that I’ll be traveling to Nepal and speaking to a group of people and having my words translated and all, don’t let the casual tone of my writing fool you. I can’t believe I’m doing this!!! I can’t believe, after months of planning and preparation and thinking can I really do this?, that the time has come and I am doing it!! Talk about taking a leap! I’m a little nervous, but fortunately my excitement seems to be overriding my butterflies.

So, my friends, the blog will be quiet for a while. We’re supposed to have internet access in one of the places we’re staying, but I am laptopless, so I’m not planning on posting during my absence. That just means I’ll have plenty to post about when I return! (And I’ll be swamped with work to catch up on, but we won’t talk about that now.) I’ll be back in Oregon on July 28, and I promise I’ll post as soon as my jetlag fog clears. Namaste!


*photo courtesy Wikipedia