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Photos in this column by: Briana Kurth, Todd Gartman, Diane Taulborg, Tom bently and Tracy Fleming

Sarah graduating from Foothills

Thunder River in view as we descend

Closer Thunder

Another view

Tom and Tracy at Thunder River

Blisters growing

Testing the foot with short hike up Tapeats

Moving towards the Tapeats - Colorado confluence - can you see us?

Todd and Diane at the
Colorado River - Tapeats confluence

Along the river trail

Footprints at our beach camp

Looking back towards Tapeats as we
make our way from the beach to Deer Creek

Deer Creek Narrows

Tom below Dutton Spring,
which feeds Deer Creek

Day eight up on the Esplanade

The last stretch upward

And out at last, time for a cheeseburger
All of the photos in the entry below were taken by the following: Me, Todd Gartman, Diane Taulborg, Tom Bently, Tracy fleming

Sarah graduated from 8th grade May 24th. I am so proud of her. These are the awards she recieved the last day of school.

Presidential Physical Fitness Award
Presidents Education Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement
Student of the Year for Displaying Leadership
Student Council Scholarship in Recognition of Leadership Qualities and Academic Achievement
Student of the Year Physical Education Award
Peoria Arts Institute Four Year Student
Peoria Arts Institute Outstanding Dance Performer

All of my girls at Sarah's graduation dinner

I've been back from the "Trip of a Lifetime" for almost two weeks now and a lot of that two weeks has been recovery time. It was indeed the trip of a lifetime. We saw so many beautiful sights and had so many great experiences that I can't possibly convey all of the feelings and emotions that we shared in those nine days of Grand Canyon bliss. Thunder River, Tapeats Creek and Deer Creek are incredible. The pictures that I'm including in this entry don't do the area justice, but they certainly cause me to remember what an astonishing trek in the Grand Canyon this really was. The trip was not without incident though as you will see in the report below. The following is the report I posted on a Trip Report thread on the website:

First off I can't express in words my feelings towards the wonderful friends that I did this trip of a lifetime with and the appreciation I have for the invitation they extended me to do it with them. Diane calls it nine days in heaven. It is my hope that as you read this chronology of my walk in the Canyon you would understand my struggle. Believe me, it was not only a physical test but a spiritual one as well. The physical was indeed not all that much of a struggle. I think I passed with flying colors, but spiritually I certainly had some down time. I'm going to talk some about God as well as other aspects that made this trip so special. If that bothers you, please refrain from any comments because this is a very viable part of my trip report as many thoughts and questions ran through my mind when I sat in the bottom of the Grand Canyon with deep 2nd degree burns on my left foot.

Some of you have seen the photo of my foot that was first posted by Tom and maybe by the time I have posted this report Todd will have posted some of the progressions of this ugly thing (It got worse every day). The day after we arrived back in the valley I went to the Maricopa County Burn Center ER. They cut away all of the dead skin and scrubbed and washed the burns, then applied a special dressing that I will describe a little later. I have been back to the burn clinic once and I'm going back in a couple of days. I must tell you that right now it hurts quite a lot but it is still not infected and I believe I'm on the road to a good recovery.

When Todd first asked me if I'd like to go on this adventure with them, I didn't hesitate to answer "YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Are you kidding me, the Esplandade, Thunder River, Tapeats, Stone and Deer creeks. After the yes part of my hasty decision I started thinking about the physical part of this trek and wether or not I was prepared. I wasn't. I started a training routine that would get me in shape during the two months before the hike. I wanted less weight and a good breathing routine on strenuous up-hills. Suffice it to say with an improved diet and doing my training hike over and over and even running some of it, I accomplished that. I lost between 25 and 30 lbs and my up-hill climbing improved to the point that I knew I wouldn't have a problem. I was pretty darn proud of myself. Maybe too proud. Anyway by the time we got to the trailhead at Monument Point I felt ready to do this arduous nine day hike in the Grand Canyon. I was with my close friends, life was good.

Diane, Todd and I got sort of a late start at the trailhead and ended up hiking a little in the dark on the Esplanade. I felt great and sleep was good that night. The next day we traveled down the red wall and into Surprise Valley. It was quite hot and still felt great. As we walked out to and over the edge of the Valley we could hear the roar of Thunder river. Having never seen it, I was filled with anticipation. What a beautiful sight it was, our exuberance was as loud as the river. The photos are nice but being there is the ultimate. It is so amazing, all of that water gushing out the side of the canyon wall. I was famished so I decided to cook up some soup I had planned for lunch to get eating out of the way and go play. I pulled out my stove and pot, added some water and torched it. As it started to boil I reached for my cup to pour the water into and inadvertently brushed the pot handle which knocked the pot and the boiling water down onto my shoe. EXTREME BURNING ON MY LEFT FOOT. My first thought was to pull the shoe off. Forget it, they have the stretch (name of the shoe) laces that cinch up very tight and I had the excess doubled around my ankle as you can see slightly in the photo of my foot in the water. So I grabbed my 1/3 full Nalgene Bottle thinking that if I poured it over the shoe it might have a cooling effect. Wrong. It must have forced the residual hot water down. Whatever, it burned some more so I rushed over to the river where Tom was drawing water and abruptly jammed my foot in the water. Tim, does this solve the mystery? My first thought was this is serious and I may have just ruined this trip of a lifetime for all. When I explained to the rest of the party what I had done I believe they made the suggestion that I take a look at it. By this time it had cooled off a bit although Tracy (who took the picture of it in the water) mentioned that when I pulled it out it was steaming. Not a good sign. But I walked around a bit and the pain had subsided and there was just a tingling which dissipated after some further walking and sticking it in the water. I decided not to look at it until we had reach our Tapeats camp.

After exploring Thunder River for awhile we headed down to the confluence. My thoughts started to ramble from one possibility to another. I decided that I better quit those thoughts and concentrate on hiking because the next stretch was by no means a walk in the park. Once we got to the camp sight I was somewhat relieved and excited because it was such a nice place to spend the next two days. I headed down to the creek to take a look at my foot and on the way I experienced the thought that since it wasn't hurting very much that it was probably not that bad and would only be red and would be better in no time. As I pulled off the shoe and sock Tom was standing next to me and his verbalization echoed my thoughts, "That doesn't look good bro." OK, from one emotion to another. I began to get a little scared. After all I'm near the bottom of the Grand Canyon in an isolated area (we never saw any other people the entire time we were at Tapeats) and I have this massive burn on my foot. Many thoughts were racing through my mind, but one of the most prominent at the time was I'd better do something for it because just my limited amount of medical knowledge was telling me that burns are very vulnerable to infection if not properly cared for. Fortunately most of the skin was still in tact with the exception of the toe next to the little toe. I cleaned it with some baby wipes that I had brought (later would have to borrow some of Todds, thank you Todd), put triple antibiotic ointment on it, gauze and gauze tape and a sock over that. As Diane mentioned everyone contributed from their first aid kits.

Once the initial dressing was complete I allowed my mind to consider the possibilities: What should I do? Could I possibly make it the rest of the way? What if it gets infected? How would I get out of here? Should I exit now? Should I go to the river and seek help from rafters? Have I ruined this trip? Oh my God, I have ruined this trip. My thoughts started turning toward guilt and that was not a good thing. I was indulging and knew I had to quit. We all decided to talk about it even though at that time I found it hard to talk. I would like to express most emphatically that the first round of discussion was that if I was in anyway uncomfortable and felt that I couldn't make it that all would hike out. Everyone was more than willing to do what it took to get help or get me to help or out or whatever I felt I needed. At that point I'm not sure if that support made me feel more at ease or more guilty. I remember at one point Todd had approached me to reassure me that all was OK and I couldn't hold it back, I began to cry (not deep sobs mind you, I do have some manly pride) because of all the excitement we shared the previous couple of months preparing for this adventure and now I had gone and ruined it. This was Todd's 6th trip down to this area and numerous times in the past he had asked me to go. I had never been able to until now. Todd assured me that all was good wether we had to exit or stayed a day or two or whatever it took. Anyway I made the decision to go on with plans as they were. I would see how it was in the morning and if it was OK I would spend the day in camp and give it a rest. I think it was at that point that I made it my goal to do the entire trip even if it meant not doing all of the side hikes that were planned and just resting at each camp. Once all the medical supplies were pooled I figured by using half a package of the triple antibiotic ointment per dressing I just might have enough to make it the entire trip. I would have to dress the burn at least twice a day.

The next morning, day two at Tapeats, I did coffee and breakfast with the gang, then changed the dressing. There was no swelling, no infection and only some moderate pain on the toe with the loose skin. There was some draining from the blisters but most of the skin was still there. These blisters would drain and fill multiple times and more and more skin would start to move away exposing raw burn below it so as days went by I would position the skin in a covering manner underneath the gauze to keep the raw skin from drying out. On one of the large blisters the skin seemed to reattach itself. Later I would find that it really didn't and it is the area that is behind in the healing. After breakfast I remember talking to Diane about how bad I felt for this and basically she told me to shush and be positive, to take it easy today and just be still, perhaps God had something to say to me. Wow what a concept. Maybe He did. Wouldn't be the first time He had something to say to me. Right now I want to say that I don't have "religion". I have a relationship with Jesus Christ. He is Lord and Savior in my life. This is my faith and I'm not ashamed of it. It is who I am and will always be. Perhaps this is the reason that I added to my pack weight a small New Testament. It was now possibly a good time to read it a little. After a post-breakfast social hour the rest of the group headed out for Tapeats exploration. After a minor encounter with a raven (another story) I found a comfy place to sit facing the creek and towering walls beyond and above. I tried to be still and settle my thoughts on God.

I sat there with my view of the creek for quite awhile just listening to the water and watching colors change hue and intensity as the sun moved higher. I prayed and praised and cried a little. My thoughts turned much to my family at home in the Valley of the Sun. I knew my wife was praying for me every day on this trip. I opened up my small New Testament and started reading, first some Psalms and then on to an epistle. I shortly came across a verse that almost knocked me out of my laid back position. 1 Timothy 4:8 "for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." In other words it is good to be in good physical condition but oh so much better to be in good spiritual shape. It occurred to me rather abruptly that during all of my excitement, planning and training for this huge event in my life that I had sort of left my Lord and Savior out. All of my focus was on me, "I can do this, I'll be in shape, I'll do this on my own, I'm not going to let anyone down, no not me, I'll be in the best shape I can be in....." Whoops, boiling water on my foot. Oh no! Now suddenly it's God where are you? And those footprints in the sand take on a little more significance for me. I spent some more time there talking to God and sort of apologizing. I felt a big burden lifted and I knew that all was going to be good on this trip, not that I was going to strap on my shoes at that moment, jog up to the others wherever they were and exclaim my recovery, but now I was looking forward with anticipation to all of the great things that God was going to show me in the Grandest of all His Canyons. I would do what I could do to keep the foot from getting infected and continue on with the itinerary and enjoy the handy work of God. I told the others that I felt I could do the whole trip if I spent some time in camp resting the foot. After dinner that night it was decided that it would be OK to let my foot rest another day and take Stone Creek out of the itinerary (I really think Todd wanted me to experience a little more of Tapeats, he loves it there so much). In retrospect I think the extra day did wonders for me.

I take a swim in Todd's favorite Tapeats swimming hole
Very cold!

The next day we had excellent breakfast conversation and leisurely messing around time. Then Todd and Diane approached me with a question: "would I like to put my shoes on and hike up Tapeats a bit to see how well the foot did?" Why not, if I couldn't do this how in the world was I going to do the rest this arduous hike? Tracy stayed in camp on Raven duty and the rest of us headed up Tapeats. Even though we didn't go a huge distance I got to see a lot more and even take a swim in Todd's favorite swimming hole. The best news of all was the foot did just fine, very little pain.

Ready to move on from our Tapeats camp

The confluence below down we go!

The following day it was back on to itinerary and our stay at the beach. This was a lot of downhill, some bolder hopping and sand. The foot got a little irritated on the downhill. Camp at the beach was different. I believe it was the hottest of all the nights, but it was fun watching the rafters across the river and of course our usual dinner and social hour. We have so many stories to tell. Every morning and every evening I would clean and dress the burn with triple antibiotic ointment, sterile gauze and gauze tape. I used a blister band-aide on the toe that had no skin and it worked miracles on it. I'm happy that Tracy had those small ones. The burns were now looking more like burns with dead skin hanging on. Again I would just shift the skin that was loose into a good position over the burn below, apply the ointment, then the gauze and tape it down tight enough that hopefully no raw areas would be rubbed. I was starting to notice a slight bit more irritation with one area that was more on the side of the foot toward the bottom.

In the morning we were off to Deer Creek. It was a long hot uphill climb but once over the saddle and into the little valley on top of the narrows it was delightful. Again the foot made it without any extreme pain and I really took notice that the uphill climbs were much easier on it than downhill. Deer Creek is a beautiful area and although I didn't climb down into the narrows I got to see them a little from the patio as we crossed the creek and walked to our camp site. After setting up camp and lounging around resting with the foot up a group of rafters came by on their return from the springs upstream from us. I was expecting them because someone mentioned to me that they had come by earlier and asked if we needed anything. So as they walked by on their way out I asked if they had a first-aide kit with the kind of stuff I had been using. Tex from Diamond River Adventures stepped right over and immediately started digging through his pack and ended up giving me enough triple antibiotic ointment that I wouldn't have to skimp anymore. He also gave me more gauze and tape. Thanks Tex! The next day as Tracy, Todd and Diane took off to the narrows, Tom and I had a great time sitting around camp telling stories. Tracy came back ahead of the others and with her was an EMT named John from Western River Expeditions. He wanted to take a look a my burn. So I showed it to him and I think it shocked him that I'd been walking on it for almost a week. He gave me a whole bunch of stuff including more gauze (nice big 4 x 4s), lidocaine and more tape. Plus he asked me if I needed a satellite phone for the hike out the next day. I said no, although I wondered what he would have done if I said yes. Oh well, I knew I didn't need it. He told me it would be alright to use soap and water on it in the creek, but I stuck to the baby wipes for cleaning. I thanked him and he told me he hoped I made it out. I think he was still freaking out about the death of a woman on the Tonto a few days before. There was no doubt in my mind about getting out, I have huge amounts of hope.

My home at Deer Creek

Ready to leave Deer Creek

We decided to get an early start the next day because it was going to be a scorcher for sure in Surprise Valley. We stopped to filter water at the spring and have fun in the thrown room and such. After the spring and thrown room fun I wanted to get a jump start so I took off up the trail first followed by Tom and Tracy. Diane and Todd still filtering water below us came out last. It wasn't too long before Tom and Tracy caught up to me and we hiked pretty much together the rest of the way to the Esplanade. No problems at all getting there. Foot was doing well. We found shade and kicked back. Shortly Todd and Diane came up and we all had a good time that afternoon talking a lot about what we had done and enjoying the short time we had left. Dinner that night was excellent. The temps were much cooler on the Esplanade that than the night we came down. I made a pizza with a little help from my friends, broke out my last cigar, Todd made peppermint patties and the Moon and Venus were spectacular. I had on my custom bootie, life was good. Later that night I awoke to the sound of voices. Just before we retired for the evening we saw headlamps on the extreme end of Surprise Valley on the Deer creek side. I figured it was them and that it was probably around 10:30 or 11:00 (the time we figured they'd make it up the red wall). As I lay there listening to their voices it became apparent that there was some distress and they weren't getting any closer. Judging from what they were shouting to one another I determined that they were off trail. I think Diane may include the rest of this story in part of her report so I'll leave it for now.

Last evening on the Esplanade

Last day on the Esplanade
and the last push upwards

The following morning I dressed the burn for the final time in the canyon. Probably the worst of all the pain I experienced was in the short trek across the Esplanade. There were many stretches of sandstone that tapered or rounded toward the left from the direction in which I was hiking. Much of the burn is on the lower left portion of my foot as you can see by the photos of it. The sloping trail forced my foot down towards the left side and it hurt quite a bit, but not much further and I would be out. The rest of the up-hill was exhausting but nothing too excrutiating on the foot. I was out! Todd's caption under the picture of me coming out ("kurthzone lays praise to the Lord") is right on the money and although I let out an expletive of sorts it was really a "Thank You Lord!"

I must say that as I sit here writing this almost a week later, the pain is much worse and has been since I visited the Burn Center. The foot stayed in good shape long enough for me to do the "Trip of a Lifetime". Again I would like to say Thank You to my good friends Todd, Diane, Tom and Tracy who were so very supportive of my condition and for helping me. I had the most wonderful backpack that I have ever experienced and this report sort of focuses on my struggle. God took care of the part I struggled with most and it wasn't physical.

Here is a link to the current condition of the burn and how I'm dressing it. Warning: it's kinda gross!

Foot - Post Hike

2007-07-08 I have an appointment with Urology Associates on August 22, so I'll be going in for another PSA Blood draw at Healthwaves a few weeks before and saving about $60. Maybe this time I will have some other blood work done while at hHealthwaves.

Coming up on the 21rst of this month we are heading up north to Strawberry to celebrate my aunts birthday. It's really going to be sort of a family reunion on my dad's side, many many cousins I have not seen in decades. I'm looking forward to it and will post pics in a future entry.
2007-08-05 Had PSA draw yesterday along with some other tests. Will most likely get results back this week.

Here are some photos from the recent family get-together in Strawberry: FAMILY

2007-08-08 Got the results back on the tests: PSA <0.1!

Sarah and Scott

Sarah is third from the left on the bottom row in the picture to the right.

As Promised here are a few pics of Sarah's Trip to New York.

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