Lieutenant Colonel Jack Miniard and I recently returned from our rim-to-rim trek of the Grand Canyon. You may recall that we began planning for this adventure several months ago in an effort to raise funds and support for the Trooper Project. Amazingly, our efforts raised over $15,000 to kick off this fundraising event. Carrying the names and photographs of each of our agency’s fallen officers, we embarked from the North Rim during the early morning hours of August 22, 2014, after a brief video tribute to our fallen bretheren.
To say that the 18-mile hike that day to Phantom Ranch was challenging is an understatement. Facing a thirty degree grade change during the first three miles of our descent was brutal. The beginning temperature was a crisp 52º but soared to more than 105º late in the day as we made our way through Phantom Canyon, better known to hikers as ‘the box.’ Knees and hips took a beating and our hands were raw from the much needed support provided by the hiking poles. Despite the challenges, our training paid off as we soaked in some of the most incredible vistas on the planet.
We reached Phantom Ranch after 12 hours of hiking, spending the next day exploring some of the local trails including a visit to the Colorado River and a swim in Bright Angel Creek which unfolded behind our cabin. We embarked the next morning and began our ascent up the Bright Angel Trail. It is approximately 9 ½ miles in duration, increasing more than 4100 feet in elevation before completion. More than ten hours later we reached the trailhead of Bright Angel on the South Rim. Tired, but exuberant, we exchanged ‘high fives’ as tourists gathered around us. As we unfurled the KSP flag and revealed the photos of our fallen heroes, several individuals asked us about our efforts and a few later made donations to the Trooper Project.
A foursome from Texas was gracious enough to take our photograph utilizing our cameras. After learning more about our 30 mile trek, one lady took our photo stating, “What those guys just did was amazing. I’ll never be able to do that but I want a picture of someone who did!” It was indeed a proud moment as we enjoyed our fifteen minutes of fame. However, we knew that the true hero status belonged to those troopers and officers who had given their life in the line of duty, dying for something they believed in with all their heart and soul.
The last few lines in my journal read: “We shoot the last GoPro video of the flag and photos of our fallen comrades. We silently take a moment to stare at the great abyss that we have just crossed, reflecting on our sacrifice…and theirs. The day…and the moment…truly belong to them.”