Trails of Glory

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Remembering a Lost Treasure

Lost Treasure in the Grand Canyon

After I moved to Tucson in July of 1994 I was a 27-year old, recently divorced single guy that liked to run. It didn't take long for me to discover the Southern Arizona Road Racers and some of the other informal workout groups in the area. One interesting and entertaining group of guys that I really enjoyed hanging out with was the mid 40-year old codgers in the form of John Norris, Randy Gimblett, and Rob Gagliardo. After a year of running with them at 0515 on Tuesday and Thursday morning track workouts and trail runs on weekends, usually at some altitude, thus the founding of the name for John's workout group - Track and Altitude, I earned their respect as a young pup. My soon to be wife Trish and I were invited into the Grand Canyon Birthday run club in 1996 and were very excited. On most weekends between June and October we would meet at John's house and carpool in his Suburban to Gardener Canyon or some other trail that climbed thousands of feet to prepare ourselves for the annual trek to the Grand Canyon on the second weekend of October.

We loved these trips. In the beginning they were somewhat of a whirlwind with leaving at 4am on Saturday, driving to the North Rim, celebrating John's birthday at the lodge and then trying to get some sleep before the 5am descent down the rim on Sunday. We usually spent from 4 and a half hours to 6 hours running across depending on which southerly route we traversed. We grabbed 25 cent showers at the campground and enjoyed a couple libations before the designated driver drove us all the way back to Tucson by Sunday late in the evening. Eventually over the years some of us would make alternate plans to go up early or stay another day.

The fourth year that I went on the GC adventure was John's 50th birthday. A couple of the guys, Geoff and Aaron and myself, brainstormed a double-crossing idea. Logistically, we determined it would be easier to drive up together to Flagstaff on Friday after work. Then Saturday morning we drove to the South Rim and ran our first crossing, arriving on the North Rim in time to meet the 'Burb' and everyone else at the cabins. Later we ate cake and drank a craft beer or three that night to reduce inflammation from the earlier excesses of the day and then awoke Sunday morning to run the second crossing. Now let me tell you the rest of the story...

John was well known for his attraction to shiny objects alongside of the road, especially the copper colored kind. When on a training run, I always stop for silver but don't slow down for copper. John would break stride in the middle of a sprint for a penny. With this in mind, I left for Flagstaff that Friday with a baggy full of loose change that I had been keeping at the house. Just before Geoff, Aaron, and I took off down the South Rim we each took a fistful of pennies, nickels, and dimes and planned to strategically plant the coins across the canyon on rock ledges and switchbacks. We did this knowing that the next day we were coming back with John and he would sweep everyone of them up while we laughed and giggled every time. The plan worked perfectly. As soon as it was light enough and we had passed Cottonwood Campground on the descent from the North Rim we eagerly approached the last coin we had placed from the day before, a quarter, just to be sure it would be spotted. John missed it but one of us quickly pointed out how funny it was to find a whole 25 cents out in the middle of the largest crack in the earth. This caught John's curiousity and from that point on he had a keen eye. It paid off; every couple of hundred meters he found a penny going around a bend or a nickel at waist level on a rock. Even though we chuckled behind him he never suspected anything but that some tourist had a bunch of change and a hole in his pocket.

By the time we reached Phantom Ranch I asked John how much he had found and he said he was up to just over a dollar; just enough to buy a candy bar. The stakes would get higher after this as we continued on and out up the Bright Angel Trail. By the day's end John had $2.65 and was immensely proud of himself. Of course being the younger punks that we were, we let the cat out of the bag and everyone had a good belly laugh all the way home.

We love you and miss you dearly John,

Chase and Trish Duarte