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Mother-daughter team conquers Grand Canyon

grand canyon, rachel blaedorn, linda klemmensen, owatonna
Rachel Blaedorn (daughter), left, and Linda Klemmensen (mother), right, enjoyed their adventure of hiking around the Grand Canyon. The twosome was planning to do the hike 4 1/2 years ago but it was called off because of a raging snowstorm. (Submitted photo)
By
Howard Lestrud, Contributing Writer

The mother-daughter team of Linda Klemmensen and Rachel (Klemmensen) Blaedorn proved that age doesn’t always matter when attempting to climb the walls of the Grand Canyon.

Linda and Rachel, both businesswomen in Blooming Prairie, wanted to make the trek to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, 4½ years ago, but an epic snowstorm scared them out. Restrictions were finally lifted last July and allowed them to give it a try in 2023.

Linda, Rachel, Angela (Krejci) Mischen, Linda’s niece and friend Lynn successfully completed their goals to descend the canyon wall and then come back up. Their huge adventure was completed last Oct. 13.

Though Linda, Rachel, and Angela skipped the trip in 2019, Lynn made the hike under adverse conditions. She saw blue water and Chocolate Falls, turned brown by the blowing winds.

Linda and Rachel decided to train hard for this year’s trip by walking early every morning. Though she may have been stronger 4½ years ago, Linda said she still was up to the task.

Linda was called the grandma of the bunch, with Rachel pushing her across the finish line.

“Never again,” said Linda when asked if she would repeat the trip. “There were times,” she said, that she thought she would not make it.

Looking straight down 200 feet, Linda’s nerves were rattled. The elevation at the top was listed at 2900 feet. Rachel urged her not to look down and to concentrate on placing her feet and hands at the correct place.

“If it were not for Rachel, I believe I would have fallen off the mountain,” Linda said.

Just days earlier, a hiker fell and dislocated his shoulder. Switchbacks every two miles made the hike steep and uneven.

"It was not a groomed trail," said Linda.

Rachel said her group took some snacks and water with them. They did not use hiking poles as did other hikers.

A record of the climb

Linda and Rachel flew to Phoenix, Ariz., where Linda’s niece (Rachel’s cousin) and friend Lynn picked them up at the airport and motored four hours to Peach Springs, Ariz., to get their permits and stay at a local hotel.

Linda gives the following narrative:

THURSDAY, OCT. 12

“We were up early to drive an hour to the Hilltop where we parked the car, unloaded our gear and began our descent 8 miles down into the Grand Canyon to the Havasupaoi Indian Reservation where we will stay for the next three nights.

“The only way in and out of the Reservation is by walking, by mule train or by helicopter. We were lucky to get a permit (because of Angela’s tenacity) to put our gear on the mule train.

“Our hike down to their village took us four hours. It was a beautiful hike; we followed the canyon walls and were soon entering their village. The hike includes two miles of switchbacks which are fairly steep and then six miles of hiking in a dry river bed between the canyon walls. The footing was unstable with many large rocks and other obstacles in our way!

“It was a trip back in time once we reached the village as they have very little for needs and wants. We spent the day chasing waterfalls and getting to know the area. We were able to get a confirmed reservation at their Lodge and so instead of camping like most people do, we stayed in a modern, 24-room hotel.

“We purchased post cards and sent them home via their post office and mule train.”

FRIDAY, OCT. 13

“We were up early again to begin our three-mile hike to the top of Mooney Falls where we will decide if we are brave enough to descend the canyon wall via very old wooden ladders, chains, rocks and re-rod that has been randomly drilled into the canyon wall.

“This descent is treacherous as the spray from Mooney Falls has the area constantly wet, cool and muddy. Our group of four all made it down without any problems and we continued our hike for another three miles to Beaver Falls to enjoy more beautiful waterfalls, pools and nature.

“This was an unmarked hike with lots of foliage and climbing rocks. After spending time at Beaver Falls, we began our three-mile hike back to Mooney Falls where we had to climb out of the canyon via the ladders, chains, rocks and re-rod.

“Going up was more difficult than going down. It’s a 200-foot drop and we were advised “to not look down and always have three points of contact on the canyon wall.” We were very, very relieved to safely make it back to the top!

SATURDAY, OCT. 14

A day of leisure to enjoy all of the waterfalls and our surroundings. We also saw the solar eclipse that morning. We visited with the locals and especially an elderly man who told us they had been to Pipestone, MN years ago and said if we ever go there, we may feel his spirit! He sat on a bench at the local grocery store every day and seemed happy to visit with tourists.

SUNDAY, OCT. 15

“We were up early to finish packing, getting our gear back on the mule train and to begin our hike up eight miles. Rachel and Linda began hiking at 6:30 a.m.

“Angela and Lynn chose to take the helicopter out today, as Angela had developed many blisters on her feet.

“Our hike out was beautiful, and we made it to the hilltop in just three hours! The rules for the helicopter include the fact that locals get to fly out before any visitors. Cost is $100.

“Angela and Lynn finally made it to the Hilltop around 1:15. Rachel and Linda enjoyed the time watching others make it to the Hilltop via foot, others excitedly beginning their hike down, seeing the mule train come and go and watching the helicopter transport people, groceries, animal food and luggage.

“We then began our drive back down to the Phoenix airport and flew home. We were tired but had a feeling of accomplishment.

“WE DID IT.”

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