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Face to Face: Toby Longface

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: The following article is re-printed from Guide Dog News, Summer 2000

It all started a year ago when I got the idea to hike the Grand Canyon with my Guide Dog, "Tyrone." It took a little planning and work getting it all together. I made the trip from my home in Tombstone, Ariz., with my daughter Nicole of Seattle, Wash., and my sons Myron from Salt Lake City, Utah, and Darin of Silverton, Ore

We met in Flagstaff, Ariz., on a Friday afternoon, the day before our adventure was to start. That evening we talked over old times before turning in for the night .

We departed bright and early on Saturday morning in a fierce snowstorm. We arrived at the canyon's South Kabob trail about 9 a.m. in howling winds and swirling snow. We wondered if it was a mistake going down at this time, but all the reservations for our stay at the Phantom Ranch across the Colorado River had been made. We decided to go ahead with our plans and hike the 7.5 miles to the bottom. We hoped that the weather would soon change as we descended, and luckily it did .

After slipping and sliding for the first 1,000 feet or so, the snow turned to sleet and then to rain. The winds were still howling and the mud was as slippery as soap. We donned our lightweight, high-tech rain gear (giant trash bags) and continued. It was bitter cold and we were a little wet .

"Tyrone" kept to the left to protect me from the cliff, although it was slippery in the ditch made from the trail mules' hooves. About a mile from the bottom, I tweaked my knee and had a hard time making it the rest of the way, but finally, we arrived!

We were so happy to see the ranch with food and beds waiting. After an excellent cowboy stew and chocolate cake, we retired to our snug cabin to enjoy a well-earned rest .

I couldn't believe that we had made it! It was a wonderful but grueling hike-hard on the toes! I used muscles I didn't normally use and my calves were tighter than piano wires. But what a feeling of accomplishment we all shared!

The next day, we spent most of the day rubbing liniment on our sore muscles and wondering how we were going to make the ascent. I hurt so bad, I didn't think there was a one-in-a-million chance of making it back to the top. If a person couldn't make it back on his own, a helicopter would take them back-for $2,500

Well, the next day came and low and behold, we had a big breakfast and started up the Bright Angel Trail. What a beautiful place! We hiked along thousand-foot sheer cliffs. The red, gold, orange, gray and green rocks were unbelievable .

Although the hike up wasn't as bad as the way down, it wasn't exactly a piece of cake. It was 11 miles and took us eight hours to make it to the top. "Tyrone" did great! I had made him some soft deerskin moccasins before the trip and they worked out pretty well. His feet made it through the hike without even a cut, but I bet his muscles hurt like mine did .

It's good to be back home again. The next time I do this, I think I'll work up to it a little more. For now, we're enjoying just walking around the neighborhood.