OHMYGAWSH. It was awesome. I have never been prouder of Paul. We left Eli at my Mom's on Wednesday and drove all night to get there. Thursday morning we hiked down on the S. Kaibab trail to camp at Bright Angel. Paul whined a little bit halfway. "I didn't know it would be so FAR." Down, down, down 1 vertical mile and 7.9 miles of walking. He was a champ. He had a Happy Meal alien toy (from that Aliens Vs. Monsters movie) and that thing was like a magical totem. It kept him happy, he talked to it, he played games with it, it "flew" down the trail with us. We saw a loooong striped whipsnake, a young bighorn sheep, many rock squirrels, ravens, smaller birds, and a condor (flying overhead).
Friday we hiked halfway back up and camped at Indian Garden. Going up the "corkscrew" portion of the Bright Angel Trail, I suggested to Paul that he count the wooden steps set into the trail. I had no idea how successful that idea would be - he counted over 560 of them. We got to camp with plenty of time and played games, read books (they have a lending library at the IG information center). Since Dan didn't want to, I hiked/ran by myself out to Plateau Point for a quasi-sunset view of the inner canyon (you really should click that link, it's a 360-degree panorama). While I was gone, Dan had to play Go Fish with Paul and the alien. Paul helped the alien with his cards. Guess who won!
Friday night it rained. We had some water seep under the tent walls, but not much got wet (except for Paul's book Sapo y Sepo Son Amigos). Saturday morning it rained on and off. I had the tent almost dry and ready to pack when of course the clouds decided to give us a good soaking, so I ende dup packing the tent wet. I hate wet tents. Paul was in a full rain suit but still whined that he didn't want to hike in the cold and rain. "I just want to go home!" Eventually we got his mood turned around and it was time for the major, major climb up to the top. He counted the steps with gusto and got well over 1000 before we started breaking it into groups of 100. Every 100 wooden steps, he got a peanut M&M. This worked incredibly well! We had been behind a Boy Scout troop for our whole trip (we had the same itinerary), but we had gotten out of camp before them that morning so we also used that as motivation. "We'd better keep moving, Paul! Those scouts are gonna catch us!"
The rain was on and off for most of the hike up, but at the 1.5 mile resthouse it turned to hail. As we climbed higher, it turned into incredibly fat, slow-falling snow. It was magical. I was freezing. Paul was having a great time, sticking out his tongue to catch snow and counting steps. We finally made it to the top, where I got REALLY cold, but we hopped on a shuttle bus and that helped. Our car had 3+ inches of snow on it. we went to the village market and scarfed down hot food, and I finally felt warm again. Paul was as proud of himself as he could be. Almost everybody we passed on the trail was encouraging him and telling him what a great hiker he was. I think this trip was a huge boost for his self-image, and a huge boost for our hopes to have more awesome hikes with Paul in the future.