As an Arizona native, I consider the Grand Canyon my Canyon. I just happen to share it with 5.5 Million people every year.
It didn’t start that way, though. My first visit was on a family trip in elementary school when we rolled down the car window, took a picture (on film!), and drove on to our next destination. It was merely a giant hole in the ground, and I was more interested in the squirrels.
Not until years later after hiking all the way down to the river did I truly appreciate the Grand Canyon’s size and beauty. But boy, oh boy did I ‘get it’ then. It’s the Grand. Freakin. Canyon.
There’s nothing like it–a mile deep and averaging 10 miles wide, it’s impossible to capture its truth in a photo.
Since then, I’ve hiked the Grand Canyon several times on multi-day trips, so this year we wanted to up the ante and hike 24 miles Rim-to-Rim in a single day. Gulp.
This feat had until now resided only in the world of fantasy, just like me being able to reach the top shelf of my kitchen cupboards without
standing on a stool climbing on the counter.
But we’re closer to 40 than to 30. We’re old. We’re weekend warriors, not athletes. And I didn’t want to die.
But… we’ve backpacked almost 400 miles this summer, so we’re in the best hiking shape of our lives. It was now or never.
Did I mention that I couldn’t navigate stairs for almost a week after my first Canyon hike? And that was with a decade less under my belt and with a night of rest camping at the bottom. How were we going to survive a Rim-to-Rim trek?
We discussed our options, and chose to say yes to any help that was available. An enthusiastic Yes!
- Hiking poles? Our new best friends.
- A hotel at the North Rim so we didn’t have to carry a tent and sleeping bags? Why, that would be lovely, thank you.
- A shuttle from said hotel to the trailhead in the morning? Don’t mind if we do.
- Free potable water along the trail so we don’t have to carry gallons? National Park Service, you’re the best!
This trip was definitely not the epitome of self-sufficiency we tried to maintain on previous hikes, and it made me second guess our purpose. In fact, our packs contained only the following:
- Water bottles
- Dehydrated fruit, nuts, and potato chips
- Lightweight jacket
- Ibuprofen, sunscreen, moleskin, and Band-Aids
The Goal, Part II
With light packs and strong legs, I even asked myself, “Why not go Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim in a day?” That’s only the equivalent of two marathons plus the elevation change. How hard could it be? We could probably make pretty good time, and I could probably get my husband on board…
What the what? Who is this person? Clearly, I’ve gone off the deep end.
We’re nature-lovers, not ultramarathoners.
We took a step back to ask ourselves what we really wanted: were we out to enjoy nature, or were we racing the clock and the record books? It took a while to realize that the goal didn’t have to be the journey or the destination.
We could choose both. So we did.
Our new goals included:
Our dear friend works at Grand Canyon National Park and graciously hosted us before and after our hike. However, she emphatically informed us that if we did something stupid and had to be rescued she would deny ever having seen us before.
Well, we not only made it out alive, but still ambulatory. We could even walk without (too much) limping the next day.
Enjoyment of Nature
We had hiked the Grand Canyon before and marveled at its beauty, so we didn’t take a thousand pictures this time. They never reflect what you really see anyway, so we mostly used them as a stalling tactic when we needed breaks.
We enjoyed our hike immensely and actually noticed more details of the Canyon without our noses stuck in a viewfinder. For example, our previous hikes were early in the summer, and this was our first visit after the monsoons that make the river look like chocolate milk.
Exercise and Bragging Rights
We couldn’t control getting stuck behind other hikers or being passed by mules, so we didn’t set a goal time other than to finish before dark. We got to the South Rim in just over 9.5 hours and were thrilled. Could we have gone faster? Probably. Could we have matched the world record of 2 hours and 51 minutes? Not a chance.
Enjoyment of Life
This hike was more than just a small blip on our summer radar–it was the fulfillment of a dream I didn’t think I was capable of achieving. It was amazing, yes, and it makes the Canyon seem just a tiny bit more ours.
Also amazing were the ice cream when we finished, the lovely evening spent with our friend, and the relief at not having to exit in a helicopter rescue!
While we savor our memories of the entire experience, we’re also looking for suggestions for our next adventure. Have you ever felt Nature give you balance when you least expected it? Do you have a story about the Grand Canyon? Please share in the comments below.
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