as i drove back to the grand canyon from williams, i flipped on the radio for the first time this trip and eventually stumbled upon npr doing a piece about blind tibetan teenagers attempting to climb a himalayan peak. how humbling i thought later. and how appropriate. i got to the grand canyon, paid for a year long national park pass. got a map and a newspaper guide. knew i wanted to hike, but didn’t know where.
there’s a rim trail, which wanders around the rim, but i didn’t want to stay at the top of the canyon, i wanted to go down in. however in my meager research the night before, i discovered that it takes two days to go from the rim to the colorado river and back again. they seemed pretty serious. i certainly didn’t want this happening to me. since i thought hiking down to the colorado river was the whole point, and since i wasn’t prepared for any kind of camping, i was unsure of what to do.
eventually i realized there were trails that went into the canyon but not all the way to the river, so i settled on the bright angel trail, mostly because i could identify it clearly on a number of maps. it started nearby, and was composed of several segments, the longest of which was estimated to take 8-12 hours round trip (12.2 mi!). well, i had the whole day, so i figured i’d see how i felt at each checkpoint and determine whether to turn around or keep going.
this is what the grand canyon looks like from the bright angel trailhead. the day started out overcast, which made everything look kind of gray. also worth noting is the vegetation in and on the canyon. i was told that the southwest has seen record levels of rainfall this spring, so apparently everything is denser and greener than it has been in 10 years.
i hiked down and down and down. in the beginning i “ran” it, until my feet felt like they were on fire. since i had been thinking “trail running,” i wore running socks, which are quite thin, even though i had thick, synthetic wool hiking socks in my suitcase. oops. slight miscalculation.
i kept going down and down, eventually covering 4.6 miles, descending 3060 feet into the grand canyon when i made it to the last checkpoint before the end of the trail, called indian garden. here i refilled my water and decided whether to take the last leg, a 1.5 mile hike along a relatively flat plateau, presumably with stellar views of the “inner canyon.” are you kidding me? hell yeah!
to my bemusement, the clouds began to break, promising better pictures, but a hotter justin. it’s also quite a bit warmer in the canyon. at some point in the middle of the plateau, i turned around and snapped this shot looking back from whence i came. at no point in the course of this hike had i thought one iota about hiking back up out of the canyon.
finally success is mine! the colorado river in sight!
suffice it to say, it took a lot longer getting out of the canyon than it took getting in. i think i started a little before 11am and estimate that i got to the plateau point around 2. i emerged from the grand canyon 5 hours after that. a good bit of the last part i was walking like an old man, a few inches at a time.
my legs and shoes were caked with red dust and sand. my feet were blistered. my back ached and my quadriceps screamed. i was limping. i could barely take a full breath without triggering a cough reflex. it was SO awesome.
next leg: grand canyon to st. george