I just got back from hiking the Grand Canyon with five friends. We did 30mi in 3 days leaving from the South Rim with full packs, camping out at Bright Angel campground, visiting Ribbon Falls and hiking back out via Indian Springs. Here are some photos:
Friday was one of the most physically demanding days I’ve ever had (2nd only to hiking Cotopaxi back in ’95). Before I jump back into the grind I want to take a few moments and preserve some of the “afterglow” of this experience. I don’t have a structured post in mind here but there were a handful of little things that stood out that I want to jot down for posterity:
- It’s mind-blowing. Pictures (even amazing ones) don’t do justice to the sheer hugeness of the Canyon. I know that sounds cliche but it literally robs you of your breath when you first step to the edge of the Canyon from above. Hiking into it yields a whole next level of appreciation of how huge this thing is. I had just watched Episode 8 of “The Cosmos” where they talk about how the Canyon offers scientists “chapters of an open book” for being able to look back to the formation of the Earth. It’s one thing to watch this on Netflix and hear it academically but to put your hands on rock that’s been around for over 1 billion years is just surreal.
- Bullfrogs at night sound like crying newborns. We stayed a stone’s throw away from a running creek and at night on the walk back from Phantom Ranch you hear all the night sounds of the creek. The bullfrogs have this eerie cry they make that messes with you because nowhere at the bottom will you see a newborn baby yet at night there’s this constant sound of like 20 crying infants. It’s weird.
- Speaking of the creek: both days we were there we would just lie in the creek and let the water rush over us. Zoning out with friends just staring up through the cottonwoods at the high walls of the Canyon was one of my favorite moments of the trip.
- Appreciation for mornings: I am not (and never have been) a morning person but due to the extreme heat there (113F deg the day we left) we had to wake up at 3:45am. As jarring as that was, once you get over the grogginess it’s absolutely gorgeous in the early morning. I’m planning to try and morph my sleeping habits to become more of a morning person. I feel like after dark I gravitate to time-wasting activities while in the early morning it’s just more geared towards time-appreciating activities.
- We went when it was a new moon so it was pitch black at night. I was the only one who didn’t have a tent (I had a hammock instead) so I slept in the open under some of the brightest clearest stars I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if it was satellites or UFO’s or whatever but there’s a lot going on up there we don’t normally see. I wish I had a better camera that could have captured the night skies down there. It was amazing.
- You’re capable of far more than you think- physical limitations are largely mental. It took us 3hr30min to hike down and 6hr15min to hike back out. On the way out I was out of gas shortly after the halfway mark so for another three hours I was running on some alternate fuel source. Chris, Tyler and I hiked as a unit most of the way and I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have made it on my own. But that’s weird if you think about it. Hiking as a unit you become part of a larger organism that has more energy – you cannot underestimate the power of others to help summon this elusive “mental fuel source” that is always there buried within you.
- I forgot how much Motley Crue kicks ass. Chris had thought ahead and brought a little bluetooth-enabled boombox. At one point after some particularly grueling switchbacks we were all exhausted but he fires up “Kickstart My Heart” and instantly we all get our mojo back. Crazy how music (like friends) can summon that alternate fuel source.
- Hiking poles are essential. I (stupidly) thought I’d save the $20 rental fee and just go without them. That was a mistake. I’m 6’7″ and my height makes my knees extra-susceptible to impact – they were blown about 75% of the way down. We then had a 12mi hike the next day and still had to get back out. Fortunately Chris loaned me one of his poles on the way back out but the damage by that point had already been done. Ace bandages and Ibuprofen helped but if you’re considering doing it just spend the money and get hiking poles for reducing the impact on your knees. Also, don’t buy new hiking boots the day before the trip. That was just idiocy on my part and I’m paying for it with a blister the size of a 3rd big toe right now.
- Social media fasting feels good. I’m too wired-in and slave to the dopamine hits of checking my phone for useless stuff in situations where I should just look up. Man it was nice to not even have the capability to use the Internet down there. I slept for 17hrs straight when I got back home. Granted, most of that was paying off a sleep deficit and physical exhaustion but I think some component was also the reduction in ADD from being unwired for a few days. I need to make a more concerted effort to ditch my phone in daily life above the ground.
That’s the gist of it. If you’re considering hiking the Canyon I highly encourage it. You can hike down to whatever depth you’re comfortable with. If you do though please respect the people coming up with full packs who are running on fumes. Towards the top we encountered a lot of day tourists who were oblivious and didn’t respect the right of way to the people coming up. That was pretty infuriating given how zapped we were. Also if you go, do it with friends and be conscious of ensuring constant water consumption and add electrolytes. Apparently someone died down at Indian Springs this Thursday. Your decision making becomes cloudy as you get dehydrated so it’s a vicious spiral once you hit that point (I know because on the way out I failed to fill at the last water stop although I stopped to wet my hat, stupid). Anyways the Canyon is amazing. Go experience it.
Oh and lastly, go check out the band The Lone Bellow. We were fortunate to catch them at the Tilted Earth Festival in Cottonwood this weekend after the hike. Magical performance. Just check out these harmonies. Rarely do songs give me goosebumps but this one did:
UPDATE 7/16/15: Chris from our group had a GoPro going most of the time in the Canyon and just published an _awesome_ montage video from our hike. Check it out: