Hiking the Grand Canyon

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Nothing really prepares you for the first time you walk up to the edge of the Grand Canyon. Considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, no photographs or video footage can accurately depict or do any real justice to the actual experience of seeing this jaw-dropping creation up-close and personal. There are certain destinations in this world that everyone needs to check off their bucket list – the Grand Canyon should be at or near the top of your own personal list.

As avid hikers, we have always wanted to experience the exhilaration of not only seeing the Canyon from the rim, but also hiking down to the base of the Canyon. We received plenty of warning that this type of hike is like no other. Sort of like the reverse of a traditional hike. Instead of hiking up a mountain first (the hard part) and then hiking back down (much easier) – hiking into the Grand Canyon requires the easy part first and then the challenging part second. So like so many things in life, preparation and moderation is key.

Sure enough, when we started our descent into the Canyon via the South Kaibab Trail, we were flying!  Man, this is easy we thought!  The trail is actually very well groomed. There are numerous switch-backs as you zig-zag down the walls of the Canyon and with all the beautiful views at every turn, its really easy not to notice how quickly you are descending.

The trail head starts at Yaki Point at an elevation of 7260 feet and descends to 4010 feet at the Tonto Trail junction and then all the way down to 2480 feet at the Bright Angel Campground and the famous Phantom Ranch at the Canyon base. It is well documented that hiking to the base and back in one day is not only ill-advised, many people have required a rescue team to bring them back up! 14.2 miles round trip along with a 4780 foot descent is enough to make the most seasoned hiker wave the white flag. So we decided to set our goal at reaching the Tonto Trail junction (8.8 miles round trip with a 3250 foot descent).

As mentioned, preparation if key. Starting at the top of the Canyon on a chilly March morning requires dressing in layers. Knowing the temperature can quickly jump 10-15 degrees Celsius as you descend into the Canyon and the mid-afternoon sun’s rays beat down on you, being able to strip down to shorts and t-shirt is a must – as is slathering on some high SPF sun block! And don’t forget a lunch and some energy-inducing snacks like dried fruit, nuts and chocolate to keep your motor running throughout the day. And don’t underestimate the amount of water you will go through either. We easily consumed 8 litres of water between the three of us, and could easily have used more. We actually re-filled a couple bottles from a very generous local family hiking the Canyon about 30 minutes from arriving back at the top of the rim in the afternoon. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

So rather than providing a lot of step-by-step detail concerning our little adventure, I think I will let some of these amazing pictures tell the story.

In the end, it took us approximately 6.5 hours with the various little breaks (more on the way up than on the way down!) and the extended lunch break at the bottom to complete our hike. And I can’t say enough about my daughter Maya and what a trooper she was on this very challenging hike. We brought our awesome Deuter Kid Comfort III carrier, and I only used it once to carry my daughter for around 30 minutes to give her a break as we reached the base. And even then, she whispered in my ear as we approached our lunch spot – “Daddy, let me out – I’m embarrassed that you are carrying me!” So I guess that’s that for our Deuter carrier! Thanks for the great memories – Whistler, Banff, Lake Louise, the jungles of Dominica, Granada etc. etc. My girl is all grown up!

Seriously though, we’ve been asked if there was much whining from our daughter, especially on the way back up, and the truth is, I think Sandra and I whined even more! I’m just thankful Maya was able to march herself to the top of the Canyon – I was in no shape to carry her for the last half mile or so back to the rim. Here’s to many more hiking adventures! Grand Canyon has set the bar pretty high. For now, back to the cage.