Destination: Grand Canyon, Arizona
Dates of Travel: September 2008 (South Kaibab Trail, 4860 ft elevation gain, 6.3 miles) and September 2010 (Bright Angel Trail, 4460 ft elevation gain, 7.8 miles)
Fun fact about this destination: it is strongly advised that hikers do not attempt to hike from the rim of the canyon down to the river and back all in the same day. Yet, that's exactly what I did with my friends in 2008.
Before I get started, I'll address a question some of you may be asking: Why would anyone want to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back?!? I love these kinds of adventures. I fell in love with hiking when I was in high school and have some favorite places I love to hike, but I would have to say the Grand Canyon is one of my favorite hikes of all times...followed closely by hiking in Yosemite, which will have to be another Travel Thursday post.
2008: South Kaibab Trail
Here are my hiking partners at the start of the South Kaibab Trail, on the South Rim. That's my husband to the left, and our friends, Bridget & Henry to the right. A little history: Bridget & Henry did this very same hike a year ago, by themselves. They went in September, and they hiked to the bottom (the Colorado River) and back up all in the same day, despite all the warnings posted all around the village and at the top of the canyon warning hikers not to attempt this long hike in one day.
Even though Bridget and Henry had done the hike the year before, my husband and I were pretty nervous about completing the hike all in one day. Neither of us was in tip-top shape. I'd love to give you an hour by hour play by play, but I'll just share the highlights of our all day hike. We started the day at 8am and finished our hike around 8pm.
There was a forecast of possible thunderstorms the morning we headed out. As we headed down the South Kaibab trail, we ran into a park ranger who asked us, "Are you all familiar with what to do if a lightning storm hits?" At the time, we were all from California so of course we didn't have a clue. The park ranger asked if we had ponchos (yes) and then advised, that if there was lightning, to keep towards the canyon walls and if possible, get under a ledge.
Bridget and Henry projected we would reach the bottom of the canyon by 11am. That didn't happen. At 11am, this was our view of the bottom of the canyon.
At the bottom, we barely had enough time to eat our lunch. We were soaking our feet in the Colorado river while eating when a park ranger came out and issued a flood warning and told everyone they had to get out of the river.
We had our packs back on and we were starting our hike back up when the rain started... it was so intense we had to hunker down in a tunnel and wait ten minutes until we could go back across that suspension bridge to return back up on the South Kaibab Trail.
Part of the reason hikers are discouraged from hiking from the rim to the river and back in one day is that it often takes hikers twice as long to hike back up. That day, it took us 4 hours to hike down (8:30am-12:30pm). As we started to head back up at 1pm, I was doing the math in my head...I was prepared to get back to the top by 9pm, and that worried me. We hadn't packed our headlamps (we'd left them at our campsite) and I knew that sunset was between 7:30pm and 8pm. We picked up the pace on the way back up and managed to get back at 8 instead of 9, but visibility was definitely waning by the time we got to the top.
The next day, I was so sore. I had trouble sitting and getting up out of seats for at least a couple of days. But it was a great day, full of challenges and we were thrilled that we had done the hike all in one day. Unless you're in super great shape (half marathoner? triathlete?) I don't recommend doing what we did, but there are other options, including hiking to the bottom of the canyon, spending the night, and then hiking back out the next day. And that's exactly what we did when we went back in 2010. I'll share that trip in another Travel Thursday post.
Do you enjoy hiking? What's your favorite hike?