Thursday, October 9, 2014

Travel Thursday: Grand Canyon

Happy Thursday!  It's that time of week - Travel Thursday - and this week I'm excited to share one of my all time favorite trips: a hike down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  I'm proud to say I've done it twice: once in 2008 and once in 2010.  I'll share the 2008 experience today and save the 2010 hike for another day.

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.
We stuck with our hike and I was relieved when we saw this view.  That suspension bridge below is the last stretch before you make it down to the Colorado river.
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?


  1. I love this post! What gorgeous views... I can only imagine doing this. Can't wait to hear about your second hike too!

    1. Stacey - having views like that during your entire hike is a hiker's dream come true. I've done it twice and can't wait to do it again...of course we'll have to leave the kids with grandma because I wouldn't ever take any kids under 12 on this arduous hike.

  2. That sounds so fun! There is a canyon near where I am from and I love hiking around there.

  3. That's awesome :) Such great pictures! I have flown over the canyon in a small plane and loved getting to see it. Hiking it would be awesome. My hubby has a bum foot due to a motorcycle accident and his foot only holds up for short mall trips, etc...luckily, we recently started bike riding and that seems to be okay for him :) anyway, I digress. I love hiking any mountain I can find :) Such a great feeling! I am impressed you were able to get top the top that fast. What's a few days sore for great memories, right lol

    1. Sorry to hear that the hubby couldn't do this hike with you. But bike riding sounds like a great alternative!

  4. That looks seriously amazing, but you guys were definitely ambitious, trying to do the whole hike in one day! I'm a fan of hiking, I always include hikes in our vacation plans.

    1. Yes, ambitious or crazy, I'm not sure which... we weren't in terrible shape, but after we did the hike again in 2010, I had a new appreciation for how crazy we were the first time we did the hike!!


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