Wednesday, December 4, 2013

As it turns out, the Grand Canyon doesn't suck

Today my wife sent me this article from the Huffington Post boldly proclaiming that the Grand Canyon is one of the 25 most over-rated locations on Earth.  For reference here is the section specifically about the canyon...

How do you miss it?  Its rather...large.

From the sound of it the reviewer never actually left their car or at the very least walked the 50 feet or so from the parking lot to the South Rim where some of the most popular overlook sites are.  Only in America would it be considered impossible to actually walk down into the canyon.  No, you instead can only ride down on the back of some poor overworked mule.

The express route to the canyon floor

I, however know for a fact that Canyon is not over-rated and is likely one of the greatest places on Earth.  Granted, it has its touristy elements; the cliche rim hotels and wheelchair (or mobility scooter) accessible viewing decks are not exactly a national treasure.  But if you take the time to descend even a mile or so into the Canyon, by mule or preferably on foot, you will find one of the most spectacular places on Earth.

How much hiking you will be able (or want) to do depends heavily on the time of year you visit.  Late spring through fall is notoriously hot and will make hiking much more physically demanding and require a much higher level of preparedness.  My wife was wise enough to plan a trip for us in May, which is right on the edge of when it starts to warm up.  We were lucky enough to get cool weather and a somewhat significant amount of rain.  This allowed us to make 2 long (10+ mile) descents into the Canyon that were overall quite pleasant.

DAY 1: South Kaibab Trail

The first day, we chose to hike the harder South Kaibab trail.  The morning dawned with a light drizzle falling and generally cool, windy conditions.  We headed off with the plan to turn around at Skeleton Point,  which overlooks the deepest portion of the canyon and the Colorado River.

I quickly discovered evidence of the aforementioned mules.
Photo: Robyn Norgan

We got hit a few times with rain showers on the way down but were at the turn around by early afternoon.  The clouds made for a generally moody and beautiful desert vista.  Its not often you get to take photos of rain clouds in the desert.

Rain clouds threatening
Photo: Robyn Norgan
By the time we made the turn around at Skeleton point,  it was early afternoon.  Now the funny thing about hiking in the Grand Canyon is that is basically mountaineering in reverse.  You feel great for the first half but then you are faced with the harsh reality of the leg crushing climb you just sprinted down.
Pushing on to Skeleton Point
Photo: Robyn Norgan

We stopped for a bit to to admire the Colorado river below.  We briefly entertained the thought of going all the way but we decided otherwise and began our climb back to the rim.

The Colorado River far below

As the trail got steeper, the punishment increased.  Our quick pace from early in the day quickly dwindled to an outright slog. 

I've made a huge mistake!

Somehow, on the way up we managed to look away from our feet and grab a few photos.  The late afternoon haze made for some amazing filter effects.

West Along the Canyon
Photo: Robyn Norgan

The last 2 miles out are by far the steepest and consist of endless trail steps either carved into the rock or meticulously laid by the trail builders.  As any hiker knows, you will soon come to curse the foul individuals who laid these steps.  Steps intended only to cause you extra torment as you slog along.

The Sun Poking out
Photo: Robyn Norgan
We finally made the rim.  The round trip took around 10 hours and was one of the greatest hikes of my life.  This first day hike showed just how beautiful, and savage the Canyon can be.

Photo: Robyn Norgan

 I will cover the second day in an upcoming located Here

1 comment:

  1. Good post Daniel, amazing place one of the best and to see in Earth