This Ain’t No Walk in the Park: Hiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim
Never again will I look at the Grand Canyon in the same way ever again. I first set eyes on her on a road trip in December 2011, during which I exclaimed to myself, this must be the most majestic place in the United States. And now in October 2017, almost 6 years later, to be able to get right up close and personal to her, not driving, but hiking right into her bosom, feels almost unreal. It's like a dream come true; a longing that's finally fulfilled.
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and over a mile deep (over 6,000 feet).
What you see and experience while hiking far exceeds what you experience while driving. I was like a child lost in a massive ancient wonderland - with every step on her often red and sandy soil, I could only look up and marvel at her rocks, colors and splendor. Set against the blue sky, she rises like a royal throne from the depths of the earth and commands reverence from all who sets their eyes on her.
I'm impatient. I always wanna get to the destination and in my blind pursuit, neglect to enjoy the process of getting to the destination. I was so anxious to complete the hike because I was beat from walking for over 7 hours that I wished a helicopter would carry me to our end point. Steve and Phil were way faster and they had gone ahead of us. Lynn and I stuck together, and at one point, Lynn turned to me and said, it's ok, we'll get there, keep walking and we'll be there soon. At that point, we were over 5 miles (ground distance) and over 3,000 feet (vertical distance) away from our final destination. When you're depleted to the point of exhaustion, nothing could cheer you up. Yet I saw how Lynn, in her silent and persistent spirit, kept walking, so I quit complaining to myself and kept walking as she did. We both hunkered down and plodded along.
Several miles later, I could see the South Rim (end point) looming above, yet it felt so far away. Physically, I was utterly spent. The prospect of another 2 hours of walking discouraged me to bleak despair. At that point, the hike was no longer a physical challenge - it has now become a mental challenge I must overcome myself because no one could get inside my head and help me in this regard. Instead of focusing on when will I get to the end point, I started telling myself, Wow, I get to do this. I get to walk, I get to hike, and I get to see and experience all these beauty.
So I kept walking. At some point we passed other hikers who were larger, heavier and walking slower than Lynn and I did. I don't mean no disrespect, but I remembered telling myself, be grateful that you are strong and healthy and you get to walk at a good pace.
Steve and Phil were so fast, they completed their 25-mile hike 3 hours ahead of Lynn and I. When the sun set and Lynn and I had not yet emerged out of the canyon to the end point, they came down the canyon looking for us, and when they found us, hiked the remaining journey (uphill) with us.
Mile 25 - the end
We started the hike at the North Rim just at the break of dawn and completed the hike at the South Rim an hour after sunset.
The after-reward always outweighs the midst-of pain - hiking over 9 hours in a single day can be laborious, yet when all is said and done and I emerged out of the canyon, I'm glad I did it and she's now forever etched in my mind as mine, all mine, because I claim her so.
This is by far the second longest single-day hike I've ever done, the first being 30 miles across the Ohlone Wilderness in California, and now this, 25 miles from the North to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Both times I've had numerous thoughts of quitting mid-hike, and both times, people around me forced me to dig deeper within myself to keep on keeping on, so that I could tip over the edge of the comfortable and leap confidently off the ledge into the uncomfortable zone. Both times, I've been forced to break the mental barrier of my own personal limits and transit from the impossible into the possible.
I love the Grand Canyon, have always and always will, even more so now that I've painstakingly traversed 25 miles across this awe-inspiring natural preservation on foot in a single day.
And why do I love the Grand Canyon so? Because it’s an ecological wonder that took 2 billion years in the making; a spiritual place that overwhelms the senses and inspires so.
Of course, no adventure is as sweet as those whom you do it with. I'm thankful for amazing friends whom I had the privilege to do this hike with, people with open and generous hearts and a mutual love and respect for the outdoors. Thanks especially to Amy for driving endless hours to ferry us, Steve and Phil for being our speedy forerunners on the trail, and Lynn for staying by me while the hike got tough.