Today was the big day, the Grand Canyon hike! Last night I made myself very nervous by reading up on suggested hikes and safety precautions. There were many warnings about hiking alone and wildlife cautions about mountain lions and rattlesnakes. However, I still woke up this morning and went to one of the difficult hikes of the South Rim, and hiked it by myself, and had a fantastic time.
The trail I chose was the South Kaibab trail that goes from the peak of the Rim to the Colorado River. I was so very tempted to hike all the way to the river and back, but that is quite strongly advised against so I listened for once and decided to hike to the Skeleton View and back. The hike began very cold and very nerve-racking. The trail going down to the first lookout was very steep and winding, with very sharp drop-offs. It was also so windy that at one point I was blown a few steps towards the edge. I quickly picked up the pace, and was at the Skeleton View (3 miles down) in an hour and a half.
Originally I planned on stopping there and going back, as that is the furthest point recommended for a day hike. I wandered around the area and was quite surprised by the green landscape. It was amazing looking all around and seeing the high cliffs of the Grand Canyon, and realizing I had made my way into the heart of it. If you go to the Grand Canyon, do yourself a favor and hike into it – don’t just view it from the road. The vastness of this landmark is best experienced by going into it. I sat on the edge of Skeleton View for a while until another backpacker came over. While talking to him, a familiar face joined us; the German guy from Arches! It’s amazing how small this world really is.
After much deliberation, I decided to continue hiking towards the river. A half mile away from Skeleton View, I regretted that decision because the trail was very steeply winding down the rest of the canyon. A sip of water later, I was on my merry way. I decided to give myself a half hour so I could begin the ascent at 11am. The general rule of hiking in the canyon is to plan for your return trip to take twice as long as the descent, so I wanted to give myself 3 to 4 hours to get back well before sunset. As I wound down the trail I came across a mule caravan that was headed up. I chatted with the wrangler a bit, then continued on.
Eventually it was time to turn around, so I stopped for lunch and then began the ascent. I quickly began questioning my sanity for why I would go down this steep part of the trail when I knew I would have to go up it. Climbing these stairs brought me back to the Manitou Incline…I thought I had learned my lesson there, guess not! Up and up I went until finally getting back to Skeleton View. I rested for a moment and continued climbing. The ascent is much much harder than the descent (duh). It was strange because I am so used to expending most of my energy in the beginning of hikes (going up a mountain) rather than the second portion.
Constantly giving myself pep talks, I eventually reached the first lookout, where the mule caravan was resting! I was shocked because I hiked about a mile after passing them, yet I was ascending at a faster rate than them. I checked the time and was astounded that I had climbed that far that quickly. Maybe I’m more of a badass than I thought I was. After more chats with the wrangler, the caravan set out and so did I. I followed them up the rest of the canyon, stopping for water when they stopped. Keeping pace with them was good motivation.
I periodically looked around me on the ascent, astounded that I had hiked that far down and that deep into the canyon. It was dizzying at times, although that may have also been from being exhausted. I powered through the last leg of the climb, and emerged victorious. I survived hiking the Grand Canyon to the heart, alone! The only wildlife I saw were squirrels and birds (ravens that stalked me) thankfully, and I hiked smart as to not get injured. I turned on my phone at the top and found that it was only 1pm! It took almost the same amount of time to ascend out of the canyon as it did to descend, awesome!
All in all the hike was 9 miles long with an elevation change of 3000 feet. I hiked 4.5 miles downhill and 4.5 miles uphill, in 4 and a half hours. I’m very impressed with my hiking abilities today. This trip has taught me a few things about myself. The first of which is that I’m a lot stronger and have more willpower than I realized. The second is that I love being alone. I thought I’d get lonely, but let’s be real…I made friends with a puffin at the Omaha Zoo. I’ve talked to many people along my trip, but I’ve also enjoyed being alone with my thoughts. The third thing I’ve learned/kind of already knew is that I love traveling and exploring and hiking.
Tomorrow I will drive to one of my favorite places, Los Angeles. I’m nervous that I won’t love it as much as I did in 2014, especially after how much I loved this trip. This trip was amazing because of how peaceful and serene it was, and peaceful and serene are not words I’d use to describe LA. But I could be wrong, I could love it as much or more than I did before. Either way, I still have plenty of hiking and traveling planned. Next week I’ll head to Vegas and hike Death Valley. Soon after that I’ll head up the Pacific Coast Highway to Northern California, and then over to Nevada for Christmas. And only a few weeks after that I’ll be headed home, with another spectacular road trip along the way. My adventures will never end, but this chapter is almost closed. My first big road trip has been a huge success, and I can’t wait for my next one.