THE GRAND CANYON… HIKING IT AND LIKING IT
2018 was a year of finishing loose ends, we got all the major permits in order, we got a second expedition vehicle, bought all the equipment that we needed and finished up one hell of a route for our customers to enjoy.
The Grand Canyon, a top pick for any american road trip, and if you intend on hiking it there are a few things you should know and consider before venturing into the depths of this fascinating place.
I would consider myself to be an experienced hiker and outdoors man, both on trail and off it. I have hiked many trails in different countries under different conditions and this hike: Grand Canyon Village to Phantom Ranch. I have done two times now, and probably will many more times.
I most certainly do not claim to be a unlimited encyclopedia of knowledge on the subject of hiking, but I do think I have a few valuable tips if you are considering hiking the canyon.
So to start with I would not recommend hiking in the Grand Canyon, to the bottom or across it to anyone, that do not posses any understanding of what you are about to put yourself into…. Not even if find yourself standing there thinking: “Well I have come from the other side of the wold to see it, might as well try it out”. NO! If you do not understand and respect this place, then please don’t hike it.
If you have any doubt of the seriousness of this trail, read Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon. This book will take you through every death (recorded that is) that have occurred in the Canyon, just the weight and thickness of it. Is enough to make it chill down your spine…..
I was stunned to discover how many of these deaths could have been avoided if you just had either asked a ranger (and listen to the advice) or brought some extra damn water.
And on the subject of water, yes the canyon get hot. It actually gets very hot and most people are fooled by standing on top looking down and by being able to see the Indian Garden thinking: Ohhh it’s just right down there…. Ahhh Nope, it ain’t!! It’s actually 4.8miles/7.7km to the dagn thing from the top AND it is a very easy decent, but a hellish climb back up… However there is water on parts of this trip, at the mile n’ a half resthouse and the three mile resthouse.
With the above said and stated, the Grand Canyon is a mind boggling big and beautiful place. Stretching over 277miles in lenght and 29miles across it makes it big enough to be seen from space, and most inspiring to look at from earth. Really makes you feel how big (or more like how small) you are in the greater scheme of things .
Most impotent to be aware if you are hiking the Grand Canyon are the weather conditions in the season you have chosen to hike it. You can always go to the Grand Canyon Back Country Office for information on the current conditions and the weather prognoses, please don’t just rely on google. The ranger office are in direct contact with Phantom Ranch in the bottom of the canyon and the weather conditions are treacherous and not always what they appear to be.
As you can seen on the picture above, the North rim are covered in clouds and it’s probably raining, this was taken on the morning just before I did my second hike down. We were strongly recommended NOT to take the South Kaibab Trail, since shower storms and thunder clouds was forecasted. Later it cleared up and became around 110-120 Fahrenheit in the bottom, making it almost unbearable to do anything at all.
The South Kaibab Trail offers no cover in case of thunderstorms, which basically means YOU are the highest point if thunderstriks happens.
When you understand what weather conditions you are up against, you can begin to plan what you are going to carry in you backpack. I know that I myself probably always carry to much, but I would rather have the extra comfort of an abundance of water, food and snacks as well as the best of sleeping arrangements and ICE (in case of emergency) gear. Than sparing the few kilos and ending up in a sugar chock barely being able to my legs and carrying my own weight. And yes I have seen this happen during the “only” two times I have done the hike down the Canyon. One time I met a family dad and his son, whom didn’t carry enough sugar and salty snacks to maintain strength, I offered them some of the spare snacks I’ve had and the regained strength and got to the top eventually. This is a classical example of a “successful” hike that just didn’t end out to be the family fun intended.
So the lesson of the above, not matter if you just hike down a mile, to the Gardens or all the way the the ranch. BRING SUPPLIES and understand the environment you put yourself into.
There’s is NO seven eleven or McDonald’s in the neighborhood 🙂
But once on the trail and a few miles down, all the people, all the stress and all the sounds of the last stronghold of civilization represented by the Grand Canyon village above suddenly vanishes and you are now in the tranquility of mother nature. And IF you are lucky enough to get a permit to hike all the way down you really are in for an experience of a life time.
Dipping my feet in the Colorado River after a rough hike down, will probably always be one memories that stands out the most… Nothing quite felt or sounded like the roaring silence of the River and not a soul around… The view from the bottom is one not many will ever see in reality and it is maybe even more breath taking than from above… Standing with your feet in the roaring Colorado river, feeling water that has been carried from the melting snow of the Rockies on your blistered feet and looking up and seeing what magnificent wonder of nature you have just traversed and landed yourself in the middle of… That took my breath away!….
Remember this is NOT a show up and get a permit kinda deal, you need to plan it in advance. You can be lucky, I was the first time. But do not rely on luck, since this is a very popular hike there’s only a certain few that will get the pleasure of doing it. As it should be…
There are a few modern day conveniences at the Phantom Ranch though, one very impotent one being the Ranger Station it self with it safety and security of first aid and communication with the top. And even more impotently the helicopter crew that will fly you out in case of a life threatening emergency.
The also have a mailing system online down there. And no it’s not E-Mail, this is real old standart mail. On the other hand you can write it down on postcards created by local artists and photographers on postcards you only can buy at the bottom.
And the real cool part about this, yes there’s more.. Is that the mail is carried up by mules like in the old days and you can mail to anywhere in the world.
If you don’t feel like hiking the Canyon but still want to explore it, you can also try and book a trip with the mule service and get a ride down. This is rather expensive though, but I’d imagine that if you for some reason are not able to do the hike that it will be well worth the extra cheddar.
However if you can make the hike but are not able to carry your back pack or just want to be rid of the hassle. You can also buy space for the pack on the mule service, I think the price starts at 70$ for a small backpack.
And now here’s some very useful information if you find yourself in the bottom of the canyon with some spare time to really take in the nature and local scenery (which I did). The Phantom Ranch have made a deal with a local brewery and they therefore have their own hobby brew, which after long days hike is well served between 5-10pm (If memory serves right). It’s flown in from the top and it’s delicious and yes! It is served wonderfully cold.
Just remember at a 110 Fahrenheit, beer has a tendency to work better then under normal circumstances. Just Sayin’ 😉
Animal wildlife and particular squirrels are easy to spot in the Canyon, squirrels on the other hand are so tame that they actually are a menace to the park. The also carry diseases and will plunder your food if you do not stay aware.
And as you see here and on almost any other sign, pack your food away. Lock it in a bear can, seal it up so the little critters can’t smell it or lock it in one of the old ammo cans supplied to each tent site. Trust me, if there is food laying around they WILL find it and that may cost you a backpack or tent since they will rip through anything to get what they can smell. Also notice the temperature on the gauge above the sign.
And trust me, the moment you come back up again and you see this at the top… You have never been happier to see a souvenir shop in you life 😉
I hope that there where some useful tips in here for you or that it at least made for some interesting reading. If so stay tuned here for more posts to come and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for weekly updates and posts. See you on the road…..