Sunday afternoon we headed from Paige, where we visited Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, to the Grand Canyon. The entire ride there I was filled with excitement; Still in disbelief that tomorrow would be the day I would be taking on the Grand Canyon! Something I had only dreamed of doing, and something that the normal person with less than one year of hiking experience don’t set out to tackle … but then again, I’m not normal.
We arrived at the South Rim, just as it was getting dark. It was cold and windy as we pulled over at an observation point for my first look at one of the seven natural wonders of the world. My heart sank and anxiety sank in. This thing was massive! How was I going to get all the way to the bottom and back out in the same day? I immediately looked up the hike again on Alltrails and other sites, and start reading horror stories … probably not my finest moment. Sure this is a moment I could have kept to myself, make it seem like I had all the confidence in the world and knew what I was doing, but I want to be honest with all of you. I laid in bed the night before staring up at the ceiling trying to compare the length and elevation gain to past hikes I have done, rationalizing it all in my head.
5,072 feet of elevation gain
There was no turning back at this point, I hadn’t gotten this far to only stare into the canyon, take a few pics, and go home … I’m not a tourist … I was going in!
I finally forced myself to fall sleep, counting anticipated steps in my head. At 5 am the alarm went off! Today was the day, I double checked my pack, quickly got dressed and off we went.
We missed the first bus from the visitors center from the South Kaibab trail by less than a minute, because we couldn’t find the right parking lot, but everything happens for a reason. After 15 mins a new bus came and it was time to start our day!
We headed to the rim to start our 4,780 foot descent down to the Colorado River. Due to icy conditions, we needed to wear micro spikes for the first 3 miles or so. The trail was windy and somewhat narrow. We started in the dark with head lamps, but quickly the sun began to rise. This created beautiful colors across the sky and along the canyon walls.
On the way down we stopped at several rest stops for snacks and water (it’s important to stay hydrated and to refuel), and of course pictures (so many pictures). At one of the rest stops, we ran into a group of 60-70-year-old men who have been hiking the canyon every February for 30 years. Such incredible dedication … and I was concerned about doing it once.
After a nearly 10-minute conversation, we continued down the windy path towards the Colorado River.
We were moving at a pretty good pace and got to the Canyon bottom around 9:30 (about 2.5 to 3 hours).
Just before we reached the bottom, there was a small tunnel followed by this amazing bridge over the Colorado River.
When we reached the bottom, the Colorado was brisk running. Even so, it’s hard to believe that this river had carved the majestic canyon we had just descended. We stopped at a bench near the Bright Angel Campsite, used the facilities, and ate a protein bar. It felt a little strange. I am used to climbing up first, reaching the summit, and then heading down. Here we were half way done, and the hardest part, over 4,000 feet of elevation gain was ahead of us. It was beautiful in the Canyon, but we knew we had to get started on our climb back out.
Before we started the climb, we had to cross back over the Colorado. The Bright Angel bridge was beautiful but it also filled me with fear. The bottom of the bridge is made of metal grates and you can see the full distance … long distance … down to the water. In addition, it’s a bit shakey —-not sure if I have told you all this before, but I’m very afraid of heights. I know “Surprise!” Weird coming from someone who literally is always trying to get to the highest point.
After crossing the river, the next few miles of the trail were relatively flat with some slight inclines. The rock changed color to black and then tan, some green. As we were heading up, a group on mules came down the trail. We had to step off the trail to let them pass. One tip when hiking the Canyon, watch the trail or your boots may need a significantly cleaning …
On the way up it started to mist, which, even though it wasn’t hot, was welcomed to keep us cool. I have to say we picked the perfect day for this trip— it was not too warm, not too cold and when we started to heat up, the mist cooled us down. When the light rain stopped, we turned around to see a rainbow over the canyon. It was beyond beautiful, this photo doesn’t do it justice… but I tried.
We walked 4.4 miles and gained about 1,300 ft of elevation prior to reaching our next stopping point, Indian Garden. YES! LUNCH TIME. I was starving, we were about 3/4 of the way done and I had been hiking for about 5 hours.
I inhaled my sandwich and had some stinger chews (these are awesome, you need to try these if you haven’t already) to get my energy level back up. Than we were off, to finish the hardest four miles of the hike! Time for the serious elevation gain!
The trail wounded up and up and up as each step brought us closer to the top. After about a mile, my head really started to hurt—-it is important to hydrate, listen to your body. I chugged about 1/2 a liter of a water and we were off again.
We meet a lot of fun people on the way up, a group of fun singing hikers, a mother and son duo, and a woman who had been hiking alone. We mixed in to all the groups and had some lively conversations on the way up…sharing about the struggle, taking pictures, and cheering each other on. We took a quick stop at the 3-mile rest stop and again at the 1.5 mile stop—here we had to put on micro spikes again as the trail became icy.
About a half mile from the summit we stopped to take some pictures. A small flurry had just happened, which allowed for some amazing photos.
This also allowed some of the people we had been hiking with to pass us … as I walked the last 100 ft of the trail, one of the woman I had met began to cheer for me! Motivating and pushing me to finish this journey.
This was easily one of the most amazing experience I’ve had yet, finishing the entire hike in less than 9 hours; the hike I was convinced I couldn’t do. So many people we encountered after congratulated me on my accomplishment, prolonging the permanent smile that was plastered across my face. I am constantly amazed by what I can accomplish; my mind and body taking turns to propel me forward (when I’m tired my mind pushes me on and when I’m scared my body steps in).
So what do you do after hiking the Grand Canyon in a day? Eat and entire gluten free pizza and half a bag of Tate’s gluten free chocolate chip cookies of course … because I earned them and I deserve a reward!
What I wore:
-Prana Summit pants– these are currently my favorite hiking pants!!! They have an awesome comfort waist band.
–Ossipee Women’s Merino Wool midweight crew– these shirts are great and comfortable
– Emeline Edition Jacket – Lole’s packable jacket
–Women’s Kyte 36– by far my favorite Osprey pack, I am sure that you have all seen many pictures of me with this pack already!
What’s in the pack?:
- 3 filled Nalgene water bottles
- Snacks (granola bars and protein bars)
- Lunch (turkey and cheese sandwich)
- Honey stingers energy gels (great for when you energy levels are dwindling)
- Extra layer-Smart wool midweight base layer
- Wireless charger
- Extra socks
- Toilet paper
- Hand sanitizer
For those of you don’t know the main reason for me doing this hike was to to give back by raising money for Girls Inc. of Long Island.
Girls Inc. of Long Island inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold through direct service and advocacy. Their comprehensive approach to whole girl development equips girls to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers and grow up healthy, educated, and independent!
It’s not to late to donate to this incredible organization!