What I Learned from Hiking the Grand Canyon for the First Time …

If you are going to hike the Grand Canyon in mid-May, you really have to start on the trail by sunrise, or no later than 6:00 am. We found that out the hard way when we left Flagstaff at 6:00 am, only to get to the south rim, and specifically the Hermit Trail to start just after 9:00 am. This is fine, if you like to suffer and you have enough water to avoid real problems. By the time we reached the canyon floor and could follow the creeks, it had been over 100 degrees and upwards of 109 F for two hours. And the part I didn’t fully realize when starting out is that going down for 10 miles on that trail (not maintained) with the loose rock, where every footfall is a challenge to avoid slipping, may take a few less hours, but is every bit as difficult as going uphill. Going uphill the mental strain is certainly more difficult, but going downhill the physical strain is, arguably, stronger. Downhill takes a serious toll on your lower calves and quads, essentially because you are constantly arresting slippage and sliding. I primarily learned what my friend, Don Miller, advised too -“there is no reason not to do this hike without hiking poles.” Hiking poles are, in my view, a must not just because they provide added contact with the ground, but also because they take some strain off the lower body.

On the way down the Hermit Trail to Monument Valley with the Colorado river in the background with Geoffrey LaFlair, Nick Velde, Ian, Don MillerRandy Rebman, and Damian Koshnick [Photo by: Don Miller]

ImageThere was some debate between all of us about the right amount of water to carry on trail. The dilemma is a familiar one; water is heavy, but also critical. I brought a 3 liter bladder (which when stored in the backpack keeps the water cool for a longer period than a bottle), and I brought 2, 1 liter Nalgene bottles. This is ideal because in one Nalgene you can mix up an electrolyte drink, and with the other you can keep a flexible, smaller supply of water available for additional filtering, etc. (for quick stops at Santa Maria Springs when, in the rare instances, water is available to filter quickly). Although a diuretic, I like to also have green tea with for a small, but refreshing hit of caffeine (which, in the right amounts, helps with energy and muscles). I packed in 5 liters which, given the heat we were hiking in, was ideal. On a cooler day, I could see 4 liters working for the 10 mile hike down. But, I would never leave with less than 4 liters (because as the on trail saying seems to go “it is not a race” after all). I assume that even in the heart of summer there is typically enough creek flow to filter. Many people, as it turns out, do not like to filter from the Colorado river directly. In part, I think this is a precaution based on the fact that depending on your proximity to the little Colorado river, that flow is known to be contaminated with uranium from now defunct mining operations. Before going, I was informed about the value of a “rat sack”. Rats and mice are the most consistent problem in the canyon and I was entertained to see that a rat sack is actually like a chain mail bag, strong enough apparently to keep rodents from chewing through. I bought mine for about $30 at my favorite outdoor supplier in Flagstaff, Peace Surplus [http://www.peacesurplus.com].

My new rat sack

As to food, my wife had heard something that seems obvious otherwise, but given my familiarity with camping in Montana, northern Minnesota, etc. hadn’t occurred to me. Chocolate doesn’t travel well in heat. I wanted to bring a bunch of chocolate as there is no better time for it than heavy exercise outdoors, but I decided to avoid the mess. Instead I brought granola bars and licorice for the quick sugars. I should have brought more similar types of snacks heavy in salt. We had a conversation about how valuable those marathon gels would be for this kind of hiking -good, quick, accessible, easy to carry energy hits when on trail. Next time, I will certainly bring a few of those for the low energy spikes that inevitably occur. There is very little that is more fun than being intuitive and guessing what your body needs at different moments. You will know, but I always need reminding that often feeling “tired” has as much to do with some deficiency in electrolytes, salts, sugars, carbs, basic calories, etc. It is excellent to get that rush of energy that results just when you thought you were otherwise reaching a very tough stretch. As to bigger meals, my favorite discovery this trip was Uncle Ben’s ready rice medleys. Nearly no matter how good you pace yourself, or keep hydrated, etc. there are bound to be some surprises and difficult moments. On our trek down, Ian over-heated a bit and got a bit dehydrated (headache) and Randy got a pretty significant bloody nose. Despite his relative misery, his bloody face added to the journey.

Ian and Randy Rebman suffering just a bit. I hiked in an umbrella as an “experiment”. I would do so again, just a smaller and sturdier umbrella that can handle more of the wind gusts. [Photo by: Geoffrey LaFlair]

In those moments of suffering, there was nothing better than humor. Geoff came up with a genius catch-phrase to utter at those times, “cluck, cluck, mother*cker”. Looking back, it seems to me a concise way of giving voice to the environment’s indifference as we worked hard to transverse the landscape -gossamer human efforts against the consuming scale. I had my own moment late in the journey when, hiking back to camp at night from having dinner on the Colorado river, I slipped in the creek bed and my head hit granite. I saw some black and was certainly disoriented. I was also glad to have some good friends nearby to solve an issues that might have come up from a full concussion at the bottom of the canyon. Thankfully, it was at most a minor concussion, and I didn’t get a headache, nor was I dizzy hiking the 8 1/2 hours out the next day.

[My head the next morning … Photo by: Nick Velde]

I know people run, hike, etc. the canyon alone all the time, but given all that can go wrong that far away from the canyon rim and civilization, I would never do much hiking on my own down there. As Don Miller put it succinctly, the canyon is, “beautiful, precisely because of its juxtaposition as such a violent place”.  On our second full day down in the canyon, in fact, we spent the whole day avoiding the sun by moving with the shade in Monument creek. This was one of my two favorite things about the hike. It had been a long time, too long, since I spent the day outside with nothing to do. We joked, laughed, washed up just a bit in a small waterfall, drank water, snacked, sat in the cool creek, and literally moved with the sun with the merciful shade that the rock provided. We were not that far away from imitating the local wildlife.

Zen in the shade [Photo by Don Miller]

My second favorite time on the trip was down by the Colorado river that evening. We ate dinner, swam, enjoyed the amazingly fine sand, watched a river rafting trip go by, took photos, watched a few fish jump, saw the sunset, etc. The water is very cold (52 degrees or so), but very refreshing.  After spending about ten minutes floating in the river, when I got out, I could feel a real deep coldness in my chest. It was nothing, however, that a few minutes in the late evening sun couldn’t fix. The beach at the confluence (trickle) of Monument creek with the Colorado was a fine place to pass some time. We felt lucky to have it to ourselves. Hiking mid-week, I am sure, helped.

Randy, Ian, Don, Nick, Geoff talking near the confluence of Monument Creek and the Colorado river. Monument Creek goes underground a bit before trickling into the Colorado (mid-May). Photo by: Damian Koshnick

Randy walking the watershed toward the hermit rapids on the Colorado river. The sand on the beach was very, very fine at hermit rapids. And there is plenty to explore along the bank: Distance is such a factor in the grand canyon, not just real measurable distances between landmarks, but simply the largeness and expanse as you are hiking between those distances. The eye and the legs have very different perspectives that rarely seem to correspond to expectation.

In between those relative distances, the body comes to appreciate again just how critical water is.

Nick and Randy passing time by the “waterfall” -Photo by: Geoffrey LaFlair

We all, at different times, brought up the primal feeling that being near water down there evoked. Just as the land relaxes in anticipation of a big rain, so did we away from the sheer expanse of the canyon, hidden in the niches of the watershed.

Knowing how and where to access such water =’s comfort and happiness. I’d go back again in a moment. There was nothing better than being so tired that contemplating the universe simply meant sitting near a stream with an empty head, watching the world and the day pass with shadows across the steady sound of water running in the creek.

There is a poem which I have always loved by Phyllis Webb:

It seems to me that my notion of this poem in the Grand Canyon is to revise this a bit:

The degree of nothingness
is important:
to sit emptily
in the shade (and water)
avoiding fire
that is the way …

For me, it was great to get away from the computer. After 4 days of recovery (eye, head, and calf muscles), I am ready to plan the next trip. This time, with just a bit more knowledge about what it means to hike the grand canyon.

Hike Profile -3 days / 2 nights 5.15 to 5.17 (2012)- Monument Creek, Grand Canyon via Hermit Trail.

Some resources on hike:

Don Miller’s description of the hike pre-trip:

“Luckily we’ll be on a perennial water source (Monument Creek) and the trail down has enough twists and turns to find some shade fairly regularly (though the last 3 miles or so are pretty exposed). It’s still going to be pretty friggin’ hot down there. Probably low-mid nineties. I’m hoping to spend a good deal of time soaking in the creek and wading in the Colorado. And Damian, this actually is a somewhat “pampered” site in that there is an open air toilet nearby. You just don’t want to use it midday, unless you don’t mind your ass fusing to the scalding toilet seat.”

Geoff’s photo of Nick, a perfect summary of the trip:

Nick Velde, at home in the wild -Photo by: Geoffrey LaFlair

179 Responses to “What I Learned from Hiking the Grand Canyon for the First Time …”
  1. Don says:

    Great photos and great tips. Wish I’d known folks were running short on water. I ended up bringing a fourth liter to be safe and got to camp with one left… But you’re right–better to have extra and not need it than to have too little…

  2. melted chocolate.. now that i don’t mind. 🙂 great pics.

  3. libs012 says:

    Okay–this blog was fantastic. I’ve been planning a trip to the Canyon for some time now, and this is a great post for someone interested in pursuing the feet. Ouchie on the eye!

    Loved all the pics! Thanks for sharing

  4. shianwrites says:

    So sorry about your face. Great pictures! This is something I would never do, but it looks like fun 🙂

  5. d_vaz says:

    Sounds like an awesome hike!

  6. creditaction says:

    Great record thanks.

  7. BEAUTIFUL pix. Well, except the eye…ouch!


    I’ll be taking my kids to the Grand Canyon this summer for the first time. Can’t wait!!!

    Thanks for the great post.

  8. davidniddrie says:

    Hey, great shots and a wonderful tale. Full of great advice, too. Inspiring.

  9. BMN says:

    Nice place! Someday I’d like to go around. Please watch this tour we will perform for the next month here in Spain, at a place called Ports of Beceite, is a beautiful place, I assure you.


    Greetings from Spain!

  10. clarbojahn says:

    Thanks for a revealing post. The specifics on the hike were great! I’ve been planning a Canyon Hike with my sons this year but couldn’t coordinate all the days needed off from work. May make it next year. It’s good to hear about how much water one needs, etc.

    Yep, I’m definitely planning it for next year with or without the men. 🙂

    • acomposing says:

      Hi Clarbojahn -thanks. Between those of us that made this trip, there is still a debate between 4 liters versus 5. Several friends made the trip on a hot day with 4 liters and a bit of water to spare. But, as I mentioned, I was glad to have had 5 and was into my last liter when we made it down to the creek. What a great trip to plan … hope you get the days off for a great trip next year. Cheers!

  11. Yatin says:

    I’ve hiked in hot summer of India, but when it comes to Grand Canyon it’s all together a different ball games. You need some balls to be out there on a long hike!Good Luck with our next hiking adventure!

  12. randyrebman says:

    A fantastic post of the hike Damian! For me the most difficult part about this hike was dealing with the stairs, especially on the decent. They weren’t so easy on the knees. One thing I was amazed was the lack of people at the campsite. Perhaps it had to do with the time of year we went?

  13. aandrusiak says:

    Is this ever cool

  14. bellesogni says:

    That was really interesting!
    The pics were wonderful and I like the one you used for the final.
    Thank you for sharing.

  15. What an adventure! Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  16. Thank you for sharing your adventure. Great photos. Connie

  17. Great post. Sounds like a great time despite or maybe because of the slight injuries and physical challenges. Glad your head was alright. Thanks for sharing

    • acomposing says:

      Hi Janelle- thanks. And I think you are right -in part- because of the non-serious injuries … added to the experience in the end (especially because head is fine).

  18. Cafe says:

    OMG you poor thing! 😦 You are a trooper!! Looks like you had a great time, thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  19. Congrats on the excursion looks like time spent was a great journey and the outcome a true experience~
    shine on

  20. nazarioartpainting says:

    Nice post. I love the first photo. I hope you all enjoyed.

  21. Rhianna says:

    Sounds painful and tiring, but most deserving of Freshly Pressed. Congratulations.

  22. dansolar says:

    Great story and photos, thanks, dan.

  23. annewhitaker says:

    Phew! And I thought walking in the Scottish hills in the rain was tough……many congratulations.

  24. wyominglife says:

    A truly amazing piece of this planet. My sister and I rode donkey’s down into the Canyon years ago. There were a few times I wished I was hiking it as they made the switch backs and part of you is momentarily suspended over the edge of the trail that’s carved into a vertical canyon wall.

    I’d love to hike down in and spend a day or two. What is the earliest month recommended for the trail you were on? Would it be a good idea to hike it in, say March or April?

  25. John Saddington says:

    Reblogged this on 8BIT.

  26. A wonderful tale well told. One of my fondest memories is of hiking the Grand Canyon. At that time the biggest fear was scorpions rather than rodents. Thanks for taking me back and congratulations on being freshly pressed.

    • acomposing says:

      Hi Queen of -I appreciate that. What a place. I was glad to have gotten down there for the trip. I did make sure to check my shoes each morning for any scorpion guests! Cheers.

  27. AlisaG says:

    Hi there – a great hike that we’ve done two years in a row now is the rim to rim – travel light, start either at the north rim and head back up bright angel or go south kaibab to bright angel (south to south rim) – what a beautiful hike. it’s an ass-kicker on the way out but you’ll feel proud of yourself! a great hike for october! here is our trip report from 2010 http://www.travelblog.org/North-America/United-States/Arizona/Grand-Canyon/blog-538106.html lessons learned in the canyon are sometimes hard-won nuggets of insight for sure. glad you survived it!

    • acomposing says:

      Hi Alisa -thanks for the share. That is impressive! Thanks for the recommendation for the fall! Cheers.

    • acomposing says:

      Hi Alisa -thanks for the share. That is impressive! Thanks for the recommendation for the fall! Cheers. Ps. I love the byline of your blog, “Candid Tales of Dragging our Kids to Wild Places”.

      • AlisaG says:

        thanks – they haven’t gone rim to rim yet but will some day! Maybe…or more likely they’ll grow up wanting to live in Manhattan. 🙂 They’re no strangers to high alpine craziness…our most recent adventure was certainly just that…

  28. olemike says:

    Wow – Great Post.

  29. isawsounds says:

    When we went camping up there last june. It was so cold at night!! I really want to try the hiking. But I think we have to have a permit or something to go out there. Did you guys have a guide? It would be nice to go out there with a guide and all. I want to try that someday.

    • acomposing says:

      Hi isawsounds -no guide, but I bet with one you’d learn a great deal about the locations in a short amount of time. You do need a permit for any overnight stays. Cheers!

  30. The last photo says it all! It looks like an amazing place to visit. The rockclimber in me is eyeing up the rock and drooling…

  31. renee says:

    Great post on the canyon! You got some pretty cool photos in. And thanks for including info at the bottom about planning your own trip.

  32. 52BrandNew says:

    Amazing pictures! I hiked to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon in June 2010. Hot, hot, hot, but well worth it!

  33. Rekindled my wanderlust and desire to get OUT of these four walls…thanks for the virtual fresh air.

  34. Hey this is Arnab from India… I loved your writing…. It is an an amazing photoessay on your hiking trip to the Great Canyons….. Would love to visit it some time later …. Hoping to see more of your work….

  35. Sounds like it was a great adventure! I know what you mean about hiking down often being harder than going up. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • acomposing says:

      Hi Jessica -I was surprised by that fact about down being physically more difficult. Wasn’t prepared for it.

      • I was also not prepared for it the first time I went on a tough hike. It may take less time but you’ll certainly feel it! hahaha Looking forward to hearing about your next adventure 🙂

  36. WHAT AN ADVENTURE! We went to the Grand Canyon, but didn’t have enough time to HIKE it. So I get to live vicariously trough your pics! Glad you only had a MINOR injury! And amazing photos – especially the LAST one, it made me laugh and smile – a great way to end the story with a snapshot of the scenery and a happy camper (errr – i mean hiker)!

    • acomposing says:

      Hi Zoetic -thanks. And that last picture of Nick sums up his personality too. Thanks for writing. And hope you get a chance to make the hike some time. Cheers!

  37. grayrose says:

    what a great story and pict… we have green canyon in Indonesia if u love to come anyway 🙂

  38. Amanda says:

    I am far too much a diva to go on a hike like this, but I certainly enjoyed reading about your adventure and looking at the pics. Thanks for sharing!

    P.S. The only serious hike I’ve ever done was Gros Morne Mountain in Newfoundland, Canada: http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/nl/grosmorne/activ/randonnee-hiking/mgm-gmm.aspx

    This is the hike that taught me how much I am not cut out for hiking, but the views of the fjord from the top were spectacular. For those who actually enjoy hiking, this is a great trip.

  39. smudasmuda says:

    2,480 feet of elevation in that heat is a nice accomplishment. Good work man, way to cover the trip. I may be doing all the highest peaks in New England this Summer.

  40. Kimbernator says:

    Love your post! I just hiked to Havasupai Falls in April!!

  41. aFrankAngle says:

    Outstanding photos of something I won’t be doing. Well done!

  42. mariflies says:

    I was interested in your post because I too learned a few things on my first hike to The Grand Canyon. But now, after seeing that you are also a teacher, I am really glad that I found your blog! Great writing and photos, looking forward to more.

    • acomposing says:

      Hi Mariflies -thanks for writing. Your a teacher and a coach! Congrats on graduation. And I hope the substitute teaching is going well so far this summer.

      • mariflies says:

        I’m a soon to be international teacher too 🙂 I really enjoyed your blog. I look forward to reading more!

      • acomposing says:

        Hi Mariflies -will you be teaching international students in the united states? or traveling abroad? My wife taught in Colombia for two years and had a phenomenal time. Best of luck!

      • mariflies says:

        Teaching abroad. I leave for Prague in September and then I’m planning to look for work in countries that perform well on the International tests in order to analyze methods and techniques that I can bring back to the US and apply to our ESL instruction.

      • acomposing says:

        Hi Mariflies -I have a teacher/friend that lived and taught in Prague for years. I’d be happy to put you in touch with her if interested. Sounds like amazing and important work. I am at NAU which has a big and growing Program in Intensive English with many Phd and MA students doing research in ESL. Not my field directly, but sometimes at Northern Arizona Univ. I feel surrounded by ESL teaching/research … good people … : )

      • mariflies says:

        I would love to get in contact with your friend. The more I look around me, the more I see how this research is exactly what I am supposed to do. I think I’m going to repost a blog I wrote right after I hiked the Grand Canyon 🙂 It really is an amazing experience and you’ve inspired me!

      • mariflies says:

        ps…how do I follow your blog but not this specific post? I am getting an email for every comment made on this post. I’m SUPER glad that it is so popular but it’s killing my email 😀

      • acomposing says:

        There should be a page on your site that allows you to moderate the number and types of notifications that you get. I am not sure how to direct you there, but it should be a relatively easy fix once you find it -click of a button.

  43. I have stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon at sunrise and have marveled at the vast expanse of beauty that is that place. I have always wondered what it would be like, the view from the bottom. And now I know. I am not physically able to make such a trek as injuries while serving in the military would preclude that. As a former physically active person, its sometimes challenging to have to settle for long walks on a relatively flat, or at most a gently sloping, path. Thank you for taking us all on your trek to the bottom. I for one enjoyed traveling along with you.

    • acomposing says:

      Hi Intuitive -what an amazing reply. Thank you for your service! And I hope you have a great memorial day. There isn’t a more important observance than that for our country. … Like you, standing on the rim of the canyon I had wondered what it would be like to get down to that narrow, barely visible band of the colorado river. It did not disappoint. I am glad to have been able to give you a glimpse of that journey that you valued. Thank you for writing …. Best, Damian

  44. keepnupwithj says:

    I have a friend that recently hiked the Grande Canyon and between hearing about that and reading your post I’m feeling very inspired to do this myself. Thank you for the look into your journey and all the tips!

    • acomposing says:

      Hello Keepnup -I hope to read/see a post from you about the journey. It is an amazing trip. Thanks for writing and enjoy the trip when you make it. It will not disappoint.

  45. triptracker says:

    I have been to the Canyon twice now but never really hiked it…..because I am betting the loop trails of less than 5 miles are not considered hiking it huh….glad you shared your experience. I have always wanted to go deeper into the Canyon

    • acomposing says:

      Hi Triptracker – I had always wanted to make that trip, wondered if I ever would and finally did. Call some good friends and go for it. It was one of the most difficult hikes I’ve made, but plenty of rewards along the way. Cheers!

  46. This is so awesome! Brave group!

  47. wow so beautiful Nature always inspired me

  48. This is completely awesome! I would love to do this myself.

  49. dinnerdiva1 says:

    Thanks for sharing your photos– looks like you had a great time.

  50. Jonathan says:

    It’s been over a decade since I hiked the Canyon. Your post and photos are brilliant! Just one more influence urging me to drive north and tie on the hiking boots. Thanks!

  51. Kim @ Wonderings says:

    What a great trip and some amazing memories!

  52. baki says:

    your post makes me want to hike for a hobby. i’ve been planning to join my brother in his trips for the longest time now. thank you very much for sharing that poem!


  53. Picture Pia says:

    We recently hiked to Havasu Falls — so I can identify (check out my posts “Heavenly Havasu Part I and II if you want) 🙂 Great photos!! 🙂

  54. Flav_Holman says:

    Amazing photos. Thanks for the tips, I can’t wait to visit the Grand Canyon.

  55. Birthday NYC says:

    Your pictures of the Grand Canyon are awesome, although the picture of your eye made me cringe a bit. I will say that going to the Grand Canyon is my dream, and your great pictures just made life here in NYC a bit more difficult for me – vacation, here I come! Also, thanks for the great tip about start times – I definitely would have been rolling out of bed way too late and suffering in the heat.

  56. Sounds like great fun, nice photos as well, have to do this at least once in my life!

  57. lijiujiu says:

    This is really a good work. I appreciate your efforts behind that. You are a brave men!
    Thanks for sharing.

  58. the hOOter says:

    What an awesome experience!
    Visited Grand Canyon during our honeymoon in Oct and it was indeed breathtaking and well worth the traveling.
    Am sure you guys had a wonderful time! 🙂

  59. wardenfree says:

    The Grand Canyon is so magnificent!
    Great hiking!
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!
    awesome post!

  60. valentinedee says:

    Loved this. Been to the Canyon several times. Each time it gets better.


  61. Truly amazing experience for you guys.Great insight, thanks.

  62. klrs09 says:

    The Grand Canyon is amazing. Been twice. Your blog and your photos certainly do it justice. Don’t know that I’d have the stamina to hike it, but I wouldn’t mind doing a rafting trip. Congrats on being FP’d.

  63. JPanda says:

    These are fantastic photos to go with your great post 😀

    The hiking looks awesome but being a city-boy that I am… I am a little timid to embark on such ‘adventures’ 😉

    • acomposing says:

      Hi JPanda -I understand completely. Even as someone that identifies as a regular hiker, etc. it was a helluva workout with plenty of opportunities for difficulty (as some of the pictures reveal). Still, worth every moment to get to that unique location in our world. Thanks for writing and … Cheers!

  64. Wmyour pictures are amazing and the experience must of been too

  65. norcalman says:

    Posted at every trailhead that I’ve ever been to on both north and south rims there is (or was) a sign warning hikers of the heat down below. These signs also go on to explain the importance of carrying enough water and getting an early start on the hike down.

    Perhaps you might want to try spending you time reading more and writing less.

    • acomposing says:

      Hi Norcal -how closely did you read the post? I (we) did carry enough water. And, although I did not address it in too much detail in this post, the best laid plans sometimes fail … getting out of Flagstaff was delayed that morning even while the intent was to start early(ier). No hike is perfect, but we were adequately prepared and aware of the information you cited. Beyond my relative surprise at your negative tone, I wanted to mention too that the photos on your blog are really beautiful.

      • norcalman says:

        Yes I did read your entire post and my contention was not about the water issues but rather the late start time. I’m sorry you took my reply to be negative as I was intending it to be informative in nature. Still, too many people do walk by those signs at the trailhead without paying much attention to them. Every year people find themselves in trouble because of it.That’s the only point I wish to stress here. Now be careful out there.

        BTW thanks for the kind words on the photography.

  66. It looked like you were in a war let alone a hike! Some simply brilliant pictures though, it looks sublime. Congratulations and heres to many more!

  67. S says:

    Y’all got some fine photos on this trip… interesting perspectives.

  68. How wonderful it must have been to leave your computer behind for a few days and concentrate on the physical rather than the cerebral. Your passing comment was not lost on me. I can relate. I am jealous. Primal, survival….. is good sometimes, no? Loved the post!

    • acomposing says:

      Hi Susan -thanks so much. It was so refreshing to adjust. Of course it is that balance that is hard to get right consistently -isn’t it? I suppose this was a “purging” of the (my) system and now I am back binging on the virtual (as essentially required by my job). That kind of exercise and movement really is great at shutting off the brain. People always talk about using more brain-power, but I think half the time the opposite is, in the end, just as useful/productive. Thanks for the note and cheers!

  69. I learnt a great deal from your article, however I think I may be able to assist you should you wish to travel that route again. I may be wrong but I’m fairly certain there is a road which one could use to drive round and with all your American cars having air conditioning I feel sure you would be a lot more comfortable. Now on to your satorial elegance, or indeed lack of it, I realise you were up against it from the point of the extreme heat but I would have thought it possible to have made a slightly better effort, T shirts, shorts, long socks and sandals is a questionable look at the best of times. Might I suggest for the future, a light weight linen suit coupled with a pair of stout leather brouges and a panama hat for protection from the blazing sun. Style aside, I commend you and you friends for your achievement which has motivated me to embark on a similar trip but as I live in England where the weather tends to be inclement most of the time I shall be walking to the pub sporting a traditional three piece tweed suit. Toodle pip.

    • acomposing says:

      Hi Diary or Joe … genius! And to think I left my fine linen suit hanging in my closet … never again. I think you’ve revolutionized hiking in America. I am waiting for your 6 part series re-make of Stephen Fry’s in america. I think with a full series video format, you’d have the proper media to better spread this proper vision of movement across the countryside. I will keep looking for that road you mentioned as I do always hate leaving my car in the parking lot to see something. Cheers!

  70. I enjoyed reading about your trip.

  71. This is a great post because you DO make it clear that this is a place of serious and considerable danger — in addition to astonishing beauty.

    In early June 1994 I hiked the south rim to the creek and back; like you, I left too late in the morning and at noon (!) was coming very close to overheating, even with lots of water. There was no shade at all and I was alone. I sat in the creek, in the shade, for a good 30 minutes just to cool down before climbing back up…8 hrs up after 4 hrs down.

    It is grueling but worth every single minute. I am dying to return and do it again, but probably in spring or fall. But people have no idea what they’re getting into sometimes. My pack straps were crusted white with the salt from my sweat.

    • acomposing says:

      Hi Broadside -that is such a great detail about the salt from your sweat crusted on your pack … and that is very brave, in my view, to have made such a journey on your own. Water really is king, life-affirming … Reminded me how easy it is to take the stuff that comes out of our faucets -cold, or hot, anytime we need it. Thanks for your post. Cheers.

  72. Jane says:

    Wow, what an awesome experience. I’ve been to the Canyon several times and loved the beauty and solitude, but I could have never endured what you did, especially when dealing with the canyon rats and mice. Big fear of rodents here! I’m sure it’s something you will always remember and feel proud to have accomplished. Congrats! Great pictures, too!

  73. torinn pope says:

    Now this is one trip that I have to try.

  74. very impressive if you just used your camera phone !!!

    • acomposing says:

      Hi Gabriel -my camera phone is excellent. For about half the photos it is my camera phone, the other half is from others on the trip with “real” cameras. But, I am always amazed at what camera phones can do these days. Cheers.

  75. Scott says:

    What a fascinating experience–I envy you! My parents visited the Grand Canyon once, though I’ve never been there yet. I am especially in awe of the photographs–it truly is unique in all the world! Beautiful!

  76. newsy1 says:

    My son and his family did this two years ago with three kids ages 8, 13 and 15. I thought they were nuts bringing such young kids even though they hike quite a bit. They stayed at the bottom in those cabin/barracks type things for 2 nights. My son had to carry the 8 year old girl quite a bit. They almost ran out of water, it was close. While they loved the experience my son said, he thinks once was enough–at least with kids. Your pictures are terrific. I have a bunch from them also,

    • acomposing says:

      Hi Newsy – kids are so resilient on such hikes … my parents took me out for extended camping trips as a youngster and they led to some of my strongest, best memories. I hope that is the same in this case. Wow, that is amazing though for your son to have to carry another kid! Glad they all made it safely.

  77. Wordwytch says:

    My dad was a park ranger at the Grand Canyon for 20 years. He spent much of his time early on hiking and repairing the Hermit trail with my mom. He said you could never carry enough water and that what hurts most people is underestimating the ability of the environment to kill you. Those were lessons he passed on to us. We hiked there as a family many times and then my sons hiked with my Dad. He always walked a slow steady pace and always ended up helping people up out of the Canyon. He retired at 70, and still hikes and climbs.

    I’m glad you learned to survive the Canyon and hope you have many pleasant journeys in the future.

  78. Jim Brennan says:

    Excellent blog. Everything you describe is right on the money, hydration, downhill hiking, nurishment, etc. Ironically, while you were hiking through the canyon, I was hiking the rim. I intended to descend the Bright Angel Trail, but was unprepared for what you described early in your narrative, the steep, loose rocky trail; did I mention dangerous. I wrote about the rim trail at http://rite2run.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/yikes/ It’s just as beautiful and some stretches just as hairy as those going down into the canyon. I’ll be prepared to hike into the canyon on my next visit. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • a composing says:

      Hi Jim -great photos and narrative with your post. I really enjoyed it. You captured the distance and decline of the trails. The thought of running it seems insane to me at least in those particularly steep portions. You were smart. To try to make time, or run on a trail you’d want to know it really well first I think … I was walking deliberately and with poles -even then was on full alert … Footfalls really are so unstable throughout. Anyway, great post and photos of your time there. Cheers!

  79. notadietstory says:

    It sounds like a wonderful adventure! 🙂 I’ve only hiked half that amount in the Grand Canyon and now inspired to go back and experience more.

  80. do you ever include water rafting as part of your adventure?

  81. will you be doing a similar trip every year?

  82. From the title, I thought this post would just be “Never hike the Grand Canyon! DON’T DO IT!”

  83. I’ve seen this place in a movie. keren!!! n_n

  84. Great blog post! Hiked down the Bright Angel Trail in mid-May ’06 and camped overnight at Phantom Ranch before hiking back up. It’s nice you got a day to explore and relax down at the bottom before returning to the rim. I wish we could have done that but we had a tight timeline exploring parks for 2 weeks out west. It was absolutely beautiful out there and I can’t wait to get back some day. I remember my legs being oh so tired! Good job.

  85. Awesome post. I lived in Arizona for a couple of years when I was little, and always remembered my parents talking about wanting to hike down the Grand Canyon. I also love that you included the poem–nature always inspires me to reflect and write.

  86. Claudia says:

    Love the story and the pictures (especially that last one!). I’m hoping to visit the Grand Canyon someday soon. This makes me want to do it sooner! 🙂

  87. What a great read and loved your pics! I hiked the Fish River Canyon in Namibia in 2010 ~ Loved every single day of being down in that canyon and reading your post took me right back there, the heat, the water, the distances and the humour to keep us sane! 🙂 Grand Canyon is # 128 on my Living To Do List ~ seeing this gets me excited all over again for upcoming adventures. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  88. Muy buenas y curiosas imagenes del Gran Cañon y gran historia.

  89. Michelle says:

    Ouch! Glad to hear you recovered. sounds like a great, if not challenging hike. would love to take my adult sons on something like this as a good way to see the grand canyon. Thanks for all the great tips and info.

  90. RalanEnterprisesLLC ELLAMENTAL says:


  91. Debra Colby-Conklin says:

    Great blog! Fantastic photos and great information.
    Having been to the Canyon several years ago as a vacationer I have a lot of admiration for you guys. My simple hike around the rim seems like childplay compared to this.

  92. iozeo says:

    Beautiful post. Very Inspirational

  93. Hevel Löwen says:

    Reblogged this on The Realm of Wonder and commented:
    I love it! ;P

  94. Reblogged this on Don Marcelo and commented:
    Grand Canyon… for first time

  95. geweyes says:

    My brother and I hiked rim to rim last October: perfect weather, we even encountered snow on the north rim. Great piece. Thanks!

  96. makais says:

    Reblogged this on Makais Blog and commented:
    great story from the Grand Canyon, thanks for sharing

  97. crimsondaisy says:

    Lovely! Didnt hike when I went there the first time and I cant wait to try it.

  98. bigdaddymc says:

    So beautiful. The one gripe I had with the Canyon was the excessive amount of “waste” left behind by the mules. Otherwise, it was simply amazing.

  99. Judy says:

    Late here! Came via the blog “Everything About Hiking”…where I saw your link. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! We just came from the Canyon…first visit to the south rim. Amazing!…had to keep putting my jaw back in place! Your hiking story and photos are wonderful, and document a great trip, full of memories. Thanks for sharing!

  100. walkerpod says:

    Geez, I thought doing the Bright Angel (in August) was bad, but that has water stops! I don’t see myself trying to get down only carrying water. Well done!

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