When I was a child and a plan suddenly changed my mother said, “Just think of it as an adventure!” I appreciate her carefree spirit more now that I am older and have experienced enough unexpected adventures, like the one we had while hiking near the South Rim. According to officials at the Grand Canyon National Park, about five million people visit the famous destination every year. Not everyone can say they had a true adventure there, though.
By the time my fiancé and I made it to the South Rim, we had hiked close to 100 miles at various national parks and forests this past summer. So, we felt confident that we could handle a longer trail that day. We headed to the main ranger station and asked a helpful park official for recommendations on hikes.
The park expert recommended the South Kaibab Trail, which starts at the south of Yaki
Point and has an elevation of 7,260 feet. The endless gorgeous views, only seen from this trail, easily distracted us and made me forget how far we went down toward the river. Rangers said this was very common on the South Kaibab Trail.
It is also easy to forget how steep the hike is when you are on your way down, but we felt it as soon as we headed back up. Rangers recommend giving uphill hikers the right of way since it takes about twice as long to hike back up as it does to go down.
There are several stopping points along the trail, each recommended for the hiker’s skill level and time available. We hiked to Cedar Ridge because rangers recommend not walking past this point if you are visiting during the summer months. We saw mules resting at Cedar Ridge before they headed back up the trail with visitors. The spot is equipped with restrooms and an expansive area to take in the view, but no water.
While our ranger gave us information on the hike, she did not warn us that a small storm was headed to the area. About 10 minutes into our hike back up the trail it started raining, and red sand began blowing everywhere. My fiancé was in the U.S. Army, so we had packed various supplies, including ponchos. I thought, “This is no big deal. If the rain gets heavier, I can always put on the poncho.” I packed my camera in my CamelBak, a backpack that has room for supplies and a big pouch for water. Then came the 30 miles per hour winds, sleet, and hail, which rendered my poncho useless.
I had already complained about the steep incline on the way up, but when the hail started hitting me in the face, the true adventure began. I found myself silent and moving faster than I had all summer. “I’m totally not in shape for this. How long is this trail? What if we slip and fall off the cliff?” The panicked thoughts took over my brain as we passed families with young children and older relatives under the few rocks that provided shelter.
The storm moved quickly, and we slowed down to a manageable pace. We made it to the top and laughed with fellow hikers as we all talked about having no idea beforehand that a storm would move through the area. We rung out our wet clothes and socks before finding a shorter, flatter trail back to the visitor center. “Why take the shuttle bus back when we can clearly handle a few more miles,” I thought. We hiked 11 miles that day.
The experience reminded me of Patagonia CEO and environmentalist Yvon Chouinard, who once said, “The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong – that’s when adventure starts.”
Have you been to the Grand Canyon? Did you visit the North Rim or just the South Rim? What were your favorite spots?