Friday, June 13, 2014

South Kaibab Trail at the Grand Canyon



I have been wanting to hike the Grand Canyon for a long time, but when we took a family sight-seeing trip there this spring break it became less "I want to" and more "I'm going to". Well, last weekend I did it - my brother and I hiked down, and then back up, the South Kaibab Trail, in the same day. It was an awesome experience. Some thoughts below, in no particular order:
  • The vastness and the beauty of the Grand Canyon is un-explainable. Pictures don't do it justice - it's one of those things that you need to see with your own eyes.
  • It was 38 degrees at the south rim at 4:45 am, and over 100 degrees at the bottom (the high at Phantom Ranch was 106 that afternoon). That's a huge temperature swing - if I do this hike again next year it'll be in May or even April.
  • The hike has 4 different sections - Rim to Cedar Ridge; Cedar Ridge to Skeleton Point; Skeleton Point to Junction / Tip-Off; and Tip-Off to Bridge​ / Canyon Floor​. Each section is similar to hiking Camelback Mountain or Squaw Peak in Phoenix.
  • The trail is well-maintained, so the hike isn't technically difficult, but it is a long, long, steep, staircase-type of climb. Did I mention it was long? Going down, on the other hand, was surprisingly easy; we got to the bottom without exerting too much energy.
  • The approach to the canyon is unlike any other climb you'll do. There isn't any anticipation factor from seeing the mountain in the distance, which keeps getting bigger as you get closer. With the Grand Canyon, you're driving across a desert plateau, and then suddenly the earth simply ends - and you're there.
  • The sense of accomplishment is more pronounced then most other hikes as well, because you can see the trail below you (and where you just were not too long ago) very clearly. It's amazing how fast you ascend, yet also how long it takes.
  • As for training, I did a lot of trail running, for 60-90 minutes at a time, on and around the local mountains and preserves. Next year I will incorporate the revolving staircase in the gym into my training as well.

Photos

South Kaibab Trailhead, 5:10am



South Rim at dawn. (the smoke in the canyon is from a wildfire burning on the North Rim.)



An eagle soars over the canyon at sunrise



Early in the hike. (I can tell because we still look fresh and clean!)



After crossing the black suspension bridge



Cooling off in the Colorado River. (the water was very cold!)



Finished! The ice-cold Coke and turkey sandwich waiting for me at the car never tasted so good.



If you've never been to the Grand Canyon, go. It's a must see. And even if you're not up for hiking down to the bottom (and back up), it's worth the effort to hike down 30 minutes or so - the views are spectacular.

-Chris Butterworth

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