I’m Going to the Grand Canyon!

Grand Canyon
Photo courtesy of Stuart Seeger via Flickr.

In just a few days, I’ll be boarding a plane to Phoenix to kick off my first trip ever to Arizona (state number 24 for me!) and my first trip to the Grand Canyon. Of course, if you know me at all, you know I couldn’t settle for a simple drive-by of the canyon, stopping only for a few pictures before hopping back on a giant tour bus. No, I am going all in – I’m doing a four day, three-night “rim-to-rim” hike in the canyon with Wildland Trekking Company. I chose Wildland because they offered small group hikes at the right price and their responsiveness to my questions prior to booking was impressive. They also mentioned right on their website that they could accommodate gluten free diets and after I booked, someone called me to confirm my dietary requirements, which was very reassuring.

Anyway, here is a little preview of what will be a six day trip:

Friday: I arrive in Phoenix close to midnight and crash at a hotel not far from the airport.

Saturday: I take a shuttle bus from Phoenix to Flagstaff, arriving in Flagstaff just after 10:00 a.m. After checking into my hotel, I’ll have an afternoon to explore before meeting my trekking group for an orientation meeting at 5:00 p.m. The group will be small – just six people, including our guide. As of right now, I know nothing about them, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that we get along! More than anything, I hope they approach trekking the same way I do, which is taking my time to enjoy the scenery and taking a lot of photographs rather than race my way to the next campground.

Sunday: I’ll get picked up from my hotel bright and early for the four-hour drive to the north rim of the canyon. We will start our hike around 8,000 feet in elevation and head down nearly seven miles to the Cottonwood Campground. Along the way, we’ll go through a mixed conifer forest and a semi-arid desert environment and pass the Roaring Springs, a dramatic series of waterfalls across from the trail.

Monday: The trail should flatten out a bit as we will cover another seven miles while descending only 1,600 feet (compared to more than 4,000 feet on Sunday). Our destination will be the Bright Angel Campground at the bottom of the canyon.

Tuesday: Time to head back up! We will follow the Bright Angel Trail along the Colorado River to Garden Creek and then up to the Indian Garden Campground. After settling in at camp, we’ll take a hike to Plateau Point to watch the sun set. Our mileage will only be 4.5 miles, but of course we’ll be going up, not down!

Wednesday: Another five miles and 3,000 feet up and we’ll be at the south rim and the end of the trek. An hour and a half drive back to Flagstaff will take me back to my hotel for a much-needed shower! We should arrive by early afternoon, so if I am not too exhausted, I’ll have some more time to check out Flagstaff.

Thursday: The journey home will be long as I’ll take a morning shuttle from Flagstaff to Phoenix and then catch my flight back to Chicago.

While this trek is quite short compared to my adventure in the Himalayas last October, it still makes me a bit nervous. Okay, maybe a lot nervous. For one, I have to carry a big backpack for the entire trek, something I have never done in the past. When I hiked the Inca Trail, we had porters and when I hiked in the Himalayas, we used dzokyos (yak-like animals). There is a huge difference between carrying a day pack that’s about 25 liters and a full backpack that is closer to 65 liters. And while I am generally in good shape, the last two weeks have been so busy at work that I got way off schedule with my training and my diet has suffered as well. Right now, I feel fairly exhausted and have no idea when I will catch up on sleep before starting the trek.

I am also in quandary about what to pack – temperatures could range from quite chilly to quite hot so packing the right layers will be crucial, without taking up too much space. I am also not used to the heat after this chilly Chicago spring so my body will not be acclimated if the temperatures soar much higher than 80.

Despite my nerves, though, I am quite excited. I can’t even imagine how beautiful the views will be and I am looking forward to taking some of the tips and techniques I learned during my photography trek in Nepal and putting them into play in the Grand Canyon. I am also looking forward to dropping offline for a few days. I am so over connected all the time, to be without internet or even cell service for a couple days should be a welcome treat. Plus, visiting the Grand Canyon is the first thing that I will be checking off of my 14 Things Before 40 list!

Have you hiked in the Grand Canyon? Do you have any tips for me?


9 thoughts on “I’m Going to the Grand Canyon!”

  1. So awesome!! I am from Phoenix, and reading this post makes me miss home SO much… I have been living in Korea for 9 months now teaching ENglish- and it’s great out here!

    Have fun in the valley of the sun and the Grand Canyon 🙂

  2. How wonderful! One of my best friends lives now in Phoenix and posts amazing photos of the Grand Canyon all the time. I am sure you will love it! Please share tons of photos and have lots of fun!

  3. That is so great to hear they can accommodate your gluten-free diet. (Note to self!) Have an awesome time. The first time I saw the Grand Canyon I was in complete awe! Enjoy every moment.

  4. That’s great news! I was talking about the Grand Canyon with my grandparents just a few weeks ago and they said it was their highlight of their trip to the States over a decade ago.

    I’ve never really been a huge desire to go, but the more I see of the States the more I wanna go!

  5. You really won’t need all that many layers as it’s already getting hot in the bottom of the canyon. You could even get by without a tent, just a sleeping pad and bag. I usually hike it with 22-25 pounds.

    1. I won’t have much of a choice – I am going with a group and we’re expected to each carry a share of the group’s supplies, including food, tents, etc. It may be getting hot at the bottom, but I’ve also heard it can get quite cool at night.

  6. Ahh, too bad you don’t spend more time in PHX! We have a great, albeit small, group of travel bloggers here and always love to welcome any traveler coming to town, maybe next time?

  7. Looks super exciting to me. I would be nervous about the backpack also, not going to lie but the overall excitement of this adventure would color my vision. I hope you enjoy this trip. When I went to Vegas a while ago the only thing I wanted to see was the Canyon but do to time constraints I could not fit it in. Instead I had to suffer with lame and very boring Vegas. For the life of me, I cannot understand the facination with that place but that is me. I thought it sucked but my friend loved it. I could not wait to leave and would look longingly at the red mountains off in the distance wishing I was there instead. I will get there but in the meantime, I will live vicariously through you. 🙂

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