During the expansion of America, if you wanted to find riches, you were told to go west. Though a little late, I followed that adage. And the West blew me away.
If you haven’t gone west, you’re missing out. The American West is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and within it lies one of the world’s greatest wonders—the Grand Canyon.
Of the national park’s five million annual visitors, 99% go to the Grand Canyon for less than four hours and only spend 20 minutes at the actual canyon, 1% actually walk down some distance, and about half of that percent hike down to the bottom. I’m in a small, small minority of adventurers who have gone to its base.
Hiking down the Grand Canyon (and back up) is really hard, but it’s much more visually rewarding than just looking over the rim.
Arriving at the canyon, my first thought was, “Holy $%%^! Look at this!” I’ve seen the pictures and heard the stories, but nothing could have prepared me for just how huge it was. In front of me, stretching far and wide, were red and orange peaks and valleys, jutting and falling into the ground. I took in the view, trapped by its magnificence, before I broke free and began to hike down.
And I’m really glad I did. Hiking down, you see all the desert animals, the intricacies of the ridges, the mountains, the streams, and the cliffs that aren’t noticeable from above. You see the color changes in the rocks up close, touching them, and enjoy the peacefulness of this place away from the crowds. I immediately knew this was somewhere I wanted to see again, and I regretted only spending one night.
If you ever visit the Grand Canyon, hike down—even if just for a few hours. You’ll get to experience the canyon in detail, and it gives you way more perspective than just looking out over the rim and going “ooohh” and “ahhh.”
You’ll see the Colorado River up close as it cuts its way through the canyon, flowing fast and furiously as it sketches one of nature’s greatest paintings. The river itself is cold and rapid. Don’t get caught in the current!
From the bottom, the canyon takes on a totally new shape. The vast canyon disappears, and all you can see is this little valley the river has cut. I spent the night at the camp down there, hiking around the river, talking to hikers, listening to a ranger talk, and trying to avoid the scorpions.
In the morning I awoke, my legs already sore. Yet I was still in for another 9.6-mile hike back up the canyon through hot, steep terrain. Hiking up was a lot tougher than hiking down, even when taking the flatter Bright Angel trail.
My companion and I moved slowly in order to take advantage of the shade, to visit the off-trail waterfalls others pointed us to, and to talk with other hikers. The hardest part for me was the steep ascent back up—the high altitude and steep rock faces made for a challenge.
After six hours of hiking, we made it out. Hiking the Grand Canyon was one of my major life goals, and I’d done it. Once over the top, all the pain, fatigue, and heat disappeared, giving way to sheer joy. I had mastered the canyon. I had done what few do. I was satisfied. I felt like Rocky after he climbed those stairs.
I celebrated by watching the sunset over the canyon. There were tons of people taking pictures, but I mostly just sat back and enjoyed the light show reflecting off the canyon walls. A relaxing end to a wonderful two days.
For more information on the United States, visit my country and city guides to US travel.