A Journey Outdoors Becomes a Journey Within
“A Journey Outdoors Becomes a Journey Within.”
These words came to me as I pondered and considered the ways I could best convey what I experienced at Grand Canyon National Park. The experience of hiking down the Southern Rim via the South Kaibab Trail of the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River and then back up the Grand Canyon via the Bright Angel Trail the next day was one I will never forget and vow to complete again.
My past articles for Chesterfield Lifestyle involve real estate investing and appropriately enough I went to Phoenix for a HomeVestors Annual Home Buying Convention this past December. Phoenix happens to be two hours from the Grand Canyon; I figured what better opportunity to experience what many might say is the greatest natural wonder in our country–if not in the world.
Honestly, I was nervous that I would have trouble hiking up from the Grand Canyon –and indeed I did though I made it. What I did not anticipate was the sense of accomplishment and empowerment I would feel by completing the journey and the breadth of experiences I would encounter along the way.
It all started when I found out there was a lodge at the bottom of the Grand Canyon called, Phantom Ranch, which is extremely famous among hikers and park visitors. It is common wisdom among park officials that a little over one percent of the visitors to Grand Canyon National Park actually get to the bottom of the Canyon. I can see why; it is a rugged hike–rugged and rewarding.
When I started researching everything about the trip, I was only able to reserve one space around the weekend I would be in town for the Home Buying Convention and so I did assuming I would go alone if need be. This was five months out–I told my business partner, Marius what I was planning to do and he told me he would like to go along so we called many times, to no avail, to reserve a room for him at Phantom Ranch. The week before we were planning to leave someone cancelled one spot and we were able to get Marius a room for a night at Phantom Ranch Lodge the same night I was staying.
The next step was to figure out which path to take. As we were hiking the Southern Rim we had two common choices, without obtaining a back country permit, the South Kaibab Trail and the Bright Angel Trail. The South Kaibab Trail was designed more recently; it was created to have beautiful views and follow a ridge down into the canyon. Needless to say it is the most beautiful and breathtaking path I have taken in my life. You have to catch a bus from Grand Canyon Village and it will take you to Yaki Point which sits at 7,200 feet above sea level. From here you hike 7.1 miles down beautiful switchbacks and trails to an elevation of 2,420 feet above sea level at the Colorado River.
At the bottom of the Grand Canyon you can choose to obtain a back country permit and camp near the Phantom Ranch or you can try to reserve a room or a cabin if you register very far in advance. I have some words of advice and caution for you. We went in December and I drank a lot of water in fact I actually drank some of Marius’s water on the way down…It’s important to note that the Southern Kaibab is beautiful but it is also known for not having water most of the year along the trail so you must plan accordingly. Another piece of advice is that eating a big breakfast does not mean you will have plenty of electrolytes right away. Bring plenty of Gatorade, Gatorade gum, bananas and anything else you can think of with electrolytes to keep your trip enjoyable, safe and fun.
The next day, we took the Bright Angel Trail which was created by miners in 1891. The Bright Angel Trail is 9.9 miles from Phantom Ranch to Grand Canyon Village at the top and will take you from an elevation of 2,480 feet above sea level to 6,860 feet above sea level. On the way up, I was breathing so hard at times I had to lay down and stretch my feet out and drink Gatorade. I made it up and in fact I felt so exhilarated by the experience I actually hiked another four to five miles once we arrived at the top. I am still thankful to my business partner, Marius, for helping me along the way.
Half way up the Bright Angel Trail you will run into Indian Gardens which is an old seasonal settlement for the Havasupai Indians who helped to create the top part of the Bright Angel Trail. Indian Gardens boasts a natural spring and a campground for visitors who obtain the proper permits from the park service.
The experience of being in the Grand Canyon–the energy that pervades the entire place–it washes your mind clean and just brings you back to a sense of oneness with nature. Additionally, the journey made me reflect on my life and the interesting people in it.
As Marius and I hiked down the Grand Canyon we ran into some interesting “characters” along the way, including a lady who hikes the entire Grand Canyon hike to the bottom and up, alone, in order to train for the Son Doong Cave hike in Vietnam. Try Googling that if you want an interesting read.
One other person who really sticks out was a 72 year old man named Jack. Jack was a nice guy and I asked him if this was his first time hiking the Grand Canyon. He told me, “No, I try to do this every month.” Turns out Jack is in the Guinness book of world records for being the first man ever to reach the highest point in all 50 states. Being around amazing people like the training woman on the way down and Jack, who we met at the bottom and Marius, who is a true friend and tough as nails, made me realize how lucky I am to have met these people in my lifetime. Then you step back and realize how lucky we all are to have our family, our friends and the incredible opportunities we all have in this country. Sometimes it takes a spectacular journey in the outdoors to stimulate a journey within.