Sunday, November 21, 2021

Down And Up Again: A Grand Canyon Holiday – Up

I wake up early – 0300 – far earlier than I need to. I am not really sure why, whether it is others getting ready or my own anticipation of reaching the top of the Canyon, something I both long for and loathe at this point.

We leave in two waves: the first leave somewhere around 0415; the rest of us – after a “leisurely” breakfast and packing, leaving at 0515 in the morning pre-darkness. Only the stars mark our passing as we move out. We have 9 miles and 4650 feet in elevation gain to cover today.

We hike for the first 90 minutes or so with headlamps, something I have never done before. It does not seem to slow us down much, although one does not have a real sense of what the landscape is like around us. We know, of course – we have seen it for the past three days and know that canyon walls are dropping on either side of us as we continue on – but this is only hinted at in the pre-sunrise.

By the time we can pull the headlamps off, we have made considerable progress up the Tanner Trail. The wind blows coldly when we stop for breaks, but we press on without putting on more clothing – 2 minutes into the climb leaves everyone heated and with sweat.

We stop for an early lunch of leftovers: beef jerky, almonds, craisins, Fritos, carrots, and anything else that we need to consume. Craisins and Fritos, it turns out, make for an excellent combination of salty and sweetness something to bear in mind.

The Desert Tower has continued to draw closer as we have continued to make progress up the Canyon. We begin to execute a flanking move as we turn to the right and continue to traverse in a roughly eastern direction. We are headed for and cross over the saddle (between two canyons) of the 75 Mile Canyon we visited two days before.

Which brings us to the Red Wall ascent.

We descended the Red Wall 3 days ago. Now, we have to go up. Our guides have prepared us for this verbally: it is a two mile climb out of the Canyon. It has switchbacks, but is more or less up and up and up. The time of traversing has ended.

There are two light piles of rock that sit at the top of the Red Wall ascent. These are essentially the Canyon Rim, the target we are shooting for.

We start up.

We fairly quickly break into smaller groups, those that can go faster do so, while the slower ones (of which I am one) fall into a second group. It can be discouraging to look up and see how much higher and farther others are ahead of you; when they all finally disappear I am strangely relieved.

The hike becomes an endurance course: switchback, switchback. Stop to look at the scenery, which turns into to a rest break. Switchback, climb, stop. As I continue up, the breaks get closer and closer together.

Finally, I begin to hit the trees. This means topsoil, which means the Rim must be fairly close – although not too close, as I cannot see it.

Switchback, rest, switchback, climb.

Then, suddenly, the path largely levels out and there is no more “up” to be had, just a path leading out to the trail head. My time, as I find out later, was 7.5 hours from the Colorado to the trail head. That number surprises me.

As we come out and cheer each other, we go back to the van which one of the earlier members out had gone and procured. We celebrate with a cold beer (cold just by the outside weather) and additional snacks. I figure I have burned a million calories or some other ridiculous number, and have more snacks.

We stop and rest and flip our phones on to notify folks that we have arrived and the edge of the parking lot. I observe several cars of people pull up to park, get out, look at the sign or maybe over the edge, then get back in and drive away. There is no conversation, no apparent drinking in of the Canyon’s beauty. It is a tick mark to check on the “I have seen” list.

Do not judge too deeply, my brother in law suggests. When I came here in February, I did exactly the same thing.

Two groups were at the same lookout. One group saw the Grand Canyon; the other group experienced the Grand Canyon. The gulf between the two is immeasurable.


  1. Your last paragraph says so much. I think about how it applies to life in general. Most folks are just passing through on their way to some hoped for future, but a few are actually experiencing it.

    1. Leigh, that is a very profound statement (much more profound that I had put it). In a way, modern culture encourages this: we are to sip of each and every little thing, instead of dwelling more deeply on them.

  2. Anonymous4:06 AM

    Truth there

    Life sucks above the Rim.

    1. It is amazing how much no InterWeb and 100% focus on what you are doing (you have to, to be safe) completely simplifies life. It is a practice I should engage in more often.

  3. Again, congratulations, TB.
    And thanks for sharing your great pictures.
    You all be safe and God bless.

  4. Hi T.B.
    I heartily agree with yours and Leigh's sentiment upon experiencing life and not just passing through.

    1. Friend John! So glad to hear from you! Glad to see you are still blogging. Link added over to the right.

      Experiencing instead of passing through is something I need to get better at.

    2. Only just began blogging again my friend due to snapping my blasted collar bone, but have the blog bug once again and thinks I'll be here awhile now.

      tis a lesson for us all to experience life more m'thinks

    3. Ugh. Sorry to hear about the collar bone, but terribly happy you will be writing again.

      We all do indeed need to experience more life.

  5. Great pictures, great writing.

    1. Thank you very much John! I enjoy your blog and your very clever memes, so it means a lot!

  6. Anonymous4:01 AM

    Thanks for the description of your hike through the Canyon. I'm sure the memories of your trip will be far more vivid due to the physical effort, sleeping through and descents / climbs.

    Fritos also have enough oil in them to be lit as a fire starter. Open flame, not spark rod will gain you some time to pile your tinder onto. You probably already knew that but goes to show food can be consumed in several ways.

    Enjoyed reading the posts.

    1. I had not thought of that, but that is a good point - I suspect much like learning, the more inputs one uses for the data (writing, speaking, memorizing) the more the information thinks in.

      I had no idea about Fritos as a fire starter, so that is pretty neat - except on behalf of my arteries, which find that fact not so neat.

      Thank you very much for taking the time to comment and stopping by.

  7. Congrats! If you wish to deepen that gulf between you and the rim sightseers, I highly recommend spending a month in a dory boat going down the river.

    1. Ed, that sounds like a very interesting proposition, although I will have mostly likely have to delay until I have a job (or lack of one) that allows me to take a month off at a stretch.


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