Grand Canyon

Survive a Grand Canyon rim-to-rim hike

A rim-to-rim hike in the Grand Canyon is not to be taken lightly.

Every wild place disguised as a national park seems to bring out the collective poor decision making skills of the people who visit.

And while many of them make it out alive, this hike can be deadly if not planned properly.

We hiked the classic route from the South Rim to the North Rim along the South Kaibab and North Kaibab trails, for a total of 20.9 miles.  The mileage may be manageable. The conditions, however, are what you need to be concerned with.

What makes hiking the Grand Canyon different from any other national park?

For starters, it’s hot.  Unbearably hot. Midday summer temperatures soar well past 100°F.

There are dozens of heat related warning signs in several languages along any given trail basically saying you will die if you do not take the appropriate precautions.

Sadly, people do die every year simply because they were not prepared.

“I totally regret not studying a foreign language in high school right now.”

You’re asking for trouble when you combine an unforgiving desert environment with steep, rugged terrain and an ill-prepared hiker.

Of course, there are a few steps you can take to enjoy your rim-to-rim trip. Many successful hikers have gone before you. Follow their lead.

WATER/FOOD

You need to stay hydrated, obviously. Plan on drinking at least one gallon per day. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty. Drink water at regularly scheduled intervals. Know where water is available (for the most part, it’s not).

You’ll be amazed how many dehydrated zombies you’ll encounter deep in the canyon with only a small water bottle in hand.

Keep in mind that drinking too much water can cause hyponatremia.

To prevent hyponatremia, eat plenty of salty snacks and drink sports beverages containing electrolytes. We carried one small container of powdered Gatorade to mix with our water.

Forget about your diet. It’s no fun, anyway. Your body will require a ton of fuel for this trip, so load up as often as you can.

Warning: Don’t be an idiot.

PLANNING

Getting to the bottom is optional. Getting to the top is mandatory. Give this concept serious thought.

Once you reach the bottom, you are essentially at the mercy of the canyon. You must hike out. Chances are slim the park service will call in a helicopter unless you really are close to dying.

Hiking in (that is to say, going downhill) is almost more challenging than hiking out. Your knees and ankles will be completely shot by the time you reach the Colorado River. Consider using trekking poles to alleviate pressure on your joints.

Take your time, and rest often. This is not the place to be an overzealous macho power walker. Listen to what your body is telling you.

Most importantly, hike within your abilities, and do so with a few good friends. An inexperienced solo hiker will probably be beat down, Grand Canyon style.

No matter what you do, the terrain here will kick your ass. Always keep this fact in mind.

CONCLUSION

People routinely underestimate the Grand Canyon. And they die. Simple enough.

It all boils down to respect for the canyon.

Know that for the numerous hardships and twists and turns of a rim-to-rim hike, you will be rewarded with nonstop awe-inspiring scenery. Highly recommended.

Enjoy your walk.

Room with a view.

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5 National Parks you should visit this summer

I just did the math. And correct me if I’m wrong. But let’s say you take 84 million acres and multiply it by 49 (states, excluding Delaware). You’d get 4,116,000,000 acres of National Park.

Over 4 billion acres set aside for your endless leisure, provided by your friend Uncle Sam, perhaps the last productive, creative decision he made all those years ago. Please, enjoy it while it lasts.

Now let’s say you have a respectable amount of time blocked off for your summer. Great. You have some National Park roaming to do.

You might have your favorites, and for good reason. And what I’d like to do here is have you share those reasons.

In the meantime, I’ll tell you about my own personal favorites, five fantastic National Parks you should now add to your “Must See This Summer” list.

1. Joshua Tree National Park

The  geological features at Joshua Tree are what you might expect on a moonscape. Only here you have the blazing hot desert sun mercilessly beating down on you. And lots of bizarre vegetation designed to attack you. Paradise in hell’s inferno.

Some say Joshua trees are straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. I can see that. To me, Joshua Trees (and every other plant species in this part of the Mojave and Colorado deserts) are straight out of a classic Ralph Steadman sketch: frantic, cruel, hilarious, dramatic.

Weirdness abounds at JTree.

Spring wildflowers bloom with reckless abandon if fall and winter rains are sufficient. Timing is everything.

And those geological features? The National Park Service says it best:

“Arroyos, playas, alluvial fans, bajadas, pediments, desert varnish, granites, aplite, and gneiss interact to form a giant mosaic of immense beauty and complexity.”

2. Grand Canyon National Park

My Grand Canyon advice to you: Go below the rim.

That’s right. An absurd amount of people never venture below the rim, preferring to only peer into the astonishingly deep “big hole in the ground.”

This is not the way you “do” the Grand Canyon.  Where you want to be is in the canyon, doing stuff like rim-to-rim hikes or 28-day raft trips.

Once you’re on the floor looking up, you’ll know what I mean.

Layers upon layers upon layers.

3. Yellowstone National Park

When I first visited Yellowstone National Park as a lad, it seemed I was on a different planet. Grizzlies, buffalo, towering waterfalls, spouting geysers. What the hell is this wild place!?

The vast majority of visitors don’t stray too far from their cars (as cute, cuddly grizzlies dance in the back of their minds). I too am guilty of this sin. I need to work on that.

4. Sequoia National Park

Part of why our National Parks are so special is because they make us feel like tiny, little specks of nothings.

The moment you stand next to a giant sequoia is the moment you realize how small and insignificant you are.

Sequoia groves are often shrouded in a thick fog, adding a mysterious element to your experience. You never know what’s hanging out around the next corner.

5. Yosemite National Park

Maybe my picks weren’t the diverse array of states you were hoping for, as the California Republic claimed three out of five spots. But I think you can agree that Yosemite is like the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory of the great outdoors, minus the creepy little orange guys.

Yosemite from above. Note the distinct gathering of Oompa-Loompas in the lower left hand corner.

Waterfalls gush over majestic granite cliffs and domes with what could be pure chocolate for all I know. Gene Wilder himself is even known to paddle the Merced River in a gondola made of candy.

Surely you’ve thought of your five favorite National Parks by now. Do share.