Welcome to the fourth — and final — installment of our Grand Canyon backpacking posts. (I do plan on writing a post or two about Colorado so you still get some more Grand Vacation stories, whether you like it or not!)
Before we dive back in, do you need to catch up? Click below to find the three previous posts I’ve written about our North Rim Grand Canyon backpacking adventure.
Even though we were woken up at some awful hour (maybe 5 a.m. — it was still dark), I enjoyed the sleeping atmosphere Surprise Valley provided best out of all the nights we slept in the canyon. It wasn’t too hot and it wasn’t too cold.
We rose early because we had a big day ahead of us — 9 miles and an elevation gain of 3,200 ft. We were making the final push out of the canyon and it was going to be bittersweet. I just knew it.
As we had done the two days before, we broke camp, ate breakfast (granola with milk made with powder the night before), and started the ascent.
The canyon is particularly beautiful in the morning. The pinks and oranges found in the sunsets reappear in the sunrises.
The heat of the day hadn’t arrived yet, so we thoroughly enjoyed the coolness of the morning.
Our group as a whole was a quick hiking group. We had already made it back to the Esplanade (the flattest part of the canyon we walked on) by midmorning.
Because Day 4 was all about getting out of the canyon, we didn’t have any fun destinations to look forward to. We mainly retraced our route that we did the first day (only, you know, backwards this time around). We got to take lots of breaks though, which was greatly appreciated, and we continued to take pictures to savor our last hours in the canyon.
In order to get to our lunch spot, we had to complete the “50 Switchbacks.” Dun dun dun. They weren’t too bad going down the first day, but they were a whole ‘nother story going back up. This was another section of the hike where I had to put my game face on.
To give us a boost of energy for the switchbacks, the guides handed out Jolly Ranchers for some quick sugar. That’s one of the things I love about hiking and backpacking: you are highly encouraged to eat fatty, salty, and sweet foods (all the stuff you’re urged not to in real life) to provide your body with the energy to continue on and to replenish what you’re burning.
With all this talk about switchbacks, I suppose I should tell you what switchbacks are exactly. Well, it’s when the trail follows a zigzag pattern on a steep incline. It makes it easier on the hiker (and the land) instead of walking straight up.
The switchbacks were grueling. The task quickly became simply put one foot in front of the other.
After many so-slow-I-was-almost-shuffling steps, I joined the rest of the group at the lunch spot — the inset rock that had the great view of the canyon that we stopped at for our first break on Day 1.
I wanted the lunch break to last way longer than it did. I was happy to sit and rest and put off the inevitable last final push out of the canyon. But alas, we had to continue on. The next place we would stop would be on the trail we had started on at the very beginning of the trip.
A stomach ache prevented me from truly enjoying the last hour or two, but it gave me another reason to slow down and take what I could in (as if I really needed one). It was amazing to look out across the canyon to see how far we’d come. The trail was so narrow that you couldn’t see it from above. It was as if we had forged our way the whole time — all 30 miles of it. Todd and Tom pointed our landmarks (where we stayed the first night, etc.). I had only been focusing on following the group that I didn’t pay attention to where we were in the grand scheme of things each day. It was pretty spectacular to look at how far we’d come.
Drat. Now I’m starting to get emotional as I type this up, just as I thought I would.
Making it back to the top of the North Rim was a huge victory. As each member made it to the top, they would stop and cheer on those of us who were still making the trek up to join them.
Five million people visit the Grand Canyon each year. Ninety percent of them visit the South Rim and see the canyon from their car or the park shuttle bus. The other 10% of the visitors see the canyon from the North Rim. And of that 10%, only 1% actually hike down into the canyon from the North Rim.
We saw the Grand Canyon in a way that the majority of visitors never will. Coupling that fact along with the incredible experience we had, it was the trip of a lifetime.
After taking it in for a moment, I realized we still had a little ways to go to get to the trail marker and the cars. Twenty minutes or so later we made it to the Bill Hall trail marker. Bill Hall was a park ranger who gave his life in the line of duty for the safety of park visitors at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Now it was time for some celebratory photos!
I was so tired and ready to collapse in the car, but boy did it feel great to stand there and share this moment with the whole group. We did it! We hiked 30 miles together — along the river, climbing rocks, and lending a hand when anyone needed it. We didn’t have a single argument. I was thankful to be a part of a group that got along so well!
Although we had been together nonstop for 4 days, we didn’t want to completely go our separate ways just yet, so we planned to meet up later that night for dinner. After we all had a much-deserved shower, we met up at Rockin’ V back in Kanab for dinner — even Tom and Todd joined us! Did I mention how much I enjoyed this group? Well, I really liked them. I couldn’t ask to spend my time in the Grand Canyon with a better group of people. It was wonderful to chat a bit longer and, of course, friend each other on Facebook.
I went to bed that night feeling completely content. I had gained a new, fresh perspective on life.
I felt like a badass. If I could conquer this Grand Canyon hike, then I could do most anything. It was time to set some bigger goals, but also get down to the simple things in life. It’s about balance. David and I are way too busy and it has got to stop. We shouldn’t have to drive 1,500 miles to spend some quality time together. It hit me hard that I really need to start saying no. We don’t have to go to every event. It’s our life and we don’t need to continually run ourselves into the ground. It’s not worth it.
I continually put others before myself (and sometimes David). I needed to make time for me and I needed to make time for David (and the house, if I’m being honest). It’s time to start being selfish, so that’s what David and I have been attempting to do since we’ve been back. It’s easy to fall back into old habits, so it’s been a bit of a struggle and we’ve already had to remind ourselves of what path we need to get on.
So if I decline an event or block off a whole weekend for just David and I, I ask for your understanding. Both of us what more me time and more together time. We’re trying to find that balance.
Thanks, Grand Canyon, for putting everything into perspective for me. I really appreciate it.
Thank you for reading our Grand Canyon journey! If you’d like to read about David and I’s trip to Colorado before we made it to the Utah/Arizona area, keep an eye out for those posts!