One of the Seven Wonders

One of the only bad parts of this trip is our limited time. We had one day to experience the wonder that is Arizona’s Grand Canyon, one of the world’s seven wonders, one of the deepest, steepest canyons in the world. Obviously, one day is not nearly enough time to really experience the 277 mile long canyon, but, a little research can help you make the most of your time.

After more than enough research, we found the South Rim’s Kaibab Trail – a trail marked “steep.” But, we couldn’t miss a chance to see the natural beauty up close, and the guides told us that this was definitely the best choice.

We arrived just after 9:30 at the Grand Canyon National Park Visitor’s center to speak with Ranger Gary from Cleveland, Ohio. Since we both were just wearing tennis shoes, he suggested we get a pair of ice and snow traction cleats as the first mile of the trail, at nearly 7000 feet of altitude was still ice covered.

I had already been fighting night terrors of a hundred foot plunge off the trail, so, of course I’d rather be extra safe than 3,000 feet below sorry. So, we went to the bookstore next door and purchased two pair for just over $50 with tax, and hopped on the trail bus. Once atop the trail, it was even more slippery than the guide had described.

Our choice of trail was confirmed immediately, with broad views of the canyon highlighted in shade and shadow by the bright morning sunlight.

The trail dips quickly into the canyon with quite a few substantial switch backs, but on the way down, the awesome panoramic view combined with the realization of our altitude to keep up pretty well distracted. We took turns taking photos and pausing for contemplation along the way. After all, we were in a place that, as trails go, was pretty spectacular.

We soon made it to the first marker on the trail – The Ooh-Aah Point, named for the unanimous reaction the expansive view offers. To your right as you clear the mountainside, you give an “oooh” and as you turn your head to the left a spontaneous “ahhh” escapes your lips.

For those heading to skeleton point, the furthest “day hike” spot, this vantage might as well be called “Holy Shit peak.” This point gives you a bird’s-eye view of the canyon and the tiny sliver of a trail, deep inside that canyon, where you’re headed, and you’re only a third of the way down.

The South Kaibab trail is the most popular mule route in the canyon and just before reaching the day-trail’s halfway point – Cedar Ridge – we ran into two sets of mules on their way up. The mules were carrying only cargo, but their stamina on the incline, as our stamina was already starting to wane on the decline, was admirable.

In honor of their hard work, we stopped at the next camp for a snack and final use of the facilities – the only ones the trail.

Once we made it to Skeleton Point around 1:00, we hiked a few switch backs further to get a glimpse of the Colorado River, a river once so powerful, and so large as to have bored this mighty hole. We picked a flat rock and ate lunch overlooking a view no human architect has been able to match.

We over packed our water supplies, not sure how much we needed for this six-mile hike. But the two liters of water and 2 liters of Powerade were just enough. I can’t imagine how much water to pack if hiking this in the summer.

One fellow hiker told us that the Kaibab trail was “all legs down, but all lungs up,” and he wasn’t kidding. The temperature increased noticeably from both the sun and the arduous climb and we shed several layers as we headed to higher ground. The altitude combined with the steep grade to force many stops along the route. The stops offered a chance to catch many more photos and time to watch a nesting pair of condors dance in the sky above us.

At the Cedar Ridge camp, we met Jim and Elaine from San Diego. Elaine was celebrating her 40-24th birthday and was only one year from her second knee surgery.  They had made the day-long ascent from Bright Angel, 7 miles below, and we didn’t hear a complaint, in fact, they were still smiling and enjoying their time together. We were barely making it back up the three we just sauntered down, and now we know inspiration’s given names are Jim and Elaine.

It has been a couple of days since the hike, and we’re still a little sore. But it was so worth it. We hope the pictures do it justice. Next time, we’re going to the bottom and stay in one of the cottages – yet another item for our bucket list.