Hiking in the Grand Canyon is way more dangerous than the river. Not kidding, hands down more risky. Most of the hiking in the national parks that I’ve done I’ve always been pretty impressed with how well the trails are established and how good the signage is. Even in the backcountry, you’ll rarely get lost unless you really blow it. Well, the few times that we hiked on this trip had a 100% effective rate for 1) losing the trail, and 2) getting into some seriously precarious situations on cliffs trying to get back to the trail. I’m sure you can imagine, but most of the trails that get you up and away from the river roughly follow another water source that has carved it’s way down to the river from above. But one of the most consistent features we found was that the first 30 or 40 feet up from the actual water were usually straight up, and then once you’re on top of that piece of the staircase you usually find a trail. Take the pictures below of the first hike we did. We couldn’t find the trail so we just walked up the river stream until it got too deep and forced us up and out.
Once we figured we had to go up, Heath lead the way and gave me zero confidence that we we’re doing the right thing buy picking a nice sketchy route. One by one each one of us went up and one by one each person was kinda freaked out. I was perched up above the water in a very awkward position when I just thought “Dude, what are we doing? Putting ourselves at risk like this not only a long way from help, but even a long way from our camp, is dumb.” I climbed back down and took an easier route. I’ll usually succumb to peer pressure in a moment like that, so when I don’t, I know it was a nice healthy chunk of legitimate fear that kept me from moving forward.
The hiking was an amazing break from what had become the normal routine, and the scenery was different enough from our normal view from the river to refresh our memory of exactly where we were. We were looking at the unfinished work of what water can do over 5 or 6 million years, slowly taking the rocks and dirt on their long journey to the gulf of California. It also gave you a very rare view of the higher cliffs of the canyon. From the river you can’t always see that high up, but once you left the bottom you could start to catch a glimpse of the upper snow covered areas. You forget down there that the rim of the canyon is a completely different climate. We had t shirts on and 6,000ft above us it was freezing and snowing.
We had the grand idea of hiking all the way to a neighboring side canyon, but after most of the day walking, we were all toast. When we got back to camp everyone was starving, dehydrated, and exhausted. It might have been from the hike and it might have been from the previous nights successful attempt at drinking the rest of our beer and a bottle of whiskey. Who knows.