By Chris Villani
They say the Grand Canyon does not disappoint and, after seeing one of the world’s natural wonders for the first time last weekend, I can confirm that is indeed the case.
Yes, it’s easy to be a little bit jaded about such things. “It’s a big hole in the ground, how exciting can it be?” Well, as many of you probably know if you’ve been, that big hole can provide hours of breathtaking views.
It’s also good for a workout. I’ve done some hiking trips in the past to Iceland and Tenerife and I hiked quite a bit when I lived in Vermont. Though I would hardly consider myself a hiker, I’m in reasonably good shape and manage not to fall down for the most part.
My wife, LeeAnn, is new to hiking, but she really wanted to hike part of the Grand Canyon trail below the rim. We did not, or did we have any desire to, attempt the entire seven-mile trek to the bottom. The good folks at the Grand Canyon actually do their best to talk you out of such things, reminding you that it is only for those experienced hikers in outstanding physical condition. The drawing posted about 200 feet below the rim of the man doubled over and vomiting in a manner that only be described as violent makes the point quite nicely.
But if you walk a mile down the South Kaibab trail, descending close to 1,000 feet along the steep, terraced switchbacks, you’re rewarded with a panoramic view that makes you feel like you’re inside the canyon.
LeeAnn trained for this endeavor, mostly by doing Peloton hiking classes first thing in the morning on our treadmill at home. She’d be up before sunrise some days, gradually increasing her distance and intensity.
She made one significant mistake: having me as a hiking partner. Sure, forgetting our water and snacks was not my finest moment, but maybe I was just trying to give ourselves one more obstacle to tackle?
After a well-deserved scolding, we made our way down the trail and the views at the end were well worth the effort. The park rangers say it would take twice as long to get back up the trail as it did to go down, but LeeAnn led the way and we actually made it back up in less time.
We ended the day with a sunset view from the rim and a celebratory beer in the tavern. A challenge accomplished that started, as they all do, with a single step.