Rim to Rim: Setting Out
Margaret Krauss, who works in the National Geographic Kids division, recently completed a five day back-country hike into the Grand Canyon. For the next few days, she’ll be sharing glimpses from her trip. Read her first post here.
The North Kaibab Trail is the only maintained trail from the North Rim.
Over its 14.2 miles to canyon bottom the trail switchbacks through every ecosystem that exists between Canada and Mexico, climbing down through firs, aspens, red limestone, and desert plants. As we set out, I quickly ran out of adjectives: After exclaiming “Holy crow!” six times in five minutes, Marc and I decided I should attempt description at a later date. My eyes roamed hungrily over the horizon and the canyon walls, trying to soak it all in. Rounding a corner, face turned toward a glowing butte, I almost tumbled into a pungent puddle of mule urine. That I had adjectives for.
We broke the hike into five days, parceling the round trip of 28 miles into four, seven-mile days, with one rest day in between descent and ascent. Breaking up the descent gave us time to adjust to the routine of our trek as well as its demands: Weight and heat. Taking to heart the park’s recommendation, “double your calories, double your fun,” Marc and I carried entirely too much food between us. In an attempt to maintain freshness, we also carried a surfeit of T-shirts. Never again will I carry high expectations of freshness, or more than two pairs of shorts. The results of heat and effort will always win out over the fickle scent of laundry detergent.
August temperatures in the Grand Canyon range between 80° and 130° farenheit. Even after the sun has set, the radiant heat from the rocks swaddles the evening like some vast geological blanket. To mitigate heat-related rescues, the National Park Service recommends hiking before 9 a.m. and after 4 p.m. when the sun is less intense.
Unfortunately, I am not, by nature, a punctual person. With the exception of our last day, we always started late, rambling over the terrain during the most dangerous time of day. In midday the sun makes the world go still, subduing everything but the lizards, seemingly unaffected by the heat.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
In a concession to the heat and our languid morning routine, we “hiked wet,” soaking our hats and shirts in the icy creek before setting out each morning. The wet cloth felt icy on my skin, but boosted our natural air-conditioning; the evaporation keeping our bodies functioning in the sun long after we’d left camp.
Stay tuned for more dispatches from Margaret’s Rim to Rim hiking trip. Photos by Margaret Krauss.