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 posts here and here.
It is impossible to get lost on the North Kaibab Trail.
Besides the occasional yucca plant, the trail is the only straight line in the landscape. In the August heat, it was a solitary trek: We encountered other hikers once every three hours, making it feel as though we were in a world made solely for us. We could do anything we liked without fear of repercussion. At times, it was frightening to be so unfettered. And yet it wasn’t the backcountry I was afraid of, but our own desire to leave the trail.
I woke up from my nap on the picnic table at Bright Angel Campground, near the edge of the Colorado River, soaked with sweat. The sun thermometer read 130°F. Sitting in the shade of the rock face we decided to hike the South Rim once the sun started to go down. We wanted to explore, and figured that without packs we could cover the same amount of ground in an evening we’d normally cover in a day. As the day cooled we headed out of camp and crossed the Colorado River. Turning away from the river and digging into the density of a side canyon, we began the steep ascent. Occasionally the rock scree gave way to thick sand, making me think of the age in which the Grand Canyon was a primordial sea, home to the early seashells stuck in some of the rock layers. I imagined the Puebloan people, using the canyon as a seasonal home, farming its sides and harvesting, then making the long trek back to the rim.
The sun sank below the canyon rim. Scrambling over uneven rock, we left the path to climb to the top of a butte, wending our way over and around brush and boulders. After a few moments the view opened before us like two double doors. We stood on the very edge of a cliff, the whole of the South Rim laid out below us. The greens, reds, and browns of the rocks took on purples and pinks as the upshot of light filled the canyon like some massive cathedral. We yelled at the top of our lungs, lost in the sheer joy of being alone and alive in such a beautiful place.
Stay tuned for more dispatches from Margaret’s Rim to Rim hiking trip. Photos by Marc Schutzbank.
- Nat Geo Expeditions