Rim to Rim: Wandering Off the Trail
Margaret Krauss, who works in the National Geographic Kids division, recently completed a five day back-country hike into the Grand Canyon. She’s been sharing glimpses from along the North Kabib Trail. Read her posts here, here, and here.
I was scared to explore beyond the boundaries of the North Kaibab trail. I’ve rock-scrambled all my life, but in this hugest of places I didn’t trust my own instincts. I didn’t want to test the illusion that the path was secure: Leaving the trail meant admitting that the same dangers existed on the trail that existed on either side of it. It meant that our safety depended solely on our own common sense, experience, and joint sense of danger. Part of me wanted to simply follow the trail and arrive at a known destination.
However, backpacking, for all its distance measuring, route planning, and summiting, really isn’t about arriving. If I my goal was to just arrive, I’d have taken a mule to canyon bottom, or engaged one of the guys running the canyon trails to carry me on his shoulders. Though I resisted it, what I really wanted was the thrill of being wholly reliant upon myself.
Standing on the edge of millions of years of geological history it was clear that control was presumptuous. The idea was not to fear the adventure, but to engage it. For though the path was certain, it was in no way protected from danger or fluke.
It was dark. We turned on our headlamps and left the cliff.
We immediately got lost, each bush beginning to look the same, and had to retrace our way back to dinner, and then off the plateau. Uncertain of what we might find in the night, we marched as quickly as we could through the dark. I chattered away out of fear, attempting to drown out noises I couldn’t identify.
I nearly walked into Marc as I crossed a stream directly behind him, only picking my eyes up as I came to the other side. “What’s wro–,” I started to ask. I saw a pair of eyes crouching low to the ground. A rush of blood surged in my chest.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
“It’s ok,” Marc said, “It’s just a deer. I was trying to tell you not to worry but I couldn’t find my voice.” We laughed, kind of, and sped off down the trail, our boots throwing small rocks out behind us, not stopping until we heard the rush of the Colorado River.
Stay tuned for more dispatches from Margaret’s Rim to Rim hiking trip. Photo by Marc Schutzbank.