Rim to Rim: Hiking the Grand Canyon
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.
Hitting rock bottom is generally not a gratifying experience. But when I reached the Colorado River at the base of the Grand Canyon after two days of hiking, I was elated: Less than one percent of all visitors to the Grand Canyon ever see more than its rim. I set down my pack and felt as though I had made it to the moon. Then I promptly fell asleep on a picnic table with my boots on.
Nearly five million people journey to the Grand Canyon annually, on average spending four minutes feeling woozy and awed by the rim before moving on to other activities. The idea of a crowd with an agenda didn’t appeal to me. Having never been west of Ohio, I knew I wanted my first trip “out West” to be as unpopulated and leisurely as possible. I didn’t want to avoid people; I just didn’t want to feel hurried by them. My 1989 copy of National Geographic’s Guide to the National Parks assured me that the North Rim, though beautiful, didn’t rival the South Rim for crowds. Still, all its campsites were booked.
Desperate, I cruised the park’s website for options, and noticed a hyperlink at the bottom of the North Rim page: Backcountry Camping Permits. I faxed off an application immediately, blithely unaware of the particular difficulties of hiking the Grand Canyon.
A few months later, my boyfriend, Marc, and I stood at 8,241 ft. of elevation at the trailhead on the North Rim, and a poster had caught our eye. Underneath the image of a young David Hasselhoff look-alike the poster warned: “Over 250 people are rescued from the depths of Grand Canyon each year…Most of them look like him.” The service announcement cautioned hikers to know their limits, and remain within them.
I looked at Marc’s backpack and felt the brand new jab of my Camelback mouthpiece against my sternum. Neither of us had backpacked in the desert and we hadn’t officially trained for this mini expedition. I wondered momentarily about our hubris, but then adrenaline set in and we took off down the trail.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Stay tuned for more dispatches from Margaret’s Rim to Rim hiking trip. Photo: Margaret Krauss.