Hike 32; The One and Only Grand Canyon

I had heard that the Grand Canyon can be a pain to get into, with really long lines at the gate and crowds all over the rim. So I got started around 7am. Along my drive I half heard a report about a woman falling 400ft in the canyon, but I wasn’t paying close attention so I missed the how and when of the story. I assumed she was somewhere she wasn’t supposed to be. In my mind there would be railings everywhere to keep people from falling, and signs warning folks not to get to close to the edge. When I got to the park there was no line, and having my National Parks pass allowed me to get in quickly. I got a parking spot by the visitor’s center without any problem. I ventured over to the first overlook and snapped some shots. It turns out the squirrels here have no fear. Beware of the squirrels!

I took a look at the trail and bus maps and decided to take the blue bus to the Bright Angels trail, but just as I got to the bus depot the blue bus pulled away. The orange bus was still sitting there so I hopped on. It has to go somewhere good too, right? I got off at the South Kaibab trailhead. It looked pretty good, with an Ooh Ahh Point and all. Before getting on the path an Elk walked by, whoa! Cool. I read all of the warning signs, people coming up have right of way, people stand on the outside to let mules pass, don’t over do it, bring lots of water and snacks, don’t attempt the hike to the Rio Grande in one day, etc… I made note and started my descent while furiously snapping photos along the way. The plan was to go a mile down, turn around and come back up before the sun crested.

I made it past the Ooh Ahh Point, to the one mile marker. I stopped to take a photo, and struck up a conversation with a woman from Pennsylvania who seemed to find it insane that I was hiking alone. Was I really alone? Look at all these other people hiking along side of me. I started my ascent. Not too far into my climb I noticed three young men barreling down the trail toward me. They had clearly not read the sign about giving the hiker climbing upward the right of way. As a matter of fact it seemed many people didn’t read the signs, and it was making me nervous. The young man in the middle tripped on his own feet and started falling in the direction of myself and the friend in front of him. Every possible way I could think of to break his fall and not die went through my head. There were no possible ways!!! He caught himself and started laughing maniacally. I wanted to ring his neck, but settled for a simple, “be careful!” and continued on. I made it out of the canyon faster than I had made it in, passing lots of people along the way. I think the urgency to make it out alive is what drove me. Oh yes, my idea that there were railings everywhere ^^, nope. The only railings were at the big overlooks where the most people flock. The trails into the canyon are very narrow and pitted with a straight drop off one side in most places. Once out of the canyon I chose to walk the rim trail back two and half miles to the car. The rim trail is a safe distance from the drop, so I felt safe to check out all the tree textures and flora I wanted.

I ate lunch at my car then drove around the park to see what I could see. I didn’t see much until I started making my way to Cameron. I stopped at a view point here and there, and spent some time at the grand view.

I drove through the painted desert, past lots of Navajo craft vendors, and not much else. I had considered driving to the North Rim, but if you look closely at the distant horizon on several of my photos you can see that a fire seemed to have started there sometime this morning. And since I promised my dad that I wouldn’t drive into any fires I decided to stay away. I drove back toward Flagstaff instead, noticing the intense street art on the vacant buildings along the way. I stopped at a state park for a short minute to snap some photos. I can’t remember the name of this place. It took a back seat to the time I just spent in the Grand Canyon. It included a 13 mile drive with stops to look at relics and old pueblos along the way. You can see the North Rim fire from within the state park in the panorama below.

When I reached Flagstaff I regained my cell signal. I hadn’t had any signal since just before reaching the park this morning. It turned out my mom had heard about the woman falling, and she had been worried about me all day. I wrote them to let them know I was safely out of the park, and made a mental note to research that death when I stopped for the night.

I started to drive 40 east. I drove and drove until I was tired. I pulled off at Winslow, you know, the place in the song. I got a room at the Quality Inn after waiting in line behind at least a dozen military men and a couple families. Who would have thought Winslow, AZ would be so busy on a Tuesday evening? There was only one cashier on duty and he was frazzled. When it was my turn her apologized for my wait, and gave me a drink voucher for the inconvenience. I got into the hotel and hopped in the shower. Have you ever been able to smell the dirt rinse out of your hair and off of your skin as water ran over you? I did. The powdered dirt of the dry Arizona land had seeped into my shoes, through my socks, into every crevice and pore in a matter of minutes. It collected on top of sunscreen, then more sunscreen had been applied and the cycle continued until this shower washed it all away.

I went to the restaurant downstairs and had a chicken dinner. It was decent for middle-of-nowhere-hotel-restaurant-food. The waitress was very apologetic since she was also slammed due to the influx of people. I was very impressed with the thoughtfulness and genuine concern for my wellbeing from the staff.

As I ate dinner I looked up the story of the woman who fell in the Grand Canyon. Her name was Colleen Burns. She was from Florida. She worked for Yelp. She was 35. She was on the same trail I hiked earlier that day. She was making some room for hikers to pass when she stumbled on her own feet and fell 400 ft. over the ledge at the Ooh Ahh Point. This happened the day before I was there. I was horrified. I don’t think I will be visiting the Grand Canyon again.




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Art Teacher Abroad

I'm an art educator on a mission to explore every nook of the earth. Follow my photo journal on Instagram @feedmebeijing

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