“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” The often debated difference between being a traveler or a tourist has been so well and subtly put together by the British author G.K. Chesterton. I write this series of travelogues to cherish the unique experiences I had at various places. While there are a plethora of websites that provide information for tourists, these posts attempt to reach above mere information to inspire and share the adventure with other fellow or future travelers. There is nothing wrong is being a tourist and enjoying what a new destination has to offer, and likewise, there is so much to experience going beyond the brochures actively in search of people, culture and incidental adventure. One experience need not be exclusive of the other and in the end the journey is the reward. I hope you enjoy these editions and share your own as well.
11. Most memorable moment/s?
The most memorable moment of this trip was the unexpected waterfall that formed in front of our eyes during the thunderstorm in the afternoon on our hike down the South Kaibab Trail. The clouds rolled, cool breeze was a welcome to our sweat drenched bodies and the green color around looked much fresher and brighter. We took shelter under a small cave like rock head to stay away from lightning or any rock fall from above as rain started to pour. Small streams of water started forming and soon enough a gushing stream of water washed my feet downhill. Luckily my shoes had waterproof lining and I balanced upon a small rock to keep my feet dry. As the rain subsided and we emerged out, there was a roaring noise in the adjacent switchback revealing a waterfall falling from around 100 ft high on the path that we were supposed to take, which was solid and dry just minutes ago. It was exhilarating to see such an unexpected sight, but at the same time it posed a trouble, as we could not continue until it subsides. We were losing daylight with still about half distance downhill to cover, but there was nothing we could do at that point, so we took a break.
Another one was when we took our lunch break at the Indian campgrounds on the way back up on the Bright Angel Trail. It was noon with hot burning sun and I was sweating profusely since morning. After my lunch, I washed my face and hair in the cool running stream of clear water. It was the first time I ever did that!
12. Not so good experience?
The squirrels at the Indian campground! I was eating my lunch, and they were very aggressive trying to break into our backpacks where there was more food. And not just the packs, they were trying to grab food from our hands totally unfazed by my attempts to scare them away. They were obviously used to visitors sharing food and I was scared of being bitten!
13. Scariest moment?
The last 1.5 miles on the Bright Angel trail before we reached back to Rim. Thunderclouds were rolling in and it was already dusk. There was no flicker of light in the dark abyss of canyon, except for the faint stream from our headlamps guiding the trail path. There was nobody following us; all other groups already passed us an hour before when we took a long break thinking we were almost there anyway. There was a strong wind and we were at an elevation, easy for the lightning to strike if it started to rain. There could be rock-fall from above due to wind/ rain, there could be instantaneous waterfall as we saw the day before, but we had no way of knowing it since it was pitch dark. I was losing breath every few feet due to fatigue and exhaustion. We lost sense of distance and it was a steeper climb than we expected. It was my scariest moment to think of what could have happened had it started to rain. Luckily, it didn’t and eventually we made it back to civilization.
14. Most unexpected moment?
We realized at the camp that we were running short on food. Our plans to start early in morning to avoid the harsh noon sun now had to be disrupted as we had to buy more food from the Phantom Ranch and it wouldn’t open until 8 in the morning. Just as we were eating our stove made breakfast the next morning and rolling up our tents, an Indian family of 3 passed by. We asked them some details of how long was the next potable water stop, etc. and got to know that they stayed the night at the lodges in the Phantom Ranch. They were very kind encouraging us with positive words and just as they left, they turned back and offered us some extra food they had! It was very kind of an unexpected stranger to offer food when we were running low not knowing whether they might need it or not considering the long hike ahead. It was a very unexpected and generous gesture that I would never forget!
15. Favorite Pics?
The pictures from the first day of hike on the South Kaibab trail were incredible. The weather and views were just amazing and I couldn’t have asked for better. But all the pics from this travelogue are some of my favorites.
16. Any tips for hiking/ backpacking equipment?
- If you plan on hiking more than 3 miles in the Canyon, I would recommend having mid-hiking boots that have a good fit and can support your ankle. Feet are the center of your whole hiking experience and it is a good idea to keep them happy.
- If you are hiking down all the way to the river, it is a good idea to practice a hike or two beforehand wearing the boots you plan on using and carrying a backpack with around 20-30 lbs of weight to train your muscles.
- A sun-hat, sunglasses, sunblock, couple of pairs of wool blend socks, breathable but moisture wicking shirt, headlamp and a first aid kit are must carry items.
- I would stress on using hiking poles if you are hiking down to the river. They came in very handy for balancing on the steep inclines and supporting our loads. You can rent them from the General Store at the Grand Canyon Village Market for a very cheap price.
- Whatever the season you are visiting Grand Canyon, water and food are the most essential items that can make or break your trip. If it is summer/ autumn, you should give special attention to these, as there are a limited/ no sources to restock once you have set upon the trail. Heat stroke and hyponatremia are common phenomena in the desert terrain, so eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty.
- A subtly missed point during planning that can make some difference is that there are no places to dispose any trash you might accumulate during your hike except at the start of the trail heads on the rim. So everything that goes down must come up. Consider this when packing your supplies, as every gram eliminated from packaging is 5 grams saved off your feet and back.
We have rented our camping and backpacking supplies from REI store in Tempe. They carried all the basic equipment you need for backpacking and the service was quick with professional guidance in case you needed recommendations. We did not reserve in advance, but considering that it was holiday weekend, we were lucky to have got all the equipment we needed. They were out of camping stove.
Other popular stores I had as a back up were conveniently listed on this site. We rented the camping stove at the General store in the Grand Canyon Village where we also bought the fuel. You can return the fuel back at the store for proper and safe disposal.
17. How expensive was the trip?
The trip cost excluding the airfare was around 460$ per person. The equipment rentals, park entry, permits and food came around 170$ per person. The lodging and travel to/from Phoenix and Grand Canyon came about 290$ per person.
18. Any special places/ things/ experiences to checkout?
While I visited only the South rim, my trip was limited to experiencing the two famous trails and the hiking experience. There are several other places to see and it definitely deserves more visits. I have the Havasupai Falls, the North rim, camping on the rim in the desert view, hiking from North rim to the South rim, canoeing/ kayaking in the Colorado river, etc. added to my to do list. In the perimeters of the Grand Canyon, not very far out are the famous Antelope Canyon and other wonders that are a feast to the photographer’s eyes. Las Vegas is also a popular destination close by for many visitors to rewind the night surrounded by materialistic pleasures.
- Takeaway, or how it stands in your memory?
Looking back, it stands as a bittersweet experience that was one of a kind in my life so far. They say the places special to you have some memories tied to them that make them so special. I do not know if I am ready yet to change the way I feel about this place by visiting it again to rewrite the memories, but it sure deserves more than a single 3 day visit to do it justice.