“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.
Here is a winter edition of the Grand Canyon travel experience through the eyes of my friend Sri Harsha (of Tadatmyasthoughts fame). For the late Summer/ early Fall experience through my eyes, please visit Edition 1 Part 1 and Part 2.
1. Why Grand Canyon?
I have seen several pictures of the Canyon and when my friends told me how amazing it was to trek the canyon, I got very excited about it. The idea of being in the canyon for two days and the physical challenge of it appealed a lot to me.
2. Were you a tourist or a traveller?
I visited the place specifically for the canyon. I guess a tourist.
3. When do you go there?
I was there for three days, right before last year’s Christmas.
4. How did you plan?
We were an entourage of four, which made the planning part lot easier. First, we gathered information from people who trekked before. Second, we made a list of things we will need for the trek from the information we gathered from people and the internet. Third, we located for a place where we can rent all that stuff – Peace Surplus, Flagstaff, AZ. We then split the tasks of reserving a hotel, renting the car and reserving a campsite amongst each other.
5. What you wish you had known/not known before you reached there?
I wish I knew before that campgrounds need to be reserved a lot sooner. Luckily, one of my friends knew a friend, who worked there. So we were able to find a spot last minute. Also, it would have helped to know how much of food and water we needed for the trip. We had nearly half a gallon of water extra per head by the time we reached our campsite, not to mention a lot of food that we unnecessarily carried up and down.
6. A brief description of itenary?
We reached Flagstaff the evening before our trek day and collected the rental equipment that we have reserved before hand from Peace Surplus. The reservation was not really necessary since they did not have a lot of demand during the Christmas time. We went to a nearby Walmart and picked up food, water, torch light and a cooking vessel. We checked into our hotel and packed our backpacks with all the stuff necessary. We distributed the weight as evenly as possible and made sure some food stayed on top of the bag for easy access. The next morning left the hotel room by 9 am, drove to the Information center, parked our cars and took a bus ride to the tip of the South Kaibab trail. We reached Bright Angel campgrounds by about 4 pm. We setup the tent and roamed around a bit until dusk. Next morning, we were on our way on the Bright Angel trail by 8 am. We finished the trek by 4 pm, checked into our hotel and drove to Flagstaff to return the equipment. We had some nice Pitas for dinner and called it a day.
7. How did you reach there?
Its an unusual scenario, we flew to San Jose, CA and drove to the Canyon from there.
8. Where did you stay?
9. What did you do?
We mainly went up and down the trail. We did not have enough time to checkout the nearby places as we were tight on schedule. There is always a next time!
10. How was the experience?
One of the best trips ever!
11. Most memorable moments?
Once I reached the campsite, I walked over to the stream right in front of our tent. I was sitting on the bank, with my feet in the clear but cold water looking at the bright red canyon soaking up the last rays of sunlight. Such a tranquil view!
12. Not so good experience?
My own doing, during the last 3 miles, I tried to match the pace of my friend, who must have trekked the canyon a million times. I ran out of breath several times before I finished and the cold windy weather was knocking the wind out of my sails. In such a foolhardy pursuit, I left my other friends behind without water, as I was carrying all the water bottles. When I realized this, it was too late. I had to leave a water bottle by the side of the trail and wrote my friends name in snow, hoping that he would see it. Luckily he found the water in time and I learned an important lesson.
13. Scariest moment?
No scary moments.
14. Most unexpected moment?
How incredibly tough the last mile was.
15. Tips for hiking/ backpacking equipment?
I had a great experience renting equipment from Peace Surplus. The process was so smooth that even for a beginner like me picking up the necessary equipment like sleeping bags, pads, tent, stove and trekking poles took less than 30 minutes. It costed 60 bucks to rent all that equipment for two days. So it is not too expensive either.
16. How expensive was the trip?
Hard to say the exact number but it costed me approximately $1000 for a one week trip that included a trip to Yosemite and San Francisco. I would say about $650 including travel.
17. Any special places to checkout?
I have not gone to any places around as I was busy on a tightly planned trip. I did visit the Hoover Dam, which is close by.
18. Take away / how it stands in your memory?
This will be one of the few trips that I can recall every bit of when I close my eyes. I will not forget the view of the wild Colarado river from under the silver bridge, nor the Bright Angel tributary in front of the campsite. I will not forget the gorgeous views, the fall colors, little streams cutting across our path and the criss-crossing trail behind us.