The Grand Canyon is one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, and is forever showing up on lists of "Places to See Before You Die." For these reasons, the Canyon has become a place of pilgrimage...a place one HAS to visit if life is to be complete. This is a great reason to come, IF you get a well-rounded look at the place. If you plan to make a visit like the one the Griswold's made in National Lampoon's Vacation, you might as well stay home and rent that movie instead.
Others come seeking high adventure. Two very popular options are rafting the Colorado River as it wends its way through the Canyon, or taking a multi-day hike from "rim to river" and back. It's that last part ("and back") that causes a lot of folks difficulty. Make no mistake...hiking deep into the Canyon is tough work. Despite the apparent ease of going downhill for several miles, there are three things many first-time hikers forget about: (1) long walks downhill are VERY tough on the knees; (2) long walks downhill are VERY tough on the toenails (gross but true: one of the most common injuries at Grand Canyon is toenail loss....EWWWWWW!); and (3)every trip down must be followed by a trip back up that far exceeds the trip down in terms of both time and difficulty. Don't get me wrong: an intimate experience one on one with this magical place is a highlight of my life, but it is not something to be taken lightly.
Now, my guess is that most people reading this journal don't fall into either one of the categories described above; you're not Chevy Chase in Vacation, but you're not Canyon explorer John Wesley Powell, either. You fall somewhere in the middle. Well, that describes me to a tee. Yes, I'm a park ranger, and yes, I've hiked to the bottom and back (in a blinding snowstorm no less!), but my greatest experiences here have been far simpler: watching clouds race up and down buttes and walls, enjoying a fine breakfast in the historic El Tovar Hotel, seeing a California Condor and realizing that it is one of the rarest animals in the world, and sitting under an icicle-draped pine bough just below the rim and reflecting on my life and where it needed to go. I'm just an average Joe.
Read on if you'd like to make my Grand Canyon yours.