The Grand Canyon – Part 3

Tomorrow I am embarking on a six day backpacking trip deep into Grand Canyon. People ask me how many times I have hiked or backpacked into the canyon and my answer is I am not sure. It’s been many. Over thirty times I guess. I need to start keeping track.

As you may know by now, visiting The Grand Canyon is perhaps my favorite thing on earth to do. And I don’t mean just viewing its beauty from the top (the rim). I am talking about strapping a heavy on my back and hiking into the inner portions of the canyon, and discovering a place that only a tiny fraction of visitors will ever see.

Why am I so crazy about venturing down into this mile deep “hole” in the earth? Well, there are actually several reasons.

Beauty.  Words cannot express this. I have backpacked many places and all of them have their unique characteristics. But there is something about the Grand Canyon that one cannot explain. You have to be there, in the moment, experiencing it.

Solitude. If you go deep enough and remote enough, you don’t see other people. And I think that could be a good thing.

Silence. Other than natural sounds, you don’t hear anything. And that is pretty rare these days.

Disconnected. When I am backpacking in Grand Canyon, I have no idea if the stock market crashed, who won the election, if war broke out, or if a new iPhone model was released. No one from my office can reach me, no matter what they want!

Challenge. I would be remiss if I did not talk about the physical and mental challenge. You need to be prepared for anything. It’s not easy. Most people could not do this without a lot of training. So there is definitely some satisfaction in being able to say you did a multi-day backpack in Grand Canyon.

The hike I am doing in a couple of days is a difficult one. Much of it is along the eastern part of the Tonto Trail, from Grandview to South Kaibab. It will be the first time I have been on this part of the Tonto. The Tonto is lonely and remote. My group is four people total and it’s entirely possible we will not see another human being on this stretch.

We have to plan very carefully where we will be able to find water because most of the Tonto is dry. It’s on a plateau way above the Colorado River and there is generally no access to the river, at least on this stretch. So I have done a lot of research, planning where we will have water and where we will sleep. You can’t simply go down there on a whim. Everything, from exactly what you will carry in your backpack (including how many sections of toilet paper), to where you will sleep at night, must be totally planned. This is not something for the disorganized person!

On this trip I am carrying a personal locator beacon, which is a GPS signaling device to be deployed only in the event of a life-threatening situation. Not that I am expecting any problems, but I did realize in the past that if I or someone in my group had a life-threatening situation, there would basically be no chance of getting a message out to search and rescue. Now I feel we have that capability… it feels like a little bit of insurance.

Within the Grand Canyon, there are numerous “side canyons” that feed into the main inner gorge. These side canyons would be attractions by themselves if they were in any other part of the world.

Here’s our plan:

Day 1 – Hike from Grandview trailhead to Cottonwood Canyon.

Day 2 – Hike from Cottonwood Canyon to Grapevine Canyon.

Day 3 – Hike from Grapevine Canyon to Lonetree Canyon.

Day 4 – Hike from Lonetree Canyon to Bright Angel Campground.

Day 5 – Layover day at Bright Angel Campground at the very bottom of the Grand Canyon. We may attempt a day hike up to Utah Flats.

Day 6 – Hike from Bright Angel Campground out to the south rim on the Bright Angel Trail.  That evening we will have a celebratory dinner at El Tovar, a fancy-schmancy restaurant (with linen tablecloths and napkins) on the rim that will be chock full of tourists overeating, drinking and looking out the windows and imagining what it’s like “down there.”

Well, I must go prepare now. I have food shopping and organizing to do. I plan to take a lot of notes and pictures on this hike, so I will be back soon with a full report.

By the way… do you know the most common question we are asked when heading out of the canyon and finally encounter tourists and day hikers close to the rim? The question is…

“Did you go all the way down to the river?”

Yes, there is a fascination of going “all the way down” and I am so glad I can experience this. More coming after I return, so stand by!


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Thanks so much to Shawn Stanford in helping me prepare for this trip.

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