I’ve backpacked many interesting places, but until now, avoided the Grand Canyon. Almost four decades ago I stood here with my boyhood friend, Chuck, a stop on our tour of the USA. To a couple of kids from a rural town in New Hampshire, just about every place we visited seemed fascinating and astonishing. Yet, here at the Grand Canyon, when I peered over the south rim, far, far down into that dark and narrow gash in the earth, I felt uneasy. After an obligatory stop at the Tower and the village we sped off.
Whenever we rounded a point, it was tough to not stop in the middle of the trail and gape at the immensity of the space and the breathtaking colors of the banded cliffs. John Muir, the famous Scottish naturalist, backpacked in the Grand Canyon. Muir was especially enthralled with the vast palette on which the almighty hand had mixed every shade of red, and yellow and brown. “But the colors, the living, rejoicing colors, chanting morning and evening in chorus to heaven!” Muir exclaimed.
If I had any complaint about the trip, it would be that the Wildland Trekking itinerary mentioned an optional hike down to the Colorado River. When our guide attempted to lead us down that unmaintained route, it quickly became apparent that we would need technical skills and equipment. Safety dictated we turn back. We had lunch on a promontory overlooking the river, but that was as close as we ever got to the mighty Colorado.
Or as Cervantes said, “The road is always better than the Inn.”
Final Logistics: Wildland Trekking drove us back to Flagstaff and the Arizona Shuttle drove us back to Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. There are many a beautiful Arizona hotel, but we stayed overnight at the cozy Magnuson Hotel Papago Inn again. If you are extending your stay, you might consider another exciting backpacking adventure in Arizona; searching for the Lost Dutchman Mine in the Superstition Mountains. It’s about an hour or so northeast of Scottsdale. Other than the Grand Canyon, the Superstitions are Trisha and my favorite destination for backpacking in Arizona. Or if you’ve had enough of the long trails, Papago Park and the famous Hole in the Rock are perfect day hikes from the Magnuson Hotel Papago Inn.
Finally, we truly enjoyed our guides. Emily and Nate were informative, delightful and great cooks. We highly recommend Wildland Trekking for backpacking the Grand Canyon. Click Here for more information.
Thurman Wilkins, Thomas Moran, Artist of the Mountains, copyright 1998 by University of Oklahoma Press.
Shane Murphy, I’ve Got to Tell Stories, Separating Fact from Fiction in the Life and Legend of Grand Canyon Pioneer John Hance, Winter 2015 issue of the Journal of Arizona History.
George H. Billingsley, Earle E. Spamer and Dove Menkes, Quest for the Pillar of Gold, The Mines & Miners of the Grand Canyon, Copyright 1997, Grand Canyon Associates.
Ms. Ellen Brennan, National Park Service Cultural Resource Program Manager, Grand Canyon National Park
Joseph Wood Krutch, Grand Canyon Today and all Its Yesterdays, Copyright 1958, Morrow Quill Paperbacks.
Michael F. Anderson, Living at the Edge. Explorers, Exploiters and Settlers of the Grand Canyon Region, Copyright 1998, Grand Canyon Association
George Wharton James, In and Around the Grand Canyon, Copyright 1901, Little, Brown & Company.