The Grand Canyon is one of the 7 wonders of the world and has rightly secured its place in this list. Located in northern Arizona, it is approximately 1 mile deep and 277 mile long. It is one of the worlds most spectacular examples of erosion and is an extremely popular place for tourists from all over the world.
We sped our way towards the GC after leaving Vegas a little bit later than expected. Thankfully we managed to arrive around 20 minutes before the sunset and I led a closed-eye Tom to the edge before letting him open his eyes and soak up the enormity of this place. Perched on a rock that overhung the edge, we watched the sky and canyon turn different shades of pink as the sun sunk below the horizon.
We jumped in the car to head to our "nearby" accommodation. Whilst the underestimation of distance was not as bad as Bishop (which was actually 3 hours away from Yosemite, not the 1 hour we thought), Flagstaff turned out to be 1 hour 45 mins away from the Canyon as opposed to the 1 hour Tom has estimated. We sped along in the dark towards home and as I faffed with something in my lap, Tom suddenly hit the brakes causing a small stream of abuse from myself....that is until I looked at the road and noticed an ENORMOUS elk standing boldly in the middle. We stopped with around 10m to spare and the bloody thing didn't move until Tom held his hand on the horn. The final 45 minutes of the drive was considerably slower.
After checking into our airbnb room in Flagstaff, we didn't get to bed until 1am due to some admin that needed urgent attention. This made the 5:30am wake up to hike the Canyon a bit of a struggle. Bleary eyed, we piled into the car with our thermos of coffee and a tub of porridge. We arrived at 7:30am and jumped onto the hikers shuttle (complimentary with the $25 entry fee you have to pay) to the Kaibab South Trail.
There are several outer rim hikes at the GC but hiking under the rim is considered strenuous, while hiking to the bottom and back in a day is highly unrecommended. However I had done exactly this when I was here 10 years ago (Ummm...how did I suddenly get old enough to make a statement like that!?) and while it was hard, we managed it in 9 hours back then. I was confident we could beat that time. Tom was a little nervous that I was leading him on a treacherous journey.
You don't really get to understand the scale of the GC until you start walking down. The views are constantly changing and you see different levels insides - red dust, then grey, then red then suddenly there is greenery. We started at 8:30am and it took us 2.5 hours to get down to the Colorado River. Along the way we were overtaken by a few runners - 3 guys hurtled past at neck breaking speeds along with a few groups of girls.
Feeling fresh and confident we started the ascent. It is only then that you realised how hard it is - the sun is beating down, the path is dusty and suddenly you are going through your water quite quickly. The bottom is lush and we followed a lovely creek with greenery for around 1.5 hours up to the Indian Garden, a rest stop on the Bright Angel trail. This signalled the final big push up to the top - 4.5 miles of switch back after switch back all the way to the top.
Enthused that each step was taking us closer to the top which was closer to the car which was closer to McDonalds where we were going to buy some fries, we set a cracking pace up the hill. Until this point we had not been overtaken by anyone except for the crazy runners so you can imagine our delight when we overtook 2 of the running girls on the way up. As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race!
Fuelled by Starburst, we reached the top at 3:15pm - 6 hours and 45 minutes after we started! We had hiked a total of 16 miles, descended and ascended a total vertical height of 2 miles (1 mile each way). We were covered in red dust but pretty elated as we hadn't expected to get back until 5:30pm.
After cleaning ourselves off, we jumped in the car, demolished some Maccas fries and started what felt like the longest drive of the trip back to Flagstaff. After a proper shower, Tom devoured a pizza, I ate pad thai and we crawled into our memory foam bed with a tub of ice-cream at 8pm to watch a movie and pass out. It was possibly one of the best days of our trip thus far.