West: The Canyon Come Up

Where did we go and why?  Hiking and camping in the Grand Canyon was the centerpiece of  a 3-week road trip to New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and Texas – a combo of camping, hoteling, hiking, and visits with family and friends. I had fond summer and winter memories in New Mexico as a kid and across all of those states as part of field studies in ecology class about 20 years ago.  Mike had seen some of Colorado.  We both had an itch for a road trip to see family out there and to experience the Grand Canyon.  We crave extended outdoor time in cooler regions when northwest Florida is at its hottest.  Friends who’ve lived in Arizona advised September was a great time to be there, as things are cooling down.  Coincidentally, Mike started a new work role and schedule after we set dates for the trip. My morning guy had been working a late shift with alternate weekend schedule since July, and goes back to “normal days” after vacation.  We looked forward to this trip as a reset to a more natural schedule.  We would be less like like ships passing in the daytime.

Permits.  Everything hinged on STEP 1, getting camping permits for the Grand Canyon. Once those were secured we could plan the rest of our trip.   Our request was a little late according to NPS guidelines for backcountry permit requests since they start accepting those submitted 10 days before the 1st of the month 4 months prior to the requested permit day; we submitted our request on May 1 for two campgrounds for Labor Day week September 8th and 9th.  We wanted to be there mid-week and hiking out on the weekend when we figure it might get crowded.  The permit confirmation arrived swiftly on May 4th; we were delighted and also somewhat nervous about this: WARNING!  We are concerned you have chosen a summer hike — hiking in the desert of Grand Canyon within the hottest time of the year carries inherent risk… 

Sustenance.  We had to be scientific about this for safety purposes.  Google hiking in the Canyon, particularly in the summer, and you will read some scary stuff.   In the week before we left we planned canyon food; we measured, and weighed it all to make sure we were aligned with the advice in this South Rim Backcountry Checklist:  3000-4000 calories (1 – 1 1/2 pounds) of food per person per day if you are packing the right kind of foods)and individual backpack weight of no more than 28 pounds including a day’s worth of water. There is typically fresh water at the 2 campsites, but we had to carry enough water (4 L each) with us on day 1 descent. This planning bit was initially daunting, but Mike and I working on this together over the course of several evenings made it fun.  He is a human calculator and it was good to have him double-check my basic math.  The plan for a typical day’s grub on the go in the canyon:
  • Breakfast: coffee (although it is not recommended), chia\hemp\buckwheat cereal mixed with ground cashews and water, trail mix, vitamineral green powder and water.
  • Snacks twice a day: Clif bars, beef jerky, trail mix, pretzels.
  • Lunch:  bagel with 1 pack of Justin’s peanut butter.
  • Dinner: couscous, rehydrated freeze-dried vegetables, 1 package vacuum packed tuna.
  • Dessert: dried bananas and cacao nibs.
Let’s Get Physical. Toe blisters had historically been a problem for me, so we packed moleskin, glacier gel dressing, and duct tape.  We had trekking poles to reduce strain on the knees and aid with stability since would be all downhill for 7 miles on the 1st day.  I did next to nothing compared to what is advised for physical preparation; this was risky.  My workaholic tendencies had been in full force (excuses);  I had not been granting myself time for adequate exercise.  Mike had done all the right things per his normal m.o., swimming twice a week, walking 1 – 2 hours a day, weight-training most days of the week.

Part I – Week 1 – The Grand
9/3 – leave Pensacola, Florida
9/4 – 9/6, Roswell, New Mexico
9/6, TBD – Stay somewhere in Sedona, Arizona
9/7, Canyon Day prior: Car camping in Mather Campground, Grand Canyon Village.
9/8, Day 1: Descent. South Kaibab Trailhead down and across the Colorado River to Bright Angel Campground
9/9, Day 2: Slight Ascent: Bright Angel Trail from Campground to Indian Garden Campground
9/10 Day 3: Big Ascent: Bright Angel Trail from Indian Garden Campground to the South Rim.  Hotel in Yavapai Lodge, Grand Canyon Village
Part II – Week 2 – Rocky Mountain
9/11: TBD
9/12 – 9/15: Aspenglen Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
9/15 – 9/17: Visit friends in Denver and Boulder, Colorado
Part III – Week 3 – Wind Down
9/18 – 9/21: TBD.
9/22 – 9/23: Visit son in Fort Worth, Texas
9/24: arrive in Pensacola, Florida

*title music credits:
post sub-title source: The Big Come Up, The Black Key’s 2002 debut ablum title
sub-heading source: Let’s Get Physical, Olivia Newton-John’s 2001 song title

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