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The Rugged Tramper: Down & Up in a Natural Wonder

Hey everyone!  I felt it was time for another Rugged Tramper post because I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my last Rugged Tramper experience with you.  It was a lot of fun for me to write about it and share the images.  If you didn't catch the last post, click here to read about it.  The post was about a 25-mile backpack I did back in April in central Arizona.  What a great experience!  

This time around, I wanted to share an amazing backpacking adventure from 2009 into one of the world's natural wonders, the Grand Canyon. 

Late afternoon over the Grand Canyon from Horseshoe Mesa at the end of our second day

My fellow trampers Stephen and Sam at Mather Point.

My fellow Rugged Trampers Stephen and his brother Sam (you may remember Stephen from my Sycamore Canyon trip in April) accompanied me on a three day backpack down the Hance Trail to the Colorado River, where we spent the first night on a beach by Hance Rapids.  On the second day we ascended the Tonto Trail to our designated campsite on Horseshoe Mesa.  On our last day, we followed the Grandview Trail back to the top of the canyon.  All up, we tramped close to 30 miles.   

The Hance Trail has been dubbed one of the most difficult trails on the South Rim.  It's not as heavily used as the main corridor trails like the Bright Angel Trail, therefore it receives less maintenance and has more obstacles.  It's also one of the steepest trails.  We were treated to beautiful, mild September temperatures and our first day was a success.  Our steep, rocky 8-mile day had us descend millions of years in geologic time before setting up camp on a sandy beach at Hance Rapids.  I love being able to hear the Colorado River before you can see it as it reassures you the you're close to the bottom.  The rock layers at the bottom of the canyon are around 1.2 billion years old.  Supposedly, if there are river-rafters running the rapids, they're supposed to throw hikers some beers.  We didn't see any, but what an amazing setting!  Below is a gallery of images from our first day.

It was a beautiful, starry night, although even at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, the light pollution from Las Vegas could be seen from the west.  We slept to the peaceful sound of churning Hance Rapids and got away in the morning just as the sun finally reached the canyon's depths.  We ascended the Tonto Trail that took us away from the river and around several steep tributary canyons.  At some points on the trail, we were mere metres away from 1000-feet drop-offs.  We rested at Cottonwood Creek to fill up on spring water and address blister issues.  Our first day's descent was extremely rough on our feet.  As the day wore on, the ascent began to take a toll on us physically.  Our last obstacle before making camp was a 1000-ft switchback up the Redwall formation.  It was a formidable sight and was close to breaking our spirits.  However, we broke it up into small sections and finally topped out on Horseshoe Mesa as the sun disappeared below the horizon.  It was a tough day on the trail, but we were rewarded to awe-inspiring views across the Canyon and a beautiful clear night.  Below is a gallery of images from our second day.    

Our final day was a shorter mileage day, but no less steeper than the previous two days.  We awoke to witness the beautiful, pastel colours of dawn.  With a spring in our step, we hit the Grandview Trail to our terminus on the South Rim, the Grandview Viewpoint.  Not many words were spoken as we all buckled down to deal with the switchbacking ascent.  Ascending the Grand Canyon can indeed break one's spirit.  Just when you think the top is near, you reach what you think is the end, only to be shattered by the sight of another 1000-feet of colourful layered rock above you.  Summit fever is something you need to suppress as best as you can in the Grand Canyon, because it can be demoralising.  Below is a gallery of images from our third day.

I topped out first only to be greeted by bus loads of tourists getting their trophy shots of themselves at Grandview Viewpoint.  As my companions soon joined me, their smiles and joy to have conquered a rim-to-river-rim trek of the Grand Canyon made me forget about the tourist zoo around me.  One tourist saw us hugging and shaking hands and congratulated us on our efforts and offered to take a post-hike photo of us at the end of the trail.  As others stood around, we quickly felt their envy and savoured the moment.     

Stephen, Sam and I at the end of our trek at the Grandview Trailhead

As I write this nearly 4 years later, we all talk about this trip as though it happened yesterday.  Backpacking the Grand Canyon is an amazing, transformative experience and something well worth sharing with friends.  I've backpacked it on my own, and although it does wonders to the soul, it's definitely an experience I recommend sharing with others.  I'll never forget this trip.  It's crazy to think that people have lived here in Arizona their entire lives and they haven't seen the Grand Canyon.  For me, it's an extreme privilege to have this natural wonder of the world in my backyard!  

Thanks for stopping by:)