Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Grand Canyon Experience

Steffanie Rivers and Smokey Bear
Steffanie Rivers at the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park, September 2020

*Traveling to the Grand Canyon just for a photo op, without actually hiking the trails, is like opening a bag of chips to eat just one then throwing away the rest. It’s like baking a sweet potato pie just to eat a fork full then throwing away the rest. It just shouldn’t happen!

This year I chose to make the Grand Canyon one of my vacation travel destinations for the physical challenge of its hiking trails, surrounding outdoor activities, the ease of getting a flight there and – last, but not least –  the majestic beauty of it all. 

In a virus-rich world, it helps to choose outdoor activities with plenty of space where there is less crowding! Always up for new adventures, I’ve committed to at least one major hike every year for the rest of my life. Or at least as long as I’m physically able. The last thing I want is to have to be rescued off the side of a mountain in the middle of a national forest – by a donkey. That’s how they do it, in case you didn’t know. I’ve seen it. It’s not attractive. Even when I’m hiking I want to keep up appearances. But I digress. 

I prefer beach destinations as my go-to vacation spot. But there I was standing at the top of the Grand Canyon south rim waiting to start my hike with a paid tour guide.

I’m no shrinking violet who needs to be led around by the hand on a hike. But this was just my second official hike; the first one being to the top of Half Dome at Yosemite National Park last year. 

It took my hiking partner and I eleven hours traversing that mountain. It was dark by the time we found our way back to the car. So this year when the fear of contracting COVID caused him to forego our planned Grand Canyon trip I decided to go alone. 

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Steffanie hiking in the Grand Canyon
Steffanie Rivers at the Grand Canyon, September 2020

I was scheduled to meet my hiking tour guide at 7am. I was there. He wasn’t. No cell phone reception kept me from calling the tour office to inquire about the mix-up. So I started the 6-hour hike alone. I was determined to have a great experience and be back in my hotel room before nightfall.

Hiking in the canyon is different than in a national park: First, you hike down into the canyon. Then you hike up and out of the canyon. It takes twice as long to hike up. So if you start early enough in the day you won’t get caught in the dark. 

Of course, for hiking in such terrain you will need a good and reliable pair of shoes. I always have my trusty pair from Keen but if you need a good and reliable pair, check out the Hiking section at Globo Surf.

I was less than halfway into the hike down into the canyon when I observed a man wearing tour guide paraphernalia talking tour guide lingo leading a group…on a tour. Turns out this was my group. They had left without me. 

Shane, the tour guide claimed he wasn’t aware I had signed up for the tour, therefore he thought all participants were there. Turns out there was a second Steffanie – different spelling – on the tour that day. It’s a detail the guide overlooked. So they left without me. At least that was the story he told me.

I joined the tour for the remainder of the hike. I made up for lost time by asking the guide plenty of questions while following at his heels. Shane assured me my fee would be refunded because of the mix-up. Still, I made him work double-duty as my photographer. 

A woman fell to her death a few weeks before my visit while – of all things – trying to snap photos. I wasn’t trying to go out like that!

Two hundred miles separate the south rim in Arizona from the west rim near Las Vegas. And just to confirm that, I took a white water rafting tour along the Colorado River that runs through it! 

When we weren’t riding through rapids getting water splashed in our faces with the force of five water log rides, we stopped to swim in the river, eat on beach landings and we even hiked to a hidden waterfall. A couple on the excursion with me also got engaged! 

It was my first-time river rafting experience, but it won’t be my last! 

If you’re contemplating a vacation put the Grand Canyon at the top of your list. But if you go promise me you won’t just snap photos from the rim, but you’ll hike to the bottom and swim in the river too!

Steffanie Rivers (screenshot1)
Steffanie Rivers

Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. Email her at info@SteffanieRivers.com with your comments, questions and speaking inquiries. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @TCBStef.

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