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The Spectator
founded 2004 by ron cruger
A place for intelligent writers
A place for intelligent readers
 by Laramie Boyd
Hiking Below the Rim
2017 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
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Your comments about this column are welcome ~ e-mail Laramie at
ecrboyd@aol.com
        Some people call it "Just a big hole in the ground." But those who really know the Grand Canyon, those who have experienced its grandeur first hand, those who have hiked down one of the few trails that lead to the bottom, or rode a raft where the great Colorado River flows, these brave hikers know that the Canyon is the most magnificent "hole in the ground" on Earth. And it took millions of years for the river to carve out the canyon, and it's still carving, one grain of sand at a time.
        Some 5 million visitors travel there every year to the northwest corner of the state of Arizona to view one of the seven "Wonders of the World." Travelers from all parts of the world make reservations months ahead of their arrival date to get a room in a hotel at the visitor's center village at the South Rim of the canyon. Or maybe a seat on a river-raft-rapids experience. And for this the riders pay from $1800 for a 5-day trip or $3900 for 14 days on the river. These trips, of course, include everything needed for the ride and overnight stays on the beaches along the river. Lots of food and ice cold liquid refreshment of your choice. On the other hand, some adventurers like to descend into the canyon astride a mule, down a winding trail to the river level. That trip could require a year or more advance notice, and cost over $140. So far, 600,000 visitors have taken the mule ride down, and most have ridden back. That trip is not for the feint-hearted, as parts of the trail are narrow and the view over the edge can be upsetting, as the mule weaves its way downward. Experienced mulers often say, "Just don't look down over the edge if you feel queasy."
       Then there are the hardy canyon hikers, those who would brave the rigors of a walk down to the mighty Colorado river, a mile below the rim. There, the river itself is over 2000 ft. above sea level. Because there are 300 or so hikers a year that need to be rescued, and 600 or so deaths due to heat or dehydration have been recorded over the years, the intelligent, plan-ahead hikers know the fragile nature of the canyon and the dangerous elements of hiking that are possible, so they take care. Believe it or not, at least 2 or 3 canyon visitors are so anxious to record their visit on film that they stand, or pose, so close to the edge of the rim, that they lose their balance and fall to their death. Unbelievable!
       So what do the skilled hikers do, those who go below the rim and stay from one day to several days, to make the trip safer and thus more enjoyable? What preparations should they make so that they will be sure to return for another safe, unforgettable journey next month or next year? But so often, at least one more.
       The hikers must keep in the back of their minds the need to carry sufficient water and food . A good rule of thumb would be a quart of water for every 3 or 4 miles of hiking, This of course depends on the temperature, which can go over 100 degrees in the summer, taking into account the time of day, and the difficulty of the terrain covered. Obviously it's cooler during the morning and evening hours, before the sun comes up or after it sets. There's a saying among park rangers. "Only fools and rangers hike during the summer, and the rangers are there just to help the fools."
       It's a good idea to bring along salty, energy giving snacks. And proper training and conditioning exercises could provide the fitness necessary to tackle the tough going down and coming up the trails, besides the travel along the Canyon bottom. With an eye to carrying only bare essentials, any backpack strapped on should never weigh more than 25% of the hikers weight. Sun glasses and sun screen, a brimmed hat, and a change of light weight clothing should be included in a carry-on. There is often rain on the canyon floor. Also, someone back on the rim should be made aware of the planned trail, its direction and length of stay aimed for.
       All of these seemingly common sense, but sometimes forgotten, precautions are sure to pay dividends to anyone hiking below the rim in the magnificent, powerful, inspiring Grand Canyon. Besides the thrill of accomplishment, and "bragging rights" for their having hiked below the rim, memories of possible sightings of the mountain lion, Bighorn sheep, deer, wild turkeys and eagles, and a wide variety of birds, will make the trip well worthwhile. At the same time, though, be weary of the rattlesnakes, scorpions, poisonous spiders and fire ants, as no nature walk is without some measure of caution. But, even if you don't hike, or get seasick in a boat, and are afraid of four-legged creatures, take the time to visit the grandest canyon of them all, and just relax and ponder the wonder of nature and how this magnificent structure came about. Did the river really carve it out of the land mass over millions or even billions of years, or did an almighty Creator accomplish the feat in just 7 days? I wonder.