Essay: A Rookie's Guide to the Grand Canyon
Two cents' worth: Should you ever find your way to the Grand Canyon, don't ignore the National Park Service when it clearly states on the signs that the Hermit Trail is "for experienced desert hikers," and that it is an "unmaintained trail" that drops "2,000 vertical feet in the first 2.5 miles," 2,000 vertical feet that you will have to hike back up. If you must, then start your day with more sustenance than two cups of coffee and a granola bar, and wear something besides Nikes, and don't ignore the National Park Service when it clearly states to carry "at least two gallons of water." If you must still, then wear a hat, and don't assume 5-mile runs three or four times a week are equivalent to a 12-mile, round-trip hike that bleeds into the afternoon, when there is no escaping that orange-red, Arizona desert sun. If on you must trek, then for Christ's sake, stop at Santa Maria Spring, rest, realize that those boulders you scaled in the middle of what is called the "trail" won't be so easy to go up and over—turn around and catch the bus to the tourist entrance, that place where you just look over the rail and gasp. But if I know anything, I know what it is to see for yourself. And so when you get to Cope Butte, let reality set in. Stand on the edge of that cliff and understand that you're not sure which way is up or which way is down, only that the Grand Canyon has swallowed you. Retreat. Ration water and the chicken salad sandwich you bought way back at the Visitor's Center, when you were going to show all those tourists. The Cathedral Stairs will own you, and you will become friends with every crevice and every crag and every piece of shale, because it is just you and them, no cell service, no other hikers for miles. The thoughts you had been thinking will cease—just you and the shale and the lizards and the buzzing sounds. The out of body experience will come on slowly, once the "trail" tricks you and you hit the edge of another cliff that only goes into the abyss. You must embrace this. You must externalize your inner monologue for motivation. You must go Training Day Denzel, and say audibly, with no one in ear shot, "King Kong ain't got s*** on me." Because you will still have the 2,000 vertical feet to ascend, and your half bottle of water left will be warm, simply something to wet the dryness. You will survive because you don't want to be the one who has the rangers scale down and show you the map that says the Hermit Trail is "for experienced desert hikers." Admittedly, you've never even hiked the Great Smoky Mountains. You will survive and you will walk to the concession stand at Hermit's Rest, and you will consider all the awful things you might do to someone for a Powerade. You will consider all the awful things you want to do to the lady who is holding up the line because she no longer wants the can of liquid on the counter, she does not drink anything with high fructose corn syrup. You will lick what salt is left around your lips, and you will be too tired to go ballistic. You will get your Powerade and you will retire to a shady spot near the railing, overlooking the Colorado River, which you know is there but cannot discern. You will smile and chug your Powerade, and you will whisper, "You win."