It's my favorite tradition — and a strong indicator of where my priorities fall. I've failed to go home for Christmas for six of the past seven years, but I never miss the annual autumn Grand Canyon rim-to-rim hike with my dad.
This year was my seventh trip into the "big ditch," as my friend Dave calls the Colorado River gorge. My first rim-to-rim hike, back in October 2004, was such a daunting prospect that I was awake all night before the hike, nervous that I wouldn't find the strength to climb all the way out of the canyon. I'd done 6,000-foot climbs before that, but never at the end of a long day. My dad and I joined a large group at North Kaibab trailhead in predawn darkness. I remember thinking it was such an incredibly long way down; after fifteen miles, my legs were aching and we were still at the bottom of the canyon. Temperatures climbed over a hundred degrees as we plodded up the Bright Angel Trail. Some of our companions developed bloody nipples and heat exhaustion, and had to submerge themselves in tiny trickles of streams. When we finally reached the South Rim, I plopped down with a Pepsi my mom brought for me, convinced I couldn't possibly take another step. Now, eight years later, a rim-to-rim hike has become something I've convinced myself I can squeeze in less than a week after a hundred-mile mountain run. Even my dad has started talking about doing a double-crossing next year, calling it "the new rim-to-rim." But where some of the challenge has faded, the unbelievable beauty and quality time with my dad has remained.
So I was stoked to arrive at this place for lunch — Ribbon Falls, my favorite spot on the North Kaibab Trail. (Actually about a half mile off the main trail. So you even get a bonus mile.)