Yes, you read that right. It’s hard to believe, but one year ago today, Jason and I began our descent into the Grand Canyon. On foot. With about 30 lbs on my back and 55 lbs on his. Not to return to civilization (or cell signal, or a real mattress, or a shower) until our feet carried us back out the next day.
We had flown into Flagstaff, AZ the day before (side note: Flagstaff has got to be the smallest airport ever – even smaller than our little regional airport here in Roanoke, VA!) and stocked up on our perishables at Walmart. That morning, we loaded up our packs with tons of water and the other essential items that we would need to hike roughly 16.5 miles of trail and just shy of 5,000 feet in elevation change (each direction) – all in about a 28-hour period of time.
I literally couldn’t even type that without laughing, because y’all. We. were. crazy. And I still can’t believe we actually did it.
But we did. And we made it. [If I could put emojis in a blog post, I would put all the praise hands here.] All 16.5 miles and ~4,800 feet of elevation change each day. And if we’re being honest, I never would have made it without Jason. (Of course, I probably also would never have attempted this if it weren’t for him, but that’s beside the point, right? Haha!) I can laugh about it now, but it was – hands down – the most physically challenging thing I have ever done in my life. I was definitely suffering from heat exhaustion by the time we reached camp on the first day. (And did you know that once heat exhaustion sets in, it takes your body 2-3 days to recover? Yeah. Fun times.) Thank goodness Jason didn’t mind setting up camp all by himself. I had a legitimate breakdown (y’all. crying.) halfway up on Day 2 because what I desperately wanted was to push through and just keep walking so we could be done, but my body wasn’t cooperating. It’s super frustrating when your body doesn’t line up with your willpower. BUT, Jason lightened my pack by taking my camera and some of my other heavier items from me, and eventually, we did make it out. And now, I really can laugh about it. And I can be a little proud of myself because I did keep going (albeit, a heck of a lot slower than I wanted to) and I did carry myself into the Grand Canyon and back out in just over one day (literally, started in at 10:30AM on Thursday and hobbled out around 2:30PM on Friday). Which, by the way, I don’t recommend – see above where I said we were crazy. #truestory
But I do have some pretty breathtaking images to show for it, if I do say so myself…
Jason took this panorama on his phone:
And we snapped some more iPhone shots along the way, because it was just easier than unpacking my big girl camera from my pack every 5 minutes!
This sign in the photo on the right was about halfway down on the first day.
Can we stop and talk about the fact that the trail is literally just cut into the side of the ridge?! it was crazy!
I mean, you guys – this VIEW, right?! And to think we walked all the way down into the depths of that and back out in about 28 hours. Have I mentioned we were crazy?
It was sometime after this point that I really started feeling rough, so I didn’t break my camera out much the rest of that day, but I did snap an iPhone shot of this bridge we had to use to cross the Colorado River! (See the tunnel opening in the lower right-hand corner of the frame that we had to walk through to get to the bridge?) We were probably an hour or so from the Bright Angel Campground at this point.
When we finally made it to the campground, I passed out for about an hour or so while Jason set up camp (bless him) and then when I finally felt like moving again, we explored Bright Angel Campground a little. Here’s our little tent and camp site!
Thank goodness Jason had done #alltheresearch and made sure we had #allthethings we could possibly need to survive in the wilderness!
Who knew there was so much vegetation in the base of the Grand Canyon, right?! And it was SO. HOT. down there! I don’t think the temperature got below 80 degrees overnight.
We broke camp and started the trek back up super early the next morning… I think we were packed and on our way before 6AM. (Those of you who know me well know that this in and of itself is a miracle! Haha!) But I’m so glad we did, because we made the best progress before the sun got too strong, and some of my favorite images are from those early morning hours on that second day.
We took the South Kaibab Trail in on Day 1 and took the Bright Angel Trail out on Day 2, so we crossed a different bridge early on Day 2.
Have you ever wondered how much of a hot mess you’d be if you had hiked 7 miles into the grand canyon and then slept there with no shower? See below. I don’t even know what is happening with my hair. I actually think this is how I woke up and I just left it, because… what was the point.
We literally made it almost exactly halfway up on Day 2 (roughly 4.5 out of 9 miles) in the first three hours (before the sun made it directly overhead), which was awesome and we were super excited about it. (Little did we know it would take us about 5 hours to conquer the second half of the trail, because my body was boycotting this whole endeavor.)
But this grainy, out-of-focus, terribly-unflattering-of-both-of-us iPhone shot is one of my favorites from the whole trip, because in this moment we were excited, we were proud of what we had accomplished, and we were ready to face the rest of this challenge together.
This view right here, though. Oh my goodness.
It wasn’t long after this that I really started struggling. I was nauseous, my legs felt so weak, and I had to stop and rest WAY more frequently than I wanted to. We encountered a determined little squirrel who kept trying to steal our trail mix. (Also, peep the distinct dirt line above Jason’s socks! Y’all, I’ve never been so filthy in my life.)
Aaaand then I had a breakdown. Crying. Because I just wanted to be done and we still had like 2 or 3 miles left to go and my body was letting me down. And what did Jason do? He took a PICTURE of me. Yes, the image on the right is literally me having a breakdown in the Grand Canyon. He’s a smart guy, though. He didn’t share this with me until days later – when I could appreciate it. Haha!
This was the very last photo I took on my way out, with my iPhone, because nobody had the energy to fish my big girl camera out of Jason’s pack at this point. But my gosh, I had to get a shot of this, right?!
When we finally made it back to our rental car, we had roughly a 6 hour drive ahead of us. (My cousin was getting married in Beaver, Utah that weekend and I was shooting the wedding, alongside two of her good friends, also photographers. Check out that gorgeousness here!) We were starving (did I mention all I could stomach eating that entire second day, thanks to the heat exhaustion, was trail mix?) and were so ready to reach the next town and sit down and eat a hot meal. So we hit the road, and we drove.
And we drove some more. Through the desert. Where there was literally nothing.
And we came to a stop light where there was a gas station and a burger king. And we decided, we wanted REAL food and we could make it to the next town.
And y’all, I swear we went 4 hours without seeing more than a gas station and maybe another fast food joint every hour or so.
FINALLY, we crossed the Utah state line and we found ourselves in a real town. With real restaurants. And we hobbled out of the car like hunchbacks and we ordered the biggest plates of fried chicken and mashed potatoes I think I’ve ever eaten. And somewhere along the line (actually, I’m pretty sure it was before we ever made it out of the Canyon), between my heat exhaustion and my blistered feet and our sore muscles, we decided it probably wouldn’t be wise to attempt the second overnight hike we’d planned for the tail end of our trip, after the wedding weekend festivities.
So we booked a hotel room in Las Vegas instead. At Caesar’s Palace. And this girl right here, who’d said she had no desire to visit Las Vegas and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, enjoyed every second of the two days we spent in Las Vegas.
You guys, there were directional signs IN Caesar’s Palace. Because otherwise you would literally get lost. IN the resort. I’m so not kidding.
We don’t drink and we don’t gamble, but we do like a little pampering every now and then and we love some good food and we love to shop. And you don’t have to go far to find those things in Vegas. In fact, there was an entire shopping mall (and TWO Starbucks) IN. OUR. RESORT. I literally did not have to set foot outside to find an iced caramel macchiato and some normal clothes to wear (because, you know, I had only packed for a wedding … and hiking). So we slept in, and we traipsed around Vegas, and we ordered room service and we ate amazing food and got as many caramel macchiatos as my little heart desired.
And we saw the Venetian and we reminisced about our dream trip to Italy (now almost two years ago!) when we walked around Venice and shopped in the real Rialto Bridge.
And Jason played one slot machine. (I mean, I think this is a slot machine?)
And we saw the fountains a the Bellagio and took the obligatory shot of the faux Eiffel Tower at night.
And the only time we actually saw the phenomenal pools at Caesar’s Palace was at night, but I actually think they were even prettier at night. Yes, this shot below is just the POOLS at Caesar’s. Everything in Vegas was so over-the-top and ornate.
We splurged on a room service breakfast our last morning (first and only time either of us have ever ordered room service – haha!) and it was 100% worth it. 🙂
Thanks for re-living our trip with me, friends! I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions in the comments below! Have you ever been to Vegas or the Grand Canyon? What was your favorite part of your trip? Or, if you’ve never been, what would definitely be on your wish list if you were to plan a trip out west?!