In the spirit of doing “EPIC shit” frequently and passionately, this June we set out to accomplish a once in a lifetime adventure that will be forever imprinted in my wildest memories. In honor of the 100 year birthday of our National Parks, our destination for this trip was none other than the Grand Canyon. Spanning a total distance of 277 miles, our targeted route consisted of two back to back 25 mile days that would transport us from the South Rim to the North Rim. The plan was to spend the night on top of the North Rim, refuel, and then trek back to the South Rim the following day!
The Canyon itself attains a depth of over a mile (6,093 feet) and has a rich geological history that dates back nearly two billion years. The epic landscape has been dramatically shaped by the Colorado River and its tributaries. The magnitude of its size and beauty is beyond words, and has rightfully landed the Grand Canyon on a list of The Seven Natural Wonders Of The World. This National Park is one to add to your bucket list and will not disappoint your thirst for adventure or natural beauty.
Our team of travelers consisted of Katie, myself, and two of our best friends (Ryan and Ben). This trip has been on our radar for years, and we decided to make it a reality only 6 weeks before leaving town! We all share a passion for exploring and a necessity to connect with nature. Admittingly, the four of us have neglected "the call of the wild” for the past few months. Between jobs, family, and life commitments we are all going into this trip without much base conditioning or training miles. We expect to have a “rude awakening” during our hike and know that there will be hours of suffering in our near future. Luckily, we are all encoded with the "Warrior Spirit" and are ready to embrace everything the Grand Canyon gifts us.
Thankfully our EPIC ambassador Brian Allen-Aguilar visited the Grand Canyon one week prior to our arrival. On his recon mission, Brian successfully ran from the South Rim to the North and then back in only 13 hours! This feat of superhuman strength inspired our crew to move fast and embrace the experience. Brian provided us with strategic insights on what to eat (tons of EPIC bars of course), where to find lemonade, what do to if we encountered rattlesnakes, and how to navigate through the “griddle” (the hottest part of the canyon walls).
Our journey started early in the morning as we descended the South Rim via the South Kaibab Trail. Within 2 hours we had descended 7 miles of steep trail and came face to face with the majestic Colorado River! Our quads felt slightly abused, but the overall energy reserves remained high. The highlight of this descent was coming across a wild Bighorn Sheep (one of my favorite animals) and staring deep into its eyes before it bolted down a death defying 70% grade slope!
The next stretch of our hike was spent on the North Kaibab Trail and covered a 7 mile false flat that crossed the floor of the canyon. This stretch was full of running water from crystal clear tributaries and excellent spots to rest underneath shady trees. Phantom Ranch was particularly memorable as it provided a nice spot to soak our feet in cool mountain water and sip on ice-cold lemonade. YES, there is ice-cold lemonade at a the ranger station on the bottom of the canyon floor! Its game-changing and when combined with soaking your feet in cold streams, guaranteed to regenerate your body and soul. We accomplished covering this stretch in just 3 hot hours. The bottom of the canyon was characterized by feeling like we were inside a giant wood burning pizza oven. As a result, this stretch respectfully came known as “The Toaster”.
The final 7 miles of our hike represented the climb from the canyon floor to the top of the North Rim. Unbeknownst to our group, the North Rim sits 2,000 feet higher than the South Rim and represented the most EPIC climax of our journey. With well over 6,000 feet of elevation gain, every muscle in our lower body was exhausted. With snack breaks every 60 minutes, we crushed EPIC bars by the fistful! Its surreal at times like this to eat our own products. Its a rewarding reflection to fuel ourselves with the food that we created three years ago in order to feed our bodies at times just like this. Here we were, 9 hours into a 25 mile day, isolated in the Grand Canyon, and enjoying grass fed bison, wild salmon, and pastured venison! Praise be EPIC!
We finished the monster climb at just over 10 hours of total running/hiking. This beast of a journey grounded us spiritually and physically and we ended day one with an overwhelming respect for the brute ruggedness of the Grand Canyon. We ate endless bowls of hot elk chili to regenerate our weary quads and slept in a cozy cabin on the North Rim. Without effort we slept soundly throughout the night.
The following day we woke up with unexceptionally spry legs and perfectly cloudy skies. We reversed the Grand Canyon and crushed another full day of rich Arizona beauty, good conversations, and physical perseverance. For those interested in running or hiking the Grand Canyon, learn more here. It's a great accomplishment and a memorable journey that you will forever hold near your heart.