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6 / Hiking the Canyon FRANK D. TIKALSKY Humans have been at home in the Canyon with computer and spear; they have walked the Canyon barefoot and with Vibram soles. Strong evidence indicates that 4,000 years ago American Indians traveled the depths of the Canyon by foot in pursuit of game. Today, Grand Canyon National Park officials annually issue over 80,000 overnight hiking permits and estimate that during periods of heavy use approximately 400 persons daily hike the Bright Angel Trail. The earliest visitors to the Grand Canyon did not seek recreation but rather the sustenance essential to life and, with an elegantly simple technology, apparently succeeded. Ironically, modem backpackers, aided by sophisticated paraphernalia, search for experiences common to their aboriginal predecessors , seeking relief from, rather than support for, technology . They seek escape from modernity, thus confirming Thoreau's observation that "we need to witness our own limits transgressed and some life pasturing freely where we never wander." There is no better way to develop an appreciation for the Frank Tikalsky 96 geology, ecology, and archaeology of the Canyon than by walking its depths. To fully appreciate the Canyon, the viewer requires both microscopic and macroscopic views, for there is no other way to grasp its proportions. In a seven-hour walk from the rim to the river, one penetrates six of the seven North American life zones and descends through two-and-one-half billion years of geologic time. No rim view can capture the excitement of these experiences. In twenty-five years of canyon hiking below the rim, I have never experienced a minute for which I have not been abundantly rewarded. To be sure, I still do not grasp its dimensions; however, I am gaining a vast appreciation for its qualities. The Canyon has provided me with leisurely hikes to places of solitude and beauty as well as mountaineering challenges of significant proportions. I have experienced solo hikes as well as camaraderie with family and friends. Many mistakingly think of canyon hiking as a trip to the bottom of an abyss. Not so. There is much more varied adventure here than that. Some of my most treasured memories are brief hikes to a special archaeological ruin, a secret spring, or a breathtaking vista. Harvey Butchart, the famed canyon mountaineer and inveterate hiker, estimates that he has spent more than a thousand days below the rim and has found more than a hundred routes to the Colorado River-trails which Dr. Robert Euler, an expert in Grand Canyon archaeology, believes were well-known to aboriginal explorers. Thus, remember that the Canyon offers a variety of backpacking experiences ranging from relatively simple day-hiking to challenging and demanding expedition outings that require sound physical condition in addition to consummate skill in backpacking and mountaineering. For any given trail, hikers Facing page 95: A mule train on the South Kaibab Trail Hiking the Canyon 97 should thoroughly acquaint themselves with the demands of the hike, have the ability to cope with those demands, and make sure they have the appropriate equipment. Ignorance of these basic requirements has been fatal. (At the end of this chapter is a list of necessities considered basic for safe, comfortable backpacking in the Grand Canyon.) Hikers unfamiliar with the Grand Canyon should know that many so-called trails are, for the most part, routes with only an occasional semblance of a trail. Thus, it is imperative to consult one or more hiking guidebooks (also listed at the end of this chapter) prior to attempting an inner canyon trek. The guidebooks by John Annerino and Stewart Aitchison are particularly valuable for people unfamiliar with the canyon environs . Anyone planning to negotiate the most commonly traversed unmaintained routes should consult Scott Thybony's guide. If, after becoming an experienced canyon hiker, you plan to attempt difficult, seldom-walked routes, you should familiarize yourself with the guides and articles by Harvey Butchart. Many hiking guides evaluate Grand Canyon trails in terms of their difficulty and, on occasion, rank them. Be careful if you are unaware of the criteria used in such ratings. Do not accept trail-guide evaluations uncritically. For example, guides frequently describe North Bass as the most difficult canyon trail, probably because of the obscureness of the route. If you consider obscureness the major criterion, such an estimation is probably correct; however, if dangerous exposure concerns you, some areas of the Nankoweap traverse would qualify as highly challenging. Always attempt to determine precisely the particular...


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