Digital Dimdima
-By Rashmi Menon
Labor Day
The Community College
Hiking the Grand Canyon – II
Hiking the Grand Canyon – I
The Niagara Falls
Desert Dogs
The Sears Tower
The Navajo Code Talkers
Driving Through McDonalds
The Mighty Desert Warrior
The Big Roundup
Serving the Americans
Martin Luther King Day
Harvard University and Other Ivy League Schools
Winter Wonders
Las Vegas
Let’s Give Thanks!
Fall Colours
Halloween
The Collared Peccary
Hurricane Isabel
Wonders of Yellowstone
A Trip Under the Sea
The Legend of the Kokopelli
The Great Lakes of North America

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Hiking the Grand Canyon – II

Last fortnight, my interviewee, Priyo Sinha, gave us some interesting tidbits about the history of the Grand Canyon. In this edition, he will recount the gory details of his hiking experience.

Rashmi: Tell us something about your hiking group.

Priyo: My hiking group consisted of five of my colleagues and myself. At 28 years I am the youngest, four others are in their 30s and 40s, and the sixth was a 50-year-old, but he is an immensely experienced “hiking machine”! Although it was my maiden GC hike, all the others had done the rim-to-rim several times, so I was considered a “rookie” (a novice) in this endeavor.

Rashmi: Tell us something about your preparation activities.

Priyo: Any overnight or hiking trip to Grand Canyon requires extensive preparation months in advance.
My group decided to perform the hike in a three-day trip. Due to the number of visitors to the canyon, we had to make reservations at the lodge, campground, and even for dinner at the only restaurant in the bottom, several months before the trip!
About one month before the trip, we started going on shorter practice hikes in and around the city of Phoenix. Though I had been on some moderate hikes before, none were nearly as tough as hiking the Grand Canyon, so this practice really helped build my stamina, and strengthen my leg muscles and will-power. The weekend before the trip, I went on a hike on Friday evening and another one on Saturday morning, to prepare myself for hiking on two consecutive days. This was a new experience for me.
I bought a small 1-person tent (modern tents are really lightweight and easy to set up), a pair of trekking poles (they are invaluable for support and balance during hiking), hiking shoes, a flashlight that I could wear on my head, and some energy bars (chocolate-type bars packed with energy-giving nutrients). I also bought a backpack with a 3-litre water-pouch, fitted with a pipe so I could sip water every now and then while hiking.

Rashmi: Could you share with us the highlights of your hiking experience?

Priyo: We started hiking down at the crack of dawn. By the time the sun had started glowing fiercely on us, we had walked 12 km of scintillating scenery to a small campground called Cottonwood, where we saw a Grand Canyon Rattlesnake, an endangered species of snake that is found only in the Grand Canyon and nowhere else in the world!
The remaining 12 km of the journey to the river turned out to be really difficult though we had covered most of the elevation change by this time; the sun's ways were much more intense at this point. After 6 more km, we took a slight detour to a place called Ribbon Falls, which was a breathtaking oasis of greenery created by a waterfall. This was a pleasant surprise for me.
In the last part of the trail, we walked through a narrow gorge along the banks of a stream called Bright Angel Creek, and crossed the stream several times across narrow foot-bridges. By this time my shoulders were aching badly due to carrying the tent, sleeping bag, etc. Finally, we reached the camp named Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon, and had a long drink of lemonade at the restaurant there.
Lemonade never tasted sweeter than after hiking 24 km!!
We pitched out tents and bathed in the cool waters of the Bright Angel Creek, where I spotted another snake, this time a small silvery-brown one that darted into a bush by the stream. Then we went for a short stroll on a 'beach' along the nearby Colorado River.
After dinner, one of the Park Rangers (government employees who guard and maintain the park and also guide visitors) gave us a very enlightening talk about the nocturnal creatures of the Grand Canyon, including scorpions, bats, raccoons and skunks, among many others. Interestingly, there are no mosquitoes in the Grand Canyon, because the bats feed on them. After the lecture, we walked back to our tent-site. The night-sky was the clearest I had ever seen, and was perfect for star-gazing.
The next morning (again at the crack of dawn) we set out for the hike up to South Rim. There are just 2 bridges across the Colorado River in that area, the Silver Bridge and the Black Bridge, and we crossed one of them. After hiking for 8 km on mostly lower elevations and cool temperatures, we reached a large belt of dramatic lush greenery, known as Indian Gardens (named after the ancient Indian, i.e. Native Americans who are believed to have lived here many centuries ago. The last stretch of the hike was the most difficult hiking stretch I have ever done, with a climb of 3000 feet in 6 km of walking! Fortunately, there were a couple of well-placed rest-houses where I could relax for a few minutes. Slowly I trudged my way up and finally reached the top. It was an exhilarating feeling, and we headed straight to the ice-cream parlor on the rim and rewarded ourselves to some delicious desserts.
According to Priyo, hiking can be a very educative and entertaining experience if it is done at a pace which allows one to connect with nature and the landscape.
Serious hikers should always understand and respect human limitations; they should always make sure they are eating enough energizing (and salty) food and drinking enough water. This is especially true in the case of extreme terrains like Grand Canyon, deserts and mountains.

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