What Keeps Us Coming Back to Grand Canyon

The first time I went to Grand Canyon was in the middle of a cross-country road trip on my way to California during the winter of 2004, years after Matt Brown started running trips with Rubicon Outdoors.  I had been driving for about two weeks from New England where I grew up and was feeling antsy to keep on the road moving west.  I did what most other tourists do when they visit Grand Canyon on a road trip:  drive into the park, walk the twenty feet up to rim, stare at it over the hand railing in awe for the entirety of a minute, snap a few pictures, get someone else to snap a few pictures (the art of the selfie was yet to be so prolific), get a little lunch, and get back on the road.  But, as soon as I left I immediately felt a twinge of regret for not having stayed to linger.  How could such a beautiful place exist? What on earth could possibly be down there?  The literal and metaphoric depth of the canyon is a cultural and geologic wonder.  The trail from the rim to the river and all the side canyons in between seemed endless.  My curiosity had been piqued.  I didn’t know when or how I would return, but I knew I had to go.


The next two times I returned to Grand Canyon were both part of courses I took at Prescott College while studying in their Adventure Education program.  The next trip was for a geology class that focused on the Colorado Plateau, and we hiked about halfway down the South Kaibab Trail to what’s informally known as the tip-off point at the edge of the Tonto Platform.  This all-day event gave us a real up-close-and-personal view of all the different sandstone, limestone, and ancient granite formations all the way to the Colorado River.  The next time was a ten day backpacking section from the Tanner Trail on the east end of the park near Desert View to the river and back up on the Grandview Trail via Horseshoe Mesa.  At about thirty miles, it was a short trip for the amount of time, but I was beginning to feel like I was actually getting a real sense of the place.  Or, probably more accurately, I was getting a real sense of just how big this place is and how the Grand Canyon could hold a lifetime’s worth of really interesting exploration.  It’s a slow place, that’s taken well over 500 million years to form to its current state, and walking through it like this time and again is perhaps the only real appropriate pace to see it.


Little did I know then, over a decade ago, that my side detour would start (quite literally) a lifetime love affair with that place; I fell pretty hard and fast for a woman on that backpacking trip, and five years later we got engaged on Cardenas Butte under the view of the stone tower at Desert View.  We go back often to trail run, or escape on a quick weekend backpacking getaway.  It’s become one of those places that’s a constant in our lives, and the intrigue of the Grand Canyon seems not to dissipate, like there’s some constant mystery and magic out there drawing me in.  And there is still a lot of it I haven’t seen yet.  I meet so many people that have stories like that, like a testament to this living and changing landscape that stretches out to the west farther than the eye can see–it’s hard not to be affected by a place like that.




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The view from our private guided Grand Canyon Backpacking tour.  

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