This past week we took a family road trip to the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona for a special memorial to our father who passed away tragically 10 years ago. Visiting this wonder of the world was on his ultimate, unfulfilled bucket list. So we wanted to spread some of his ashes there for this major marker. I have been to the North Rim once before but none of our group had been to the South Rim at all. We booked a hotel outside the park entrance in Tusayan for our group of 5 adults and 3 kids- a 6 and 4 year old plus an infant. It’s a very small but very convenient town with hotels, gas stations, and restaurants, which we ate at for 2 of the nights.
On the first night we arrived after checking-in we headed into the park itself, which is open 24 hours a day. You can purchase a pass for your car that’s good for a week. We ate dinner together in the Arizona Room of the Bright Angel Lodge, which is a big dining room that’s suitable for families and has large windows looking right out on the terrace and the rim itself.
There were other rituals we did while there that night and the following day to honor our dad, but on the second full day, we 2 daughters decided to take the canyon “plunge” and join the 1% of visitors each year that venture OFF the rim to do something we never thought we would do in his name: we hiked the Bright Angel Trail.
It was perfect spring weather, moderate and cool. A fair portion of the trail is shaded against the rock walls, which also helps. But it’s extremely rocky and uneven, narrow at times, and very steep. And also pretty crowded with fellow hikers going in both directions since it’s the most popular trail (despite being labeled “very difficult” and “strenuous”). We spent an hour descending, which was fairly easy. We paused at the 1.5 mile rest stop, which has a restroom, emergency phone, and water station. We sat off to the side of the trail on some rocks like many people were doing and refueled with water and our snacks. And looking back up at the thousands of feet to the rim, we decided to turn around and head back instead of continuing on. We knew the climb back was going to be taxing.
I had been taking photos with my camera all the way down but put it away for the hike back because it was clear it was going to be tough and I might need my hands/arms for stability. And it was. Really tough. I had to rest every few hundred feet to get my breathing under control. My activity monitor on my wrist kept showing my heart rate was between 130-140 most of that time. It was still a peaceful hike ascending but much more quiet as we labored. In the end it took twice as long going back, but it was completely worth it as a (once in a lifetime?) challenge. And most importantly, we felt connected to each other and to the man that inspired us, Kenneth Dale Spinks (RIP 8.7.53-4.10.06). We weren’t in pain or that exhausted either, just relieved to have completed our journey that afternoon.
Bring a hat, sunscreen, A LOT of water, salty snacks, hiking boots to handle rocky terrain, and trekking poles if you’ve got them. We also brought our emergency backpack for a worst case scenario. You can put one together yourself like we did. Something like this here. Or maybe you want to actually go full on canyon camping and visit the Colorado River, or hike rim to rim. Be brave!
-Summer (& Amanda, Gayle, Josh, Juli, Gavin, Nathan, Macie)