March 18

Grand Canyon’s Escalante Route

This backpacking trip has it all – a little bit of adventure, steep trails, and climbing mixed in with mellow, sweeping trails that allow you to look up from the trail and appreciate the canyon’s awesomeness. The Grand Canyon is like an accordion of rock layers until you reach its creator at its center, the Colorado River. Each time you pull a layer back, a new one with new colors, features and characteristics appears and sometimes presents an obstacle to overcome.

Escalante Route

My partner Jake and I drove 12 hours from Boulder, CO to join six hikers from the Arizona Backpacking, Canyoneering & Hiking Club on their Thanksgiving Backpack. The group welcomed Jake and me warmly, despite the fact that we were distant “outsiders”. Our one connection to the group, had fallen ill the day of the trip and cancelled… so we didn’t know anyone.

backpacking Escalante Route

Of course, it didn’t take long for us to become quick friends. The eight of us spent the next four days, 32 miles, and extreme elevation and temperature changes exploring the folds of the Grand Canyon. On the first day, we lowered from the snowy South Rim down to the agreeable 50-degree hiking weather of the canyon. The second day, we breathed in the canyon’s grandeur with wide open vistas and subtle contours. The third day, adventure kicked in with some scrambling, tight canyon-walking, mellow climbing and sliding. The last day, we were rewarded with views from the Grandview Trail’s steep switchbacks hardly noticeable with the distracting views (they made no mistake in the name – see photos below for the once-in-a-decade phenomenon we experienced).

To conversational Clams (Jason), quirky hippie Ed, laughing Heather, our leader John, quiet graceful Lucie, dry humor Stephanie and especially flu-ridden Lucky (Dave): COME VISIT US IN COLORADO! And, extra-special thanks to my non-backpacking partner Jake for being open to accepting an invitation to backpack with me and trust me to pack for him. He was comfortable during the chilly nights and flew through the trails with his light pack. On the drive home and again a week after the trip, Jake asked me when and where we could do another backpacking trip like this again… and my inner voice screamed “hooray!”

Check out part 2 for Itinerary, Recommended Gear and Planning Notes