Those who have hiked from the rim of the Grand Canyon towards the river have likely seen the signs. They’re big with a red stripe at the top that says “Warning” and “Danger!” And then: “DO NOT attempt to hike from the canyon rim to the river and back in one day. Each year hikers suffer serious illness or death from exhaustion.” Below that, there’s a big drawing of a frowning hiker putting his hand to his forehead, evidently in exhaustion. Apparently at the visitor’s center, there’s a picture of a man vomiting and a list of health risks such as heat-related illnesses and hyponatremia.
The year was 2011. It was late November. My brother and I were on a road trip and we stopped at the Grand Canyon. We spent the night nearby and woke up rather lazily the next morning. It was around 10:30am by the time we got to the visitor’s center and around 11am when we hit the trail. We didn’t have any specific plans for the hike, until all of a sudden we saw the sign. There it was, standing before us in all its red and gray splendor. We looked at each other mischievously. I don’t know if we even verbalized it at first, but we both knew what we were going to do.
"It’s merely a crack in the earth!" my brother then said in his Australian accent, referring to the Grand Canyon. (And no, he's not Australian.)
And we knew we had to hurry. The sun goes down early in November, and it was almost noon already. We took to jogging down the path. This was the easy part, so we might as well take advantage of the downward momentum. It wasn't just the sign; other hikers on the trail were warning us not to do the whole thing in one day.
"I didn’t feel like heeding the warnings because we had hiked things at that elevation before," my brother said, recalling the journey down. "The only thing I was worried about was the time."
We were at the river within a couple hours. That’s at least a 4,500 ft decline in elevation. You go through multiple major ecosystems. The river was a deep green color, surrounded by desert. We sat at the water’s edge for a few minutes and ate something.
Then we knew it was time. Time to hit the trail back up, lest we die and become poster children for the park’s warning signs. It took a long time. And it sure wasn’t easy. And by the time we got back to the top, it was dark and we were absolutely exhausted. But we did it. (Don’t try this at home. Or at the Grand Canyon)
It turns out we’re not the only ones. There are blog posts like this one and this one, and even a YouTube video called “How to hike to the bottom of Grand Canyon and back in 1 day.”
"I’m sure it was painful by the end, but I don’t remember that anymore," my bro said. "All I remember is the glory."
Why am I writing about this? Because first of all, it’s a great memory. But also, I’m wondering now what might have been our motivation to do such a thing, besides the sign and just proving we could do it. I have a theory: just a couple days earlier, we had played a show together in L.A. My brother, of Archivist and Eyes for Echoes fame, and myself. Thinking about it now, I think we were still riding that wave. Here’s a clip from the show. Jens Erik and Tenfold doing “Royal.”
For more music from Jens Erik Gould, go to https://www.jenserikmusic.com/
JENS ERIK GOULD
Jens Erik Gould is a political, business and entertainment writer and editor who has reported from a dozen countries for media outlets including The New York Times, National Public Radio and Bloomberg News.