Teva Explorer Kate Rentz went backpacking to the Grand Canyon to cross it off her bucket list. Hear how she left with renewed confidence, wonder, and forged deeper friendships. Words and Photos by Kate Rentz.
A few months ago, I received a text message from my friend Lori, asking me to join her on an adventure at the top of her bucket list: backpacking in Grand Canyon National Park. Without hesitation, I responded with a definitive “YES.” We scored a two-night backcountry permit and recruited two more friends, Jess and Kristin, to join us.
For each of us, our expectations going into the trip felt uniquely personal and symbolic. Not only were we going to embark on a journey to the literal depths of the earth—we’d also be exploring the depths of ourselves along the way. There would be a new moon during our stay in the canyon and Lori reminded us of its symbolism: a phase where goals, desires, and intentions are reset or made anew. The timing felt perfect.
I had been feeling a lingering sense of restlessness in my life, not totally sure of which direction I was going, but knowing that things needed to shift or change. I had hopes that my time in the canyon would reveal new pathways of my journey.
When we arrived at the Hermit trailhead to start the ten-mile descent to the Colorado River, we all felt butterflies in our stomachs. Each of us had varying degrees of training and experience going into the backcountry. We were excited and nervous about venturing into the unknown. As soon as we descended down the rocky, uneven trail, the expansive view of the Grand Canyon filled us with a sense of awe and wonder.
At the top of the Grand Canyon rim, you see a panorama of orange rock carved so beautifully by the Colorado River. It’s hard to imagine all the life that exists inside the canyon. We were captivated by the colors, the vibrant shades of oranges and greens, and the abundant life that existed inside every nook and cranny of the canyon walls. As we hiked, we kept gasping at the delicately placed vegetation—almost as if it had been put there by a landscape architect.
Kate Rentz marvels at the Grand Canyon walls like an amphitheater.
Pictured: Hurricane XLT2 Alp in GC100 Eclipse.
Plants and cacti grew all along the trail or tucked themselves into the tiny gaps of the canyon walls. After hours of hiking in the blazing heat, we reached our campsite at Monument Creek. Here, the canyon felt like an amphitheater, with plants as spectators, and I couldn’t get over the vibrancy of the colors. I’ve hiked into canyons before, but have never experienced the amount of life and color that I did being inside the Grand Canyon.
Making it to camp felt like an accomplishment and we rewarded ourselves with a much-needed cool-off at the creek nearby. The water moved quickly through our hands as we lifted it to our faces, washing off the sweat from our sun-kissed skin. When we headed back to camp for dinner, the sun had set over the canyon and we watched the sky change from yellow to orange, and then red, before fading into night. We soon realized that the canyon came to life after dark. As we drifted off to sleep in our tiny tents, we were serenaded by the sounds of frogs and crickets.
Sandal tans, check. “Any time I hike downhill for long periods of time, I get blisters on my toes. Switching over to sandals alleviated the discomfort and I was able to hike more comfortably.” Pictured: Hurricane XLT2 in Deep Lake, Hurricane XLT2 Alp in Burnt Olive, GC100 Eclipse, and Black.
We woke up the next morning to the hot sun overhead and overwhelming soreness in our bodies. Eager to reach the Colorado River and feeling physically capable, Jess and I decided to leave camp and explore the river while Lori and Kristin rested. As we hiked down to the Colorado River, we could hear the raging water echo through the canyon walls.
We reached the sandy beach of Granite Rapids and I could feel the powerful vibrations of the river in my body. I was captivated by its ferociousness. I dipped my toes in and immediately felt electrified by the freezing water. The experience was rejuvenating and life-giving, almost like I’d been made anew. After our powerful experience at the river, we traversed through the beautiful slot canyons that Monument Creek had carved long ago. We felt like kids, as we splashed our feet in the water and crawled up the slots.
Pictured: Hurricane XLT2 in Deep Lake.
Pictured: Hurricane XLT2 in Deep Lake.
Kate wears the Hurricane XLT2 Alp in GC100 Eclipse.
We returned to camp and shared a hearty dinner with Lori and Kristin. During the meal, we took turns giving thanks for our experiences in the canyon. We laughed and cried as we shared, and felt united by the common bond of gratitude. We decided to leave the canyon at night, giving us enough time to make it out before the sweltering heat of the next day.
It was a new moon that night, and the stars were shining brightly over the canyon walls. We experienced the beauty of the canyon in a new way, awed by its magical nighttime luminescence.
As we ascended uphill, I was surprised by how much energy I had. This was the strongest I’ve ever felt on a backpacking trip. Having Lyme Disease, I never know how my body is going to react in certain situations. I have experienced immense pain and fatigue that has slowed me down or kept me from experiencing the outdoors.
Jess and I (both experienced backpackers) were hiking at a quicker pace and were the first to make it to our initial checkpoint. We surveyed the condition of the rest of our crew who continued to struggle with muscle fatigue. Because of my new found strength and speed on the trail, I wrestled with wanting to push myself to see how fast I could go and with wanting to stick with the group to make sure everyone was okay. At that moment, I was reminded of all the times I struggled on the trail.
We decided that it was more important for us to stick together than to turn this trip into a race to finish. We continued to forge forward as the sun rose, filling the canyon walls with light and shadows, reminding us of the colors we had seen on the way down a few days before. When we made it to the final stretch of the steep, rocky trail, we felt a surge of excitement and relief.
In those final steps, we cheered, laughed, and cried. We all felt powerful, strong, and renewed in our own special way. My time in the canyon felt rewarding, for both my mind and body. I had experienced the sense of renewal that I had hoped for, by pushing my limits and venturing into the unknown.
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