I use modern technology as much as the majority of people, but how lovely to get away from it all. Once you arrive on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, it is very rare to have any WiFi or data connection. And after you begin your descent into the canyon, it is almost a guarantee you'll leave those connections behind. Instead, your connections are with your footsteps and breathing, paying attention to your hunger and thirst and getting into the rhythm of the hike.
The trek down from the north rim, on the North Kaibab Trail, was to celebrate my husband's 50th birthday. Our group of three — my husband, his brother, and myself — encountered only one other group of hikers going our way. We took turns passing one another through forests, sheer wall drops, small waterfalls, and desert climates. It is approximately 15 miles to the Colorado River and Phantom Ranch, where we were greeted with warm meals, cool water, and a sense of shared community with other hikers. We acknowledged that one year before, someone from each of our groups had been doing the exact same thing, as it requires a full year of advance reservation to obtain a dorm or cabin at the rustic riverside ranch. Most hikers made their approach from the south rim, as it is shorter, more populated, and has more options for rest and water. Dinner conversations included pertinent subjects, such as, "Where did you start your hike?" "How long did it take?" "Have you done it before?" "How do your thighs feel, and do you have any blister bandages?"
People ranged from older friends in their 70s to younger folks trying to see how fast they could go from rim to rim. There were hikers from New York, Colorado, Montreal, and Germany. At Phantom Ranch, they remind you that our entire country was once so pristine. Hikers are encouraged to conserve water, and it is suggested that your pack will feel lighter if you pick up any litter you may encounter on your trails. There was a sense of caring and community among those present in a way that is rarely experienced in our daily lives, or online.
The hike up the south side — Bright Angel Trail — found us all fast friends as we greeted one another with geographic nicknames: "Have you seen 'Montreal'?" "How is 'New York' doing there?" And those present at the top of the rim shared hugs and a few tears of accomplishment.