300 Travel: Walking Across the Grand Canyon

Our summer travel series, 300 Government Bucks, profiles short getaways you can finance with your economic stimulus check. In this episode, a father walks across the Grand Canyon with his son.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

How far can you go on 300 bucks? Well, we decided to find out. This summer, we've put together a series on short trips you can finance with some of your tax rebate check. Today, the Grand Canyon. Writer Scott Carrier decided to hike from one rim of the canyon to the other, and back again. And just in time for Father's Day, he made the trek with his son. So, with today's segment of 300 Government Bucks, here is Scott Carrier.

(Soundbite of music)

SCOTT CARRIER: It's only 400 miles on Highway 89, from Salt Lake City to the north rim of the Grand Canyon, pretty much a straight road due south. But it took us three days to get there. My son, Milo, and me, my truck, I think we drove more like 700 miles, because we got off the highway and wandered through the maze of southern Utah, the canyons and mountains of the Colorado Plateau.

We drove east, then west, then south, up over a pass where it was snowing, down to a river where it was summer. We camped on the side of a mountain and built a huge fire to keep the black bears away. Milo roasted corn on the cob in tin foil with a healthy amount of bourbon sealed inside, which was amazingly good, almost magical with the fire and the cold mountain air.

(Soundbite of birds squawking)

CARRIER: I said, Milo, where did you learn that? You're only 20 years old. He said, well, I've never done it before, but whiskey is made from corn. It only makes sense. There were so many things I wanted to tell him, but I didn't know where to start. At least we had a plan. We were going to walk across the Grand Canyon, from the north rim down to the river and up to the south rim, where they have hotels and restaurants.

(Soundbite of footsteps)

CARRIER: Take a hot shower. Eat a good dinner. Sleep in a good bed. And then, walk back the next day, back down to the river and up to the truck and drive home.

(Soundbite of birds squawking)

CARRIER: Walking across the Grand Canyon is like climbing a mountain in reverse. You start by going down to the bottom instead of up to the top. And the danger is not freezing to death, but overheating. From the north rim, the trail descends 6,000 vertical feet to the river, and it gets hotter and hotter as you go down to where it can be a blazing inferno at the bottom. The sun will knock you down so quick it makes your head spin. There are signs at the top posted by the National Park Service, warning hikers of the dangers.

(Soundbite of dramatic music)

CARRIER: Do not attempt to hike from rim to river and back in a day. Many who tried suffered illness or death. Carry food and water. Wear sturdy footwear.

(Soundbite of crickets chirping)

CARRIER: We started down the trail running, because it was easier and more fun. In the first seven miles, we dropped 4,000 vertical feet through half a billion years of layered up sandstone. The next seven miles to the river followed Bright Angel Creek through the dark, metamorphosed Vishnu Schist, almost two billion years old. Then we came to the river across the footbridge, crossed it halfway, and sat there for awhile.

(Soundbite of rushing water)

CARRIER: The river was clear enough to see it was carrying billowing clouds of golden silt. The sun had baked the sides of the canyon to where you could feel the heat coming off the rock walls, like being inside a toaster oven. I thought, this is the place to speak, say something about all the water under the bridge, all the mistakes I've made as a father. I thought maybe if I said the right thing, I could leave the mistakes there with the billions of years.

But then, Milo spoke instead, and said something that made me realize everything was going to be OK. He said, I want to be the best. And I said, All right. Good one. Let's go eat. And we started the long walk up out of the canyon.

(Soundbite of footsteps)

BRAND: Writer Scott Carrier, he's part of the radio collective, Hearing Voices. You can hear more at hearingvoices.com. Day to Day is a production of NPR News with contributions from Slate.com. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX COHEN, host:

And I'm Alex Cohen.

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