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Stay Safe While Hiking into the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is an inverted mountain sinking over 5,000 vertical feet in depth. It is 18 miles wide, 277 river miles long, and the remote North Rim is nearly 1,200 feet higher than the popular South Rim.

The first time you approach the rim you’re surprised as the flat plateau you were just strolling on drops away and you gaze down into the various multi-colored, multi-layered rock formations. On a partly cloudy day as shadows undulate in and around the diverse geology of the canyon it is incomparable in its beauty.

To venture below the rim of the canyon is to gain a perspective that very few of the estimated 5 million annual visitors realize, but hikers and backpackers should be aware that there are over 240 rescues inside the canyon each year. All trails into the canyon are relentlessly steep and blisters, ankle sprains, and dehydration are common problems that hikers could face any time they enter the hot desert environment of the canyon.

The top three tips for hiking into the canyon include:

  1. drinking plenty of fluids,
  2. resting often, and
  3. taking your time.

You should carry a minimum of one quart of water and/or sport drink for every hour you plan to hike. Take a break every hour for ten or fifteen minutes, take your pack off and rest. And try and pace yourself so you are not consistently out of breath when hiking or your chances of suffering the effects of exhaustion or leg fatigue increase.

For any and all hikes into the canyon you should have a small pack containing the following items: ample water (at least a quart for every hour of hiking), food (salty snacks/trail mix, energy bars), first-aid supplies (blister treatments, ibuprofen), compass, map, trail description, sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, small flashlight, whistle, and extra clothing (appropriate for the season). When day hiking the canyon it is also important to remember to turn around before you get tired— since it is climbing back up to the rim when the work really begins. Also, permits are required for all overnight hikers—if you are day hiking no permit is required.

A few of the problems hikers should try and avoid include:

Blisters
Make sure your shoes are well broken in, and stop and treat any hotspots immediately.

Dehydration
Drink plenty of fluids and mix in sport drinks too!

Lightning
When storms are prevalent stay away from exposed cliffs and isolated tall objects, if you feel the hair rise on the back of your neck, squat down quickly!

Water Intoxication
Do not drink only water, you must also eat meals, and especially salty snacks. The effects of water intoxication are similar to that of dehydration.

For more information—buy the essential guide for hiking into Grand Canyon: Hikernut’s Grand Canyon Companion by local author Brian Lane (96 pages, softcover, $9.95) at www.aSenseofNature.com or visit Amazon.com and search ‘Hikernut.’

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