Grand Canyon

anoop kulkarni's trek in grand canyon to colorado river

I recently visited Grand Canyon and remembered my last trip there 13 years ago. Its a nice story so sharing it

Back in 2003 I was doing a train trip across America. This was before the time I had a cellphone. I started in Chicago, went up north through Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Glacier National Park in Montana, Washington. Then from Seattle I headed down through Oregon, California and Arizona. I got off at Flagstaff, AZ, dropped my backpack at the station luggage and since I had some time for my shuttle to the Grand Canyon went out for some breakfast. After breakfast, I noticed that the shuttle was boarding and got on. I started chatting with my neighbor and luckily I found out that the shuttle was actually leaving for Phoenix and got off just before it left. A little later, I got on the right shuttle and reached Grand Canyon around 10.30. 

Before leaving, the shuttle driver informed us about the 5pm pick up back to Flagstaff.
The Grand Canyon was an amazing place and since I had the day, I decided to hike down to the colorado river and back. I did a quick review of the hike path and noticed that unlike a normal mountain hike where the return part is easier when downhill, the grand canyon's return path would be tougher as it's uphill.

I figured I should complete the first part of my hike as soon as possible to allow enough time for the return. I started jogging past signs warning hikers not to attempt the trip down to the river and back in one day and listing the number of deaths.

I passed through some water stations and figured (incorrectly) that there would be enough water refueling options along the way. The first part of the hike was uneventful till I reached the rim overlooking the river. Once in the valley, the sun felt hotter especially with the valley walls trapping the heat. I was out of water by now and started feeling dehydrated. I reached the river in about 3 hours and noticed it was a dirty brown color and I wasn't going to try drinking that water. Soon I found a stream emptying into the river and the water looked much more drinkable. I was so thankful I slept in the water drinking as much as I could.

After filling my bottle up, I started back up. By this time, the sun was literally scorching down and I started to feel the effects of dehydration when my legs started cramping up. Half way back up I was literally crawling when I had to rest after every couple of steps. I was so slow that a couple of senior citizens passed me and inquiring if I was okay.Amazingly they took pity on me and sent down another bottle of water and an energy bar through some other hikers. It was almost 5 and I had lost all hope of reaching back in time for the shuttle and concentrated on just getting back. The sun was setting down on the canyon.

Fighting cramps, dehydration, exhaustion and hiking for the last half an hour through darkness guided by starlight, I reached the canyon rim 9 hours later at 7.30 pm. 

With no public transportation available and taxis costing around 100$ for a trip down again, I set out to find accommodation. As I should have guessed, all rooms were sold out - with 1 suite available at $255. 

I went back outside and tried my hand at hitching a ride. Looking back, I would have been extremely surprised if someone would have stopped for a big scary sweaty guy at night. 

I went back to the hotel and was pleading with the hotel check in girl if I could sleep in a closet, basically anything with a roof. I don't know if she took pity on me but she informed me that if I could pay for the gas her sister would drop me to Williams which is the next stop for the train that I was supposed to be on. I had exactly $33 and some change and gave it all to her. She didn't know where the train station was so she dropped me at a hotel. I figured the hotel might have a shuttle to the train station so I walked in asking if I could get on the shuttle. The shuttle had already left so they called it back with the driver apologizing for leaving me behind. Once he saw that I had no bags on me, he figured I wasn't a hotel guest but he still gave me a ride.

Luckily, even after all this, I just made it minutes before the train came in. Since I had given all my money, I spent a sleepless hungry night on the train on the way to Los Angeles.

I reached LA the next morning and made a collect call to my cousin asking him to come pick me up from Union Station. Since my bag was still in Flagstaff, I asked him to get some money to do some emergency clothes shopping. I then made another call to Flagstaff station master explained my adventure, convinced him that the bag belonged to me and he graciously offered to ship the bag to LA on the next train.