Shutdown Ends Just in Time for Life-changing Grand Canyon Hike

October 25, 2013 |

Grand Canhyonby Heather Lombardo

For thirteen months, Karen Skinner, General Manager of Operations with Travel and Transport, had been carefully planning a once-in-a-lifetime adventure: to hike down into the splendor of the Grand Canyon, spend two nights at the bottom – exploring its shadowy ledges and the gushing Colorado river, then hiking back to the top.

Karen did everything possible to prepare. She reserved her spot at the high-demand Phantom Ranch, a rustic lodge at the foot of the canyon that’s accessible only by mule, hiking or rafting. She trained for the hike by climbing 100 stairs to her office at Travel and Transport’s headquarters multiple times a day and by scaling Iowa’s sloping Loess Hills at a nearby nature center. She bought the necessary gear for such a challenging hike, including her pack, good hiking shoes and even hiking poles.

Nevertheless, the government shutdown that began on October 1 made Karen start to worry that her trip might be derailed. As the departure date of October 14th approached and the park remained closed, she decided to cancel her trip on October 11th. However, later that same day the park suddenly reopened and Karen contacted USAirways’ travel agent desk to see if her ticket that she just cancelled could be reinstated. Since Karen booked through Travel and Transport, the representative worked with her to reinstate the ticket at no charge (avoiding a potential fee of $600). The trip was back on!

Grand Canyon

A few days later Karen flew directly from Omaha to Phoenix, and finally made her way to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. There, she and her group began the surreal, steep, 8-mile descent via the South Kaibab trail. Beginning at an immense elevation of 6,800 feet and a temperature of just 40 degrees, they followed the well-defined trail until they reached the Phantom Ranch, at an elevation of 2,000 feet and a temperature of more than 75 degrees.

The next day the group navigated the canyon’s peaceful base and explored Ribbon Falls. Detached completely from cellphones, the Internet and technology, Karen was able to truly focus on the majestic sights all around her.

Early the next morning, the steep, winding ascent awaited. Armed with plenty of water and taking advantage of their trusty hiking poles, Karen’s group hiked up the canyon via the 9.8 mile Bright Angel trail, the temperature sinking as the elevation increased. Eight hours later they victoriously returned to the south rim, tired but immensely grateful.

Karen returned home changed by the grandeur that surrounded her, and thankful that the government shutdown was lifted just in time! She hopes to make the trip again soon, but this time to try it by mule. The trip also whetted her appetite for challenging hikes; Peru’s Machu Picchu is next on the list.

Tell us what great adventures you have on your bucket list.