By John Briley, April 9, 2021 at 5:00 a.m. PDT
As intros to backpacking go, this might be pushing it. At noon on a brilliant Tuesday in March, my 12-year-old son Kai and I are a mile and a half into a four-day, 27-mile walk through the Grand Canyon — his first backpacking trip — when he asks: “Are we almost to camp?”
Camp, at Hermit Creek, is seven miles and nearly 2,500 vertical feet below, a trek that will take us several more hours. We’re descending the Hermit Trail, a poorly maintained path off the canyon’s South Rim, and have paused on a precipice, across which we can see many of the canyon’s neatly stacked layers: the chalky beiges and browns of the upper Kaibab, Toroweap and Coconino formations, which yield to the pinkish pastels of the Hermit, Supai and Redwall deposits below.
This is on display in cliffs hundreds of feet tall, a stark reminder of how far we have to go — and how quickly we could get there with one misstep.