For the past few months I’ve been living and working at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, explaining activities, hikes, and transportation options to the guests that pour in every day from all over the world. I’ve got to say, I think I have the best job in the entire park. The guests that come to my desk are typically adventurers in some capacity or another - backpackers, mule riders, rafters, badass retirees living out their bucket list items. Over time I’ve come to understand the most important elements that go into planning a South Rim trip depending on what type of traveler you are. Families, hikers, and day trippers all have different concerns, and I hope to round them up for you all here.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the benefits of group travel and the many reasons solo travel can be dangerous, especially for women. Those concerns are inherent in daily life for us and need not be rehashed, and when we’re feeling vulnerable there are thankfully a million articles about how we can better prepare ourselves to face the world while female. What I’m interested in exploring is the idea that there are circumstances in which solo travel can be advantageous to one’s safety. I’ve often had plans in mind that, upon a friend floating the idea of joining me, suddenly seemed rife with caveats. The following scenarios are food for thought.
As I prepared for my exodus from Southern California, I made a last minute effort to cross another thing off my must-see list by rambling around in one of my new favorite national parks - Death Valley. It’s pretty easy to figure things out once you’re there, but if you’re the researching/planning type, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Late morning, clear day. The sun is shining, the wind is whipping fast; I’m sitting in the bed of a moving truck on a little-trafficked backroad in Molalla, OR, thirty-and-some miles outside Portland. There’s a dog in my lap. A local couple had done me the favor of picking me up as I walked back into town from the campsite. This memory has a glowing haze around it; it’s burned into me because of the quiet reflection bought with that moment of silence.
I got settled for the night, and then it happened - just as I was about to fall asleep, I heard a vicious screeching sound followed by two hisses, all of which sounded like some kind of cat (or two) right outside my tent. Then it happened again. They were probably just domestic farm cats, but I’d read that this was bobcat territory and of course my imagination ran wild for the rest of the night. What was that? Why was it hissing at me? Where was it now? Did my brain dream it up?
When the fog and rain cleared, suddenly the entire landscape was glorious. The final stretch of the trail between my camp spot and Lost Lake followed along the pinnacle of a ridge that allowed me to see out over the whole mountain range on either side of me. I felt like I was on top of the world. I think about that sometimes now, when I’m staring at four walls - how strange it is to know that such places exist, all on their own, all the time, without you there to behold it. Just waiting with open arms.
I'm sure a hardcore thru-hiker or a mountain climber has completely different needs. If, like me, you're not that impressive but still feel like half-assing your way into total freedom, know that for a few unpredictable months on the road/trail, interspersed with hostel stays, my Bugout Bag always serves me well. I keep it stocked with the following items at all times…..just in case: