Fuck the Grand Canyon

Hiking down the Grand Canyon sucks. Seasoned mountain man Nick Martens admonishes one of Earth’s greatest natural wonders in a demented rant accompanied by his patented brand of amateurish landscape photography.

My parents always insist on taking my brother and I on a trip once summer has begun. Last year, we went on a cruise with our grandparents. At the time, my only consolation was that I could not possibly fathom being dragged on a worse vacation. Imagine my shock when my parents topped themselves only one year later. This summer, they took us to the Grand Canyon.

Now, you probably aren’t following at this point. You’re thinking, “The Grand Canyon is a true American landmark, and quite possibly one of the most beautiful places on Earth.” As you’re thinking this, you’ve probably got an image in your mind that looks something like this:


This is fine, just to look at. It’s big and it’s deep, characteristics one might expect from the Grand Canyon. What you don’t realize is that my family wasn’t in Arizona just to look at this bitch. We were going to walk to the bottom:


You can’t even see the bottom from the top because it’s obscured by another, smaller canyon. There’s no chance of this being a short, easy hike either because, as we’ve already established, this is the GRAND FUCKING CANYON. It’s fucking huge; no matter where you start.

Although I own a pair of hippie sandals, I’m not an outdoorsy person. My idea of a fun summer is managing a website. I’m not in horrible shape, but I wouldn’t exactly call myself a marathon runner either. The hike down, they tell you, is 6 miles, which seemed manageable to me. What I failed to realize was that this was a 6-mile hike with, like, a million foot decent. It’s not a gentle slope, either. The trail is comprised of these demonically awkward stairs, which are more than one pace apart but not quite two:


You either have to take big, heavy, energy-wasting steps or tiny, slow, pathetic shuffle steps. Either way, I felt like I needed hip surgery after about 20 minutes. Did I mention that I was carrying a huge fucking backpack? Yeah, I was.

Human perseverance is an incredible thing, though. A person is capable of fighting through an amazing amount of physical discomfort. But just as you’re getting into a rhythm and blanking out the pain, you have to stop for this:


Fat, lazy idiots are schlepped down the canyon by the barrelful on disgusting mules. These are slow, ugly animals that drench the trail in piss and cover it in shit. Every five minutes you have to hold your breath for dozens of yards to avoid the pungent reek of mule waste. A ranger told me that a mule died on the trail a few days before we arrived, and they just rolled it off a cliff. They should do that with the live ones, too.

The worst part of the canyon, though, was the heat. By far. This canyon is in the middle of the goddamn dessert, and it hates all life. Look at this fucking tree:


That’s some Mordor shit right there. The canyon also wants to reduce you to that state, which is to say a baked skeleton. It’s not like there’s any shade, either, because you’re actively walking away from the canyon walls.

I must stress, at this point, that I am not, by any means, exaggerating the agony of the heat. Whenever I tell people that I walked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, I can tell they’re not heeding my warnings, and instead imagining something majestic, like this:


If you could float down the canyon in an air-conditioned bubble, maybe you could appreciate this view. When you’ve actually descended to this point, however, it feels more like this:


When you finally get to the bottom, you enter a small tunnel carved in the rock and are greeted by this welcome sight:


“Finally,” you think, “I’ve died. The heat has claimed me, and I’ve simply been hallucinating my journey into heaven.” But wait!


It’s just a stupid fucking bridge! You’re still at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and guess what? Because you’ve lost so much altitude, it’s way hotter down here than it was when you started, and it was fucking hot when you started.


Fuck this bridge.

And what’s your reward for suffering this sun-scorched trail to Hell? Why, you get to wake up at four in the morning and walk back up. Of course, the hike to the top is about a thousand times more difficult than the trek to the bottom. I don’t have any pictures of the trail upward because, I swear to God, pulling out my camera seemed like too much effort. Even when I stopped, which was about every hundred feet towards the top, I was focused solely on resting, unwilling to expend even the miniscule energy required to snap a photo.

So, by all means, go to the Grand Canyon. Walk around the top, check out the scenery. They even have pretty decent pizza in the cafeteria. But for Christ’s fucking sake, do not set foot below the rim. It’s an insane journey into a natural furnace that you won’t even be able to appreciate. Besides, the best part of the entire canyon is at the top, which is this sign:


It reads,

LET BIGHORN SHEEP FEED THEMSELVES. Enjoy bighorn sheep from a safe distance. Don’t get rammed off a cliff.

My only happy memory of the Grand Canyon is imagining this happening to everyone I passed on the trail.

Nick Martens is a founding editor of The Bygone Bureau. You can email him, if you like.