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From the Grand Canyon to Canyonlands: Hiking At The Speed Of Sound

Seven national parks in 7 days--starring a ragtop, Red Bull, and one scary rabbit.
Backpacker_Magazine_Zion_NPZion National Park, Nick Driggs/Utah Office of Tourism

©Jackie Ney

Back atop the Grand Canyon

For the next 6 hours, the Grand Canyon really put the wood to us. Jackie fretted and limped solemnly up the brutal switchbacks of the Cathedral Stairs. Truth be told, I too was feeling the wear and tear of backpacking 62 miles and driving another 1,850 in a week. It felt a bit like a cheap tequila hangover. But we trudged on and soon we were passing slower hikers and the river was shrinking. Once we could crane our necks and see the rim overhead, it was as though someone lifted Jackie’s backpack, loaded with the psychic weight of so many challenges and so many creatures met without respite, and sent it tumbling toward the Tonto Plateau. The last stretch up to Hermit’s Rest was nasty–rising 1,300 feet in about a mile, completely exposed to a merciless sun. My calves cramped and my heart raced, but Jackie was right on my heels, back to her preternaturally cheery self. I practically had to beg her to take a break halfway up the slope.

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