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How One Traveler Discovered Inner Strength at the Grand Canyon

A physical challenge amid vast natural beauty led to a transformative moment for this woman.

How One Traveler Discovered Inner Strength at the Grand Canyon

Photo: Jess Janicki

This story is part of Travel Tales, a series of life-changing adventures on afar.com. Read more stories of transformative trips on the Travel Tales home page. And, though COVID-19 has stalled many travel plans, we hope our stories can offer inspiration for your future adventures—and a bit of hope.

The Tale of Transformation
“I want to hike the Grand Canyon,” my husband said to me. I laughed and said, “No thank you!” He was the hiker, not me. I’m an active person and love being outside, but hiking the Grand Canyon was another level.

Still, the thought had clawed itself deep inside me, and I couldn’t let it go, so we trained together. Soon, we were on the South Kaibab Trail, a 35-pound pack on my back, hiking 7 miles down to the Bright Angel Campground. I was tired, but so proud of myself.

That night, I looked up at the stars and cried. I had never seen stars like that, and I was humbled. The next night, we stayed at the Indian Garden Campground and hiked out to Plateau Point to watch the sun set over the mountains. The stars came out, and I just marveled.

On the hike back, my husband and I stopped on the trail—a stretch of plain with nothing around. The silence there surrounds you, envelopes you. I had never experienced anything like that moment in all my travels. I could have stayed wrapped up in that blanket of silence all night.

Something moved deep in my soul. I was suddenly aware at how vast the world is as I stood under countless shining stars and in absolute silence. That trip—the hardest three days of my life—challenged me physically and mentally. But I would do it again in a heartbeat, if only just to immerse myself, for just a moment, in that gorgeous silence under the shimmering stars.

—Submitted by Jess Janicki

Photo: Jess Janicki

Photo: Jess Janicki

Do This Yourself
The Grand Canyon is truly one of the world’s most spectacular places, and hikers have lots of options to witness the beauty of its stone and sky. Easier hikes along both the North and South rims offer amazing overviews. You can also choose to hike down into the canyon and even camp there, as the writer did. (Just remember, it’s harder coming back up—you should allow twice as much time as it takes to descend). While you shouldn’t attempt to hike from rim to river and back in the same day, you can hike down a little ways on the South Kaibob Trail and get a feel for being surrounded by the gorgeous canyon.

The trail is one way to get to Bright Angel Campground, set at the bottom of the canyon, almost 10 miles from the South Rim. Look for deer, ringtail cats, and gray foxes as you wade in Bright Angel Creek, fish (with a license), or simply gaze up in amazement at the night sky.

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