Posted By Nathan Athlete & Friend Jason Henrie
I stride out, losing myself in the rhythmic "crunch, crunch, crunch" as my feet pad along decomposed stone and soil, millions of years in the making. I catch fine scents of desert flora and soak in the fully inspiring views of massive layered canyon walls that expand thousands of feet above and below my narrow trail perch. The morning sun crests a nearby butte and warms my face. I am in complete bliss, running deep in the backcountry of Grand Canyon National Park.
My tranquil euphoria is soon broken with a yell from atop a distant boulder, as "One more time!" echos down canyon. It's professional adventure photographer, Ken Etzel, from Bishop, California, a speck on a distant boulder with camera raised, ready for the next shot. He's shooting for our upcoming article about Grand Canyon backcountry trail running in Trail Runner Magazine. He wants me to take another lap on this section of trail utopia. I am happy to oblige as many times needed.
Over the last decade, I have been extremely fortunate to explore many of the Grand Canyon backcountry trails, fast and light as a runner, and, like an intimate partner, I have grown to have an close understanding, appreciation and even love of its subtle and not so subtle moods and character.
The canyon can be harsh and sometimes brutal below the rim, with temperature and weather extremes, rugged desert terrain, little escape from the blistering summer sun or frigid winter snow storms. But the same canyon can also be a gorgeous and delicate place, with unparalleled sunrises and sunsets, dazzling desert flower blooms, and lush hidden side canyons complete with cottonwoods, babbling creeks, dragonflies, and croaking frogs.
My falling in love with the canyon's stark contrasts and unique beauty has provoked me to share its considerable and diverse charms with other runners. This canyon has a lot of love to give and I can't help but want to share it all. Trail Runner gave me this awesome opportunity by allowing me to grace their pages with my feature article 'Beyond the Corridor: Running the Grand Canyon's Unheralded Backcountry Trails' in their October 2013 Issue 91. The incredible photos in the article are by gifted adventure photographer and good friend Ken Etzel.
I'm surely not the first, fastest, or most knowledgeable backcountry runner in the Grand Canyon. I know that for sure. I, and all who trod the trails of the canyon today, stand on the shoulders of the pioneers of Grand Canyon running and those that go quietly about their business logging big time miles and experiences out of the limelight. I have huge respect for these inspiring individuals.
We all share the canyon and our experiences below the rim in our own ways. The article is one way I have chosen. With it I hope to reach a wide audience...to get more 'bang for the buck' as they say. I hope it inspires many of you to seek out an intimate connection with the canyon for yourself, in your own way...to fall in love with the Grand Canyon Backcountry.
Looking for more information about running in the Grand Canyon backcountry? Read some of my trip reports on my blog or contact me through the blog. Here's to adventure!