Recently I had a business trip that took me out to Phoenix Arizona. I had some meetings scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, and the following Monday and Tuesday. So I had this 3 day weekend, and I started to think about what I could do to fill up that time.

I had never been to the Grand Canyon, so I thought, I’ll rent a car and drive the 4 hours to see it. Now anyone that has ever visited the Grand Canyon certainly knows how spectacular it is.

But I decided to do some planning, and did some research on what it would take to hike below the canyon rim. Since I was planning this only a few months ahead of time, getting a camping permit for the canyon floor would be nearly impossible. Instead of camping in the canyon I decided to do a hike from the South Rim to the North Rim in one shot.

The Hike
The hike would end up being just over 22 miles, with a 4700 foot descent down the South Kaibab Trail, a 12 mile hike across the canyon floor and a 5700 foot ascent up the North Kaibab Trail. Just to put that elevation into perspective, it would take 4 Empire State buildings stacked on top of each other to equal the 5700 feet!

A good friend of mine flew out to meet me, and the two of us set out to begin the hike on Friday morning at 6:00 am. After an exhausting and emotional hike, a little over 12 hours later we reached the top of the North Rim. We were able to see a part of the Grand Canyon that not many people ever see.

The trip required a lot of Research and Planning
The temperature on our hike varied from about 35 degrees on the South Rim, to over 93 degrees on the canyon floor, and back to temperatures in the 30’s on the North Rim. We had to make sure we had the right clothing.

There were supposed to be 4 spots to replenish our water supply, on the trail we learned that one of the 4 was shut off. We had to calculate how much water to carry. Food was also an issue, as we burned close to 10,000 calories over the course of the hike.

Training
Obviously there was a lot of training involved as well. Here in Michigan, we don’t have any mountains to train on. The highest “hill” is only a few hundred feet at our local ski resort. So it was a lot of time on the treadmill set at a 15 percent incline, lots of stairs and hikes at local parks.

All of it was worth it!

Being Unprepared
Every year the National Park Service receives calls from 100’s of hikers that are in need of help.

C.J. Malcolm the director of the Grand Canyon’s Preventive Search and Rescue Program reports that the number of search and rescue calls has been stuck at around 300 for the past decade or so. Despite the repeated warnings, approximately 25-30 percent of canyon hikers are not properly prepared.

Implications
I share this story for a couple of reasons. First of all, just like a hike through the Grand Canyon, many people go into retirement without being properly prepared. Even people that think they are in pretty good shape often times find some unexpected surprises.

In the canyon, those surprises might be underestimating the heat, or the cold. Not planning for enough food or water. Or not properly training for the 5700 foot ascent required to hike out of the canyon.

Secondly, Hiking the grand Canyon is unique because the easy part is first. You begin the hike with the descent and a flat hike across the canyon floor. You may not realize the implications of improper planning until you are climbing your way out. Retirement is similar, in that the implications of improper planning may not show up until many years down the road.

And finally, proper planning can be the difference between just being able to enjoy the Grand Canyon from the top, and being able to see it from a perspective that not many people get to see.

I think a lot of people are just “viewing from the top”, and they are not using their financial resources to their full potential.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

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