Just For Me: A Journey Into the Grand Canyon

OARS Grand Canyon Hiking Trip Coordinator, Emily Kay, has worked in ski and adventure travel since her early twenties. Three years ago she had a son and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime: motherhood. She’s learned to adapt her participation in sports like skiing and mountain biking to include her young family, but finding time for herself has become more and more difficult. Recently Emily joined OARS on a 4-day Grand Canyon Hiking trip and hiked 7 miles into the Grand Canyon and 10 miles back out with more than 5000 feet of elevation change. We documented her trip in a video (above) and chatted with Emily about her experience below:

How did the Grand Canyon hiking trip come about?

I was booking the accommodation and talking to the hiking guide about what guests were going to do on a hiking trip. Then my boss said, “Well, as part of your new role you really need to go and do this trip so you can experience it for yourself.” I didn’t think that was something I would ever do since I had my son. I used to hike a lot, but now hiking is more involved. I have to carry a backpack with at least 30 pounds. Sometimes he doesn’t want to go as far as I want to go and sometimes it’s uncomfortable for him. There’s just a whole lot more challenges involved with going for a hike. The thought of even preparing for something like hiking the Grand Canyon was really daunting and…I wasn’t really sure how I was going to do it. It was an exciting thought and a great challenge to work towards, but it was incredibly daunting. Even at my last step coming out of the canyon, I didn’t think I wasn’t going to be able to do it.


So what motivated you?

Being a mom and having had that previous lifestyle where I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted. Adventure travel is something a lot of people are interested in once they get a taste for it. I love being outside and I love doing those things, but since I had my son I’ve really had to adjust how I can experience those things. Instead of downhill skiing we switched to cross-country skiing so I could carry him in a sled and instead of mountain biking we tow the little bob-trailer behind our bikes–you have to adapt. So the hike, this was something I had to do by myself and there was no way I could adapt it to include my family. This was something just for me. I honestly haven’t had something just for me since before I had my son. 


What was the biggest reward?

I guess just the physical accomplishment, it’s huge. Doing it and knowing that I would do it again; that’s pretty rewarding. You get a piece of yourself back and you’re motivated to look for that next challenge. So before I even realized I could do it, before I was standing back on the South Rim, I was already thinking about what the North Rim would be like and how I could hike rim to rim. I was already starting to plan that next adventure. I feel like there are a lot of new moms that give stuff up or just resign themselves to their new life. Getting a little piece of that old life back is so important.


What’s something you wish you had known before your trip?

That the guides are so supportive. I was interested in learning about the geology and the wildlife. The guides are so knowledgeable, there wasn’t one rock or flower that I pointed out they couldn’t identify. It was the same with feeling overwhelmed  about my ability to get in and out of the canyon, they were there with me the whole time. Towards the end of the Bright Angel Trail the sweep guide, Addy, was with me every step. She was telling me funny stories, cracking jokes, making me smile, offering me a snack or water. Even if you feel like you can’t do it physically, your guides will do everything they possibly can to help you succeed. That’s not to say you shouldn’t prepare, you absolutely do need to prepare for something like this, but just know that you have such a great, supportive group once you get there.

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