The guy casually biting into the sandwich is me. Very easy to recognize by the sexy haircut. That was about a quarter of a century ago. We were on a family vacation. Family vacations were always the best, especially when we went to the USA. My siblings and I got a new Game Boy game so that at least 2 people in the camper van could give the scenery the attention it deserved. Then there was the fantastic fast food that we never really had at home. We were in seventh heaven.

Ich und mein Sandwich
Michael beim Game Boy spielen

However, at irregular intervals we were repeatedly put outside the door of the motorhome to go for a few meters walk in the national parks. What did I think of hiking back then? Not much, especially now that I hadn’t even come close to finishing Super Mario Land. Maybe we could go one more national park? Unfortunately, it didn’t help, because only well-behaved children get to go to Disneyland at the end of the vacation.

Der Grand Canyon vom Wohnmobil aus
The Grand Canyon from the motorhome

One of these stops where we had to get out was the Grand Canyon and somehow I was fascinated by this huge hole in the ground. Especially when I was told at the visitor center that it can happen that there is still snow at the top of the rim where we were, even though you could already wear shorts down in the canyon. I was totally fascinated. I wanted to see it, this magical place where you could probably always wear shorts.

Further research on my part revealed that you probably couldn’t get down there in a camper van. You would have to hike and you would need a permit to stay overnight at the Phantom Ranch. How cool does that sound? Phantom Ranch. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t work out at such short notice. Disappointed, I sat back down at my Gameboy, but the issue was not over for me.

Ich im Bryce Canyon

Especially not when we arrived at Bryce Canyon on our road trip. In my opinion, it was pretty similar to the Grand Canyon. It was cold at the top and when you looked down, it looked like a desert. Then the surprise: we could go hiking here. Mom and my little brothers would stay in the RV while Dad and I descended into the desert. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that hike, it was incredibly cool.

How cool did it have to be in the Grand Canyon?

Vom South Rim in den Grand Canyon 2012
From the South Rim to the Grand Canyon 2012

I was able to at least partially answer this question in 2012. We went on a kind of revival family vacation (editor’s note: dear parents, I think you still owe us a Game Boy game). Disneyland was canceled and this time I had to behave myself so we could go to the Grand Canyon. It wasn’t that easy, but it was worth every second of good behavior.

This time I was hiking with my mom and dad had to take care of the siblings who were now grown up. We descended from the South Rim, hiked around a bit at the bottom and then took a different route back up. Unfortunately not to the North Rim. The detour to pick us up there would have been a bit too far.

The older I got, the cooler the hiking became. Before 2012, I had already covered a few longer hiking routes in Europe and in 2013 I did a short, under 600 km stretch on the PCT. Back then, I really overestimated myself, because I had actually planned to hike as far as Kennedy Meadows, around 1000 km.

I never really got off my butt to do a 6-month trip. I was always too scared and didn’t have enough savings to quit my job or take a sabbatical year. In the meantime, I completely lost focus on hiking for many years and somehow I no longer felt like writing about it.

On a few day trips on vacation in France, however, I had to think about how much fun I actually have hiking. In the time before that, I had almost only been out and about on my bike. When I was looking for suitable routes that I might even be able to do without quitting my job, the Arizona Trail caught my eye.

Somehow, this giant hole still holds a great fascination for me. Just like the American Southwest and the desert landscapes, which are not to be seen here in this form. The shorts have been waiting in my luggage for a few weeks now and I can’t wait to get back. Although there are still 15 days to go until the plane finally takes off.

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