Great Western Loop - Prologue
Updated: Mar 12, 2021
Here I am now, my feet touching Arizona's red and dusty sand. In front of me the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. It is an epic view. An epic view for the start of an epic adventure. I'm looking down at the Bright Angel Trail, memorizing every switchback, every water source and every meter up to the viewpoint I'm standing on, knowing that these few miles might be the last miles of an incredible adventure.
As most day hikers start descending from the viewpoint into the canyon I turn around, hike to Mather's Point and than to the southeast, leaving the Canyon behind me and making my first steps on the Great Western Loop. If everything goes as planned I will be back, after some 7-8 months and 11,000 kilometers. The Great Western Loop is a connection of several major trails (AZT, GET, CDT, PNWT, PCT), routes and a few hundred additional miles, where I had to create my own route. It spans a total of about 11,000km or 6,800miles.
This distance is insane. To put it into perspective, 11,000km is the maximum depth of the Mariana Trench, the beginning of the stratosphere, some 2,000km more than Mao's "Long March", or a flight from Cologne, Germany to Jakarta in Indonesia. This distance is insane, but it's not even the major challenge of this adventure. In the course of this trail I will have to cross the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. Both mountain ranges have some 4,000m high mountains and will only be passable with favourable snow conditions between mid-May and mid-October. In between those mountain ranges are about 6,000 kilometres that I have to cross before the winter storms in October will render a traverse impossible. Once I've crossed the San Juan Mountains this hike will be a race. A race against winter.
Once again I will test my limits and once again i will sometimes be miles away from my own comfort zone, but isn't that where life begins? When we're feeling to comfortable in life it's time for something new. Something that will challenge us, something that might even terrify us. That's the only way to move on and grow. The prospect of true and utter failure will force me to think, to adapt and to learn. Great things are never achieved in our comfort zones. We need to take risks and "when you take risks you learn that there are times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail. Both are equally important." (Ellen DeGeneres)
I'm not afraid of failing, even though it's probably the most likely outcome for this endeavour. I'm afraid of being stuck by circumstances staying in one place, living in a golden cage of a house and a career and daydreaming about all the exciting adventures I could have had. I know there will be some times when I will tremble and falter, when i will be scared and utterly exhausted, times when I will cry, laugh or scream. I will hike it, limp it and crawl it, but I know that, in my darkest hours, I can count on the support of a great community of nameless strangers, hikers and trailangels along the way.
Looking at the map, the distance and the challenges ahead are terrifying and yet that's exactly what I'm looking forward to. Once again I will feel alive and live my life to the fullest. "I'm the master of my fate, I'm the captain of my soul" (Invictus, W.E.Henley)
Due to the nature of this hike, I wont be able to post as many updates in a timely manner, as on the Te Araroa. Expect this blog to be delayed by several weeks as I will have to limit my time in trail towns and my battery power.