5 Takeaways from Our Hike Across the Grand Canyon
By Functional Medicine provider Dr. Blake Butler, DC
Grand Canyon National Park, you’ve probably heard of it, is considered one of the seven wonders of the world. I had never been. Ryan Caturan, a friend, Aligned Modern Health team member, plus fellow adventurer, and I had been discussing a Grand Canyon rim-to-rim hike for nearly two years. Although around 5.9 million people visit this National Park annually, fewer than 1 percent hike rim-to-rim. Most take 3-5 days to complete the trip. We set out to cover the 24 plus miles and approximately 12,000 feet of elevation change in a day with 28 to 36-pound packs on our backs.
My wife, Anna, and Ryan’s girlfriend, Stef, were an integral part of the planning process and we all completed what turned out to be one of the most difficult and rewarding experiences of our lives. We experienced a wild place in a unique way, strengthened our relationships, and encountered kind strangers who elevated our entire experience. I have had some time to reflect on our experience and wanted to highlight a few takeaways from our recent adventure.
Experiences are better shared with others.
Shared suffering creates a bond that is difficult to break. We shared plenty of highs and lows on the trail over the course of our 15-hour day. On top of that, we created stories, which I am sure we will embellish with time, and have running jokes as a result of our experiences on the trail. “We are very close” became the catch phrase of the trip as we said this far too often on our final climb to the north rim.
We should continue to protect our national parks and public lands.
I have such fond memories of time spent in national parks and public lands. Parks and public lands offer something for everyone. Incredible landscapes, unforgettable views, and the opportunity to engage with environments we should continue to protect. Due to increased park and public land utilization, it is crucial to practice Leave No Trace principles when interacting with these wild places. Additionally, it is important to consider how our daily choices impact our environment. Like taking care of our own health, it is worthwhile to support the health of our climate and the various ecosystems we engage with outside.
Alpinist and climber, Gerry Roach, once said, “Geologic time includes now.” This has always resonated with me as I spend a lot of time in wild places. It’s humbling to realize that our environments are ever changing and that we are not necessarily in control. Nature is.
Side note: Lightning strikes occur more often than you would think! If you are traveling to the Grand Canyon, connect with a Park Ranger (shout out to Ranger Jen) to discuss appropriate weather-related precautions.
Eat well, stay hydrated, and don’t forget about salt.
With meticulous meal and hydration planning, we were all able to avoid dehydration, heat stroke, altitude sickness, and gastrointestinal distress. The heat was a large factor and we all agreed that our hydration strategies and regular sodium intake elevated the entire experience. Temperatures exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the canyon, and we consumed between 800-1600 mg of Sodium per hour. Additionally, we took in food every 2-3 hours and celebrated the end of our suffer-fest at the North Rim Lodge with a well deserved dinner.
Gratitude improves…. well, everything.
I am grateful for parks, public lands, relationships, beautiful landscapes, and the ability to physically move about difficult terrain. We all have different experiences, physical capabilities, and backgrounds, but we can all benefit from practicing gratitude to shape our perspectives. I am grateful for my recent experience and the company I shared on the road, the trail, and at our campsite.
Movement in nature allows me to move toward the person I desire to be. It doesn’t have to be competitive, extremely difficult, or in remote places. If you can, take time to plan your own experience outside. National parks and public lands are accessible for everyone. More importantly, remember to take care of public spaces as I am grateful to those who leave our parks better than they found them.
About Dr. Blake Butler, DC
Dr. Blake Butler is a Functional Medicine Telemedicine provider at Aligned Modern Health and currently serves patients in Florida, Colorado, and Illinois. Graduating with honors from Logan College of Chiropractic, Dr. Butler has extensive postgraduate training in functional medicine, blood chemistry interpretation, brain chemistry, thyroid function, and functional endocrinology. He specializes in regulating blood sugar, thyroid dysfunction, GI imbalances, and adrenal dysfunction. Dr. Butler places a strong emphasis on patient education and believes that diet and lifestyle play an important role in achieving optimal health and promoting chronic disease prevention.