Hiking the many side canyons becomes as much the beauty and magnificence of this fabled trip through a great gash in the Earth’s crust. The Main Stem is a place of powerful influences that can overwhelm the senses, whether it be the surging current and draw of the river or the hot sun pounding down on exposed hands and covered head and shoulders. The side canyons have a lighter and more intimate effect on the senses, with quieter moments and bubbling streams and waterfalls, the powerful cacophony of frogs in a trickle of water, and the silence of a dry canyon and the echo of footsteps on gravel washes. The Grand Canyon is everything it is hyped to be, magical, mysterious, monstrous and raw, hot and cold. You will cycle many times with awe and wonder as the days build to weeks and then closes in on a month. The routines of camp mornings and rising with the lightening of the skies. The shading up under an overhanging cliff midday, the lunches under shore trees and the swimming fully clothed in the desert heat. With wariness I approached my handholds on the scrambles ever alert for cactus, rattler, and sharp rocks. We are a long way from powder country falls in the ragged desert. With exposed scrambles yielding deeper discoveries up slot canyons many approaches become rock climbs unroped and working at the limit of comfort as you work out an overhanging exposed jug/ledge line that brings you to an upper ledge where walking again is possible. Or swimming deep pools of water to slick waterfalls where bouldering up under the rain of cool water and stemming the crux 20 feet up and into the unknown becomes commonplace. And when the side canyon hiker returns to the main stem and launches back into the powerful current where the boater is whisked downstream at a rapid pace to run down the middle of most rapids with some of the largest standing waves available on a consistent basis to the riverman. Oh what joy as that becomes your life and who you are, sleeping out under the stars naked to the lack of rain and bugs and content to unrol a bedroll and climb into the bag only, watch out for setting up in the ants!