By: Chava Shapiro
There are three ways to safely descend into the Grand Canyon. The first is on the back of a mule. The second is white water rafting down the Colorado River. The third—the most grueling yet also the most exhilarating—is hiking down.
And that is what Hike 4 Friendship participants will be doing this May on their fourth annual hike to raise funds and awareness for the Friendship Circle, an international organization dedicated to assisting children with special needs and their families.
Separate teams of dedicated men and women will set out on an adventure of a lifetime: a four-day hike backpacking into the Grand Canyon. It is a test of both physical and mental endurance even for the avid hiker, yet one that Hike 4 Friendship participants are ready and eager to take on.
The rich natural beauty, awe-inspiring size, and spectacular views of the Grand Canyon make it known throughout the world. Thanks to the pureness of its air quality, visibility can extend up to 100 miles, allowing vast panoramic views of the Canyon’s exquisite geologic formations. One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Canyon receives five million tourists each year.
But the vast majority of visitors enjoy the views from atop the rims of the Canyon. Hike 4 Friendship participants, however, will get up close and personal, experiencing the Canyon—and perhaps themselves, as well—from a different perspective.
“Once you descend below the canyon’s rim, don’t expect to find things like running water, electricity, or a cell phone signal,” says Pinny Lew, an experienced backpacker and Grand Canyon enthusiast and past Hike 4 Friendship group leader.
While each step below the Canyon’s rim means less chance of a cell phone reception, Lew adds, it creates more chances be alone with your thoughts, connect with nature, and take in the breathtaking beauty of G-d’s creation: “It’s an authentic, off-the-grid, back-to-nature experience.”
During the four-day hike, participants will sleep under the stars, trek the cross-canyon route created by the Bright Angel Fault, visit ancient pictographs, soak in the famous panoramic views from the South Kaibab Trail, and rise early to hike to the Trailview Overlook to witness a magnificent sunrise over the desert and the ever-changing light as the sun illuminates the canyon walls from the top down.
In advance of the trip, participants will receive a manual outlining specific safety details such as hydration, calorie counts, and weather, as well as customized training plans to fit each hiker’s fitness level and help them prepare for the Grand Canyon.
“While an average person walks about four miles-per-hour, in the Grand Canyon, due to the environment, the terrain, and the backpack, we hike around two miles-an-hour,” says Lew. “Still, with the proper precautions and training, almost anyone can do this hike.”
For hikers and their supporters, the trip is all the more meaningful because it’s for a worthy cause. The Friendship Circle is today’s fastest growing Jewish organization for children with special needs, with over 79 locations worldwide. Its unique approach brings together teenage volunteers and children with special needs for hours of fun and friendship, creating lasting friendships and enriching the lives of the children, families and volunteers alike.
Their mission is to spread the message that every individual is deserving of love, respect, and most importantly, friendship.
To register to join the hike, visit Hike.Teamfriendship.org