1. Apply for permit four months ahead, cross fingers, request guidance from multiple gods of the canyon for patience and success with the process.
3. If rejected, return to step one. If accepted, rejoice and begin planning.
4. Wait, dream, train, anticipate over the next three months.
5. With one month left before departure, begin to check weather forecast for permit area, generally on a weekly basis at this point.
6. Check moon cycle and breathe a sigh of relief if the timing isn’t right for a blindingly bright full moon during the trip.
7. Create a multi-stop shopping list which includes staples like high protein foods, hooch, chocolate, and at least one new luxury backpacking item.
8. Wonder how much TP is enough for the length of the trip.
9. Worry Goldilocks-style if your boots are too new, too old, or just right.
10. Commence shopping, knowing that you will forget something vital and will have to return more than once to at least one of the stores.
11. Begin to pile necessary items into large stacks according to their general categories, like food, clothes, sleeping gear, etc.
12. Check weather forecast.
13. Divvy up stacked items into useful, useable amounts encased in ziploc bags of varying size.
14. Wonder how Sir Edmund Hillary packed in the pre-ziploc, pre-plastic, pre-technical fabric era.
15. Feel confident in the amount of food packed.
16. Question how much coffee, hooch, and chocolate is enough.
17. Redistribute stacks of items from general categories to personal stashes of who is carrying what.
18. Restock first aid kit, and offer up a request to the canyon gods that nothing more than bandaids and ibuprofen will be necessary, but pledge your intention to carry the full one-pound-plus of the entire kit as an insurance policy against disaster.
19. Check weather report from alternative sources and compare.
20. Confer in person (if possible) and via phone with trip companions regarding necessities like stoves, water filters, fuel, rat sacks, liters of water per person. How much is the absolute minimum? How much is smart?
21. Check weather report and river levels; appraise fishing potential.
22. Carefully evaluate potential book(s) to bring. Considerations: too long? too short? too heavy? appropriate subject matter? is there another bibliophile on board with whom you can swap books?
23. Lay out clothing with careful attention to socks.
24. Recheck weather forecast prior to completing clothing selection.
25. Begin putting items in backpack, carefully noting items from the list as they are deposited (tricky to do with a family of four all working from the same list).
26. Try on pack, adjust straps and reconfigure as necessary.
27. Weigh pack with one eye closed, the other squinting at the scale.
28. Sigh heavily and consider replacing heavier items with more hooch and ibuprofen.
29. Actually weigh potential books using scale with grams; select lightest.
30. Highlight items on list not yet in pack: sun hat, trekking poles, food items in fridge, the currently recharging camera batteries, etc.
31. Check weather report.
32. The night prior to departure: Check in with other trip members and confirm or deny questionable items; discuss weather forecast; determine departure time.
33. Check packing list again; do not forget permit and national park pass.
34. Check forecast from multiple sources to dispel rumors from trip companions.
35. Haul packs from inside the house to the car and either A) believe devoutly and completely in your capacity to haul said pack the entire length of the hike without problem, or B) question the rational self and the philosophy of torture.
36. Go to bed early, but stay awake late doused in a restless mixture of anticipation and apprehension.
37. Drift off to sleep only to be awakened by a supremely significant something you’ve forgotten whose identity and purpose will vanish by morning, leaving a sense of anxiety.
38. Wake up and make coffee; check and recheck forecast and packing list; take one last shower.
39. Realize you forgot to make arrangements for the pet(s); argue with spouse over whose responsibility that was.
39. Finish packing; leave house, hopefully remembering coffee; if not, it’s important enough to merit a return to house; stop at McDonald’s for a greasy, protein-heavy Egg McMuffin.
40. Arrive at the canyon and search for a parking space; regroup at the trailhead, by which time, ideally, all members of the group are happily caffeinated and ready for the adventure of hitting the trail.