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Mike St. Pierre and Kevin Fedarko negotiate a route atop a redwall limestone cliff inside Marble Canyon.

I guess you can call it a grand beat down. I knew it would be hard, but not spirit-crushing hard. Our plan to walk the Grand Canyon as a sectional thru-hike would be a lengthy, logistical monster of sorts. Our food would be weighed by the ounce. Almonds and prunes would be rationed and counted per day. Caching supplies via hiking, raft trips, and possibly even mules would be a jaw-dropping jigsaw puzzle that placed our food (and lives) on the digits of GPS coordinates in a place with dodgy GPS coverage. Oh, and the permits—there are a lot of them when you deal with nine Native American reservations and one of the most regulated national parks in the world.

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