Part 1: A Photographic Journey through the Grand Canyon

There is nothing I love more than taking each of you along with me on my journeys. It warms my heart beyond belief when I’m told someone lives vicariously through me. Really? Little ol’ me? That’s exactly why I’ve spent so much time putting this video and blog together.

For a change, I want this blog to be both entertaining AND informative (novel idea, I know). If you aren’t interested in the nitty gritty details… I suggest you watch the video NOW! And for those of you who have 1,001 questions feel free to read on below to your heart’s content! Now let’s get to it:

Vlog #27: A Photographic Journey through the Grand Canyon: Part 1

I see you’ve stuck around for the nitty gritty details, welcome!



One thing Kendrick and I always try to do is get away from the crowds. While only 1% of the visitor’s to the Grand Canyon actually make it to the bottom, we wanted to be the 1% of the 1% that took a different path! The two most popular trails to the bottom are the South Kaibab and the Bright Angel trails.

We, however, began our journey on the east side of the canyon. In order to hit all of the photo spots we wanted, we chose this 85 mile journey: Tanner Trail > Beamer Trail > Escalante Route > Tonto Trail > South Kaibab Trail > Bright Angel > Plateau Point > Bright Angel. For a limited time (until we need it again), you can see our exact GPS route here.

When Kendrick first asked me if I could do an 85 mile hike, I honestly didn’t know how to answer. The longest backpacking trip I’ve been on had been only 20 miles. I had never attempted anything more. But for some reason my instinct was to say (dripping with hesitation) “suuuuurrre”.

While every step of every mile was beautiful (It sounds like I’m exaggerating but I’m not!), not everyone has time for a trek of this length. My suggestion to you: start east! The Tonto and Beamer trails were by far made up of the most spectacular views for photography. No, you won’t get a restroom, running water or a cold beer… but it’s worth it. Trust me.


This is going to be the number one subject I get questions on – so now everything is in one easy place!


42 lbs. (pre-water)
Osprey EXOS 58
Mindshift Gear Rain Cover
Salewa Shoes
1 Hot Chillys Base Layer
1 pair 3/4 length leggings
2 Tank Tops
1 Long Sleeve
2 Sports Bras
3 Swiftwick ankle socks
2 pair Smartwool socks
5 pair underwear
REI vest
Outdoor Research jacket
Patagonia Raincoat
La Sportiva Rainpants
La Sportiva Moonfly Beanie
Buff Wrap
Mini Tripod & Phone clamp
Olloclip iPhone Camera Lens
GoPro Hero 3
Cabela’s 15 degree bag
Thermarest Sleeping Pad
Inflatable neck pillow
Sea to Summit Compression Sack
2x Sea to Summit Long Spork
14x Backpacker’s Pantry Dinners
2x Backpacker’s Pantry Breakfasts
2x Backpacker’s Pantry Desserts
16x Instant Oatmeal
1 lb. Ground Coffee
1 bag Mountain Trail Mix
10x Fiber One Granola Bars
10x Baby fruit squeezy things
6 oz. GOOD whiskey
17 oz. cheap whiskey
2.5 Liter Osprey Bladder
1x Camelback Podium water bottle
Aquamira water droplets
Mio water enhancers
Goal Zero Nomad 20 Solar Panel
External USB Battery Pack
Phone/Watch/inReach Chargers
Osprey Dry Compression Sack
iPhone 6s
Fitbit Charge 2 watch
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
CRKT Knife
Trekking Poles
Book (Mort, Terry Pratchett)
Miralax Travel Packets
Triple Antibiotic Ointment
Mini Hairbrush
58 lbs. (pre-water)
Mindshift Gear Backlight 36L
Mindshift Gear Rain Cover
La Sportiva Akasha Shoes
Prana stretch zion hiking shorts
Icebreaker Merino Long Johns
La Sportiva Running Shorts
La Sportiva Tank Top
La Sportiva Long Sleeve Merino
La Sportiva Icon Pullover
Spandex baselayer
3x Smartwool ankle socks
La Sportiva Pegasus Primaloft Coat
La Sportiva Circle Beanie
La Sportiva Shelter Visor
La Sportiva Hail Raincoat
Columbia pants
Black Diamond Gloves
Julbo Sunglasses
Buff Wrap
Nikon D810
Nikon D800
Tokina 16-28
Nikon 24-70
Nikon 70-200
Schneider Optics B+W Filters
3 Legged Thing Winston
3 Legged Thing Billy
3x Nikon Batteries
Hoodman SD Memory Cards
Marmot sleeping bag
Thermarest Sleeping Pad
NEMO Hornet 2P Ultralight Tent
Sea to Summit Compression Sack
MicroMo Jetboil
Jetboil Coffee Press Accessory
2x Propane Canister
Osprey Dry Compression Sack
Sea to Summit X-Bowl
6x Ramen Noodle Packets
1x Summer Sausage
2x bags Beef Jerky
6x Snickers Bars
Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels
Cheese Whisps
12x Chocolate Chip Cookies
17 oz. whiskey
1.5 Liter Osprey Bladder
2x .5 Liter Osprey Soft Bottle
Goal Zero Sherpa 100 Battery
iPhone SE
Book (Alone on the Wall, Honnold)
Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Watch
Black Diamond Z-pole
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
Solar Powered inflatable light
inReach GPS Tracker
National Park Trail Map
Contact/Eyeglass Care


There are certainly more affordable ways of shopping for backpacking food than buying a bunch of freeze dried meals. While the concept is smart, they are a little on the pricey side. I also have no idea why the food is so compact, yet the packaging is so big!! However, if you are going on a short trip – or in our case, in a pinch for time – these can be a great (and pretty tasty) solution.

Kendrick and I always joke because we choose our meals differently. He looks for the highest calories per $, and I look for the tasty, lower calorie ones. But believe it or not, we actually agree on all of our favorites!!

BEST DINNER: Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai (most calories too!)
BEST BREAKFAST: Mountain House Biscuits and Gravy (there are simply no words)
BEST DESSERT: Backpacker’s Pantry Dark Chocolate Cheesecake (served cold, but good!)
RUNNER UP! Backpacker’s Pantry Cuban Coconut Black Beans & Rice

An important thing to consider is how much you need to eat and how long you will be gone. It isn’t necessary, or practical, to eat 3 square meals a day when you’re on the trail. A typical day for Kendrick and me was a light breakfast (instant oatmeal or granola bars… and coffee of course!), snacks throughout the day (jerky, nuts, cookies), and then a nice big hot dinner at night!



It’s helpful to move your whiskey from the glass bottle to a plastic one. Oh wait… you thought I meant water? Ya, I guess we need that too.

There are a million options when it comes to water treatment. Endless filters, straws, and pills. The important thing, is that you have at least one of those – and more importantly, a water source. Luckily, by it’s nature, the canyon is full of water! But its not always along the trail. So before we took off we talked to the park rangers to find out what the water conditions were like at each of our nightly stops. This is key!


Our water treatment solution of choice was Aquamira chlorine dioxide droplets. We chose this method as the drops are very small, effective, and easy to carry. It is two chemicals that you mix and let sit for 30 minutes in your water. Since we went in February (rather than the hot summer) we didn’t drink as much water and most of the creeks were running.


But I was serious about the whiskey.

Repackage any food or drinks you can’t live without so they are travel-friendly. Use bottles that can easily be packed out or repurposed (Kendrick repurposed his as a pee bottle in the tent… hey, whatever works!)

In this case, Kendrick and I each got to nurse 17oz of our finest Early Times whiskey (we also took along our favorite Angel’s Envy for a couple special occasions) over the course of 13 days. Spoiler alert: they only made it to day 9.


Each of the following images was featured in the video in the chronological moment they were actually taken.


Stayed tuned for Part 2 where I will tackle questions about battery power, lighting, coffee, pooping, and more!

With support from nüCamp RV | Princess Craft RV3 Legged Thing | Hoodman | Schneider OpticsNikon | Mindshift GearWestcott | Urban Hair | Precision Camera | Bear Claw Carpentry


35 Comments on “Part 1: A Photographic Journey through the Grand Canyon

  1. Wow, Thank you for sharing this adventure Vacation! I love it.

    • Thank you for joining me! I better get to work on the next 2!

  2. Super read! Gives us an ‘honest’ description of what it took to hike even three days. Looking forward to “there’s more”!
    BTW pix so far delectable.

    • So much to talk about! I broke it up so its not an hour long episode, LOL

    • I’ll work on it ASAP! I’m so picky they take forever to edit!

  3. Love the photographic art & video, your detail depth as far as approach, equipment, and general complete details.

    • I could have gone into MUCH more detail but was trying to keep it short!

  4. Indescribable , …the beauty ,…solitude,.sounds, sights, and the fragrance of nature… Experiencing what the first peoples discovered..while hiking into the past.

    • Exactly! If only that annoying girl wasn’t talking over all of it… hahahaha

  5. Mandy and Kendrick thank you for sharing your hike with us. We get to enjoy without the blisters. But I would much rather have traveled with you in person. Looking forward to Part II. BEAUTIFUL

  6. VEry fun to read of this trip and especially the break down of what you took along. I am hitting the road for Moab with 3 friends in early May and I have been fretting over what to bring, wear, drink, eat, sleep on, etc. Spoiler Alert – I’m bringing more bourbon.

  7. This is amazing. I was at the Grand Canyon 2 years ago and saw much of where you were but, alas, only from the rim. I am totally in awe of you and Kendrick for attempting this and to have it all captured in a video log is really outstanding. Thanks for sharing. See you both in the Smokies at the end of April.

    • Thanks Tim! Yes, I make the videos to share with others… but really I know that I’m going to enjoy watching them years from now 🙂 Can’t wait to see you next month!

  8. WOW is an understatement! This video is absolutely your very best! What a generous gift you both have given us all. To think of us on your journey, and to let us experience it like this along with you, is truly phenomenal!! Thank you so so much, from the bottom of my heart! ❤

    • Wow, thank you for the wonderful response Colette! Each new video I make I learn something new and get a little better. Editing takes forever but its worth it when I get feedback like this <3

  9. Mandy thank you for sharing your wonderful trips with the World. As always Enjoy life everyday

  10. Thanks Mandy and Kendrick….that was awesome…I really enjoyed all the nitty gritty details too…thanks for taking the time to share this trip…am looking forward to part 2..

  11. WooooHooooooo!!! Love it all – you two, the trip, the video and blog, and getting to go along, albeit vicariously… 🙂

  12. I’m pretty impressed by you, Mandy! I wait for the day that my husband and I can travel on our Tab 400. In the meantime, your adventures are so much fun to watch. I plan to go to the Grand Canyon, too, but in my 60s, I don’t think I’ll be taking that Trek. You do it for me!

    • Thank you so much! Even if you can’t make it to the bottom of the canyon, you will LOVE the view from the rim. It is simply breathtaking.

  13. Pingback: Part 2: A Photographic Journey through the Grand Canyon – Mandy Lea Photo

  14. Wow. I’m just now catching up and can’t believe you even thought about doing this! I don’t know how you kept going on with that blister. The vistas are beautiful. Thanks so much.

    • Glad you are catching up! Enjoy! Part 3 will be out soon!

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