The Grand Canyon Itch You've Got to Scratch

Updated: Apr 20

I have been trying to think of how best to describe the Grand Canyon, and I can't come up with anything better than EPIC! Its size, beauty and history all together are a place that is special and begs us to explore it.

My first exposure to the canyon was like most people's. While driving through that area of the US in 2017 with our girls we took the side trip to go stand at the edge on the observation bridge and take pictures. That was when the itch started. Staring down in to that massive canyon the adventurer in me wanted to hit the trail right then and there (but I knew my wife would have killed me).

In 2018, I got to scratch that itch. My buddy, Matt McInnis, suggested the idea of a Rim2Rim2Rim adventure. That means crossing the Grand Canyon and back in one go. It's a 48 mile trip with 9,000' of climbing. For anyone who knows me, you know my answer was a quick and fervent "Hell yeah!". To make the trip happen, Matt reached out to the guys at and we met Rob, Tom and CJ. Run2Revive is an incredible fundraising organization for research into the neurological disorders of ALS and Alzheimers. Not only did they help us fulfill our dreams, but we got to raise money to help in the battle against these crippling diseases. I recommend checking out their website at

After about 4 months of focused training and a conference call with the guys, we were all meeting up at the Phoenix airport. (Quick side story....during our introduction calls with the guys, CJ said he was from Lucas, TX. That's where I live! Come to find out he lives down the road and teaches at our middle school. He has taught both of my girls 8th grade math. Small world!) We drove to the South Rim had a great meal and settled in our hotel for a short nap. We were up at 2:00am and hit the trail at 3:00am. I got the advice to start early from Anna Frost, the rock star pro ultra runner, after I saw her in the Dallas airport and went all fan boy on her She was super nice and totally willing to share her insights on the canyon.

The detailed story of the day would be long and probably more than you want to hear. We bombed down in the dark and probably should have been more aware of the drop offs that loomed in the dark. When we reached Phantom Ranch the first time it was still dark and the cafe was just getting setup. We filled up our water from their tap and rolled on. The sunrise was awe inspiring from the bottom of the canyon. By the time we started the climb up to the North Rim, the crowds were arriving, and we had to navigate around the infamous mule train coming down. Reaching the North Rim at about 12:00pm, Tom was there with our supplies and a foam roller for our aching legs. For the most part we were feeling pretty good, but Matt felt like he had crossed the line. He smartly pulled the plug but is still talking about going back to make it happen next time.

The second half of the day was significantly more challenging than the first half. By the time we got to Phantom Ranch the temperature had soared to 97F. We were soaked in sweat and Rob was definitely overheating. His pace fell off and stops became more frequent. Eventually his stomach was upset, and he was not looking good. He wasn't ever near the point were we needed to call for help, but the focus moved to keeping him cool. As is often the case, Rob began to feel better with cooling off and water. By the end of the day he was looking strong and passing me. We both eventually climbed out of the canyon back to the warm lights of the South Rim village at 8:00pm for a total time of 18 hours (for the record Rob did beat me by about 30 minutes).

After that day, I was thrilled to call my wife, Julie, and tell her I was back, safe and sound. There were crazy highs and lows throughout the day, but the itch was scratched. However, a new itch was taking hold. That was the desire to help others experience these type of wonderful adventures. That desire grew into Top Out Adventures. If you want to learn more about how to join us go to the page and check out the the trips we have planned.

I am also pleased to be continuing to support Run2Revive by giving a $500 discount on any Top Out Adventures trip to anyone who raises $1,000 or more for Run2Revive. You can learn how to participate in this opportunity on our Partnership page.

Dave is the owner and a guide for Top Out Adventures. His outdoor background is rooted in ultra-running, which has given him the chance to run around the world in the Rockies, Himalayas, Alps and Andes. He is also experienced in mountaineering and scuba diving, anything to get keep him out of an office. Feel free to reach out to him on Facebook at Dave Smithey or e-mail him at


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