This is how Nik Wallenda sees the world: Continents are meant to be crossed by high wire; helicopters are best dangled from by the teeth; and the ultimate pyramids are those made by stacking people on top of each other like human Legos. Even outer space is fair game for a stunt. "I want to do something on the moon," says the seventh-generation member of the famed Flying Wallendas acrobatics troupe. "That's a dream of mine."
For now he'll settle for tackling one of Earth's greatest wonders. On June 23 the "king of the high wire," 34, will make his way across a 1,400-ft.-long stretch of the Grand Canyon on a 2-in. steel cable, suspended 1,500 ft. above the Colorado River in a stunt to air live on Discovery Channel. Unlike his much-viewed walk across Niagara Falls last summer - during which ABC required him to wear a safety harness - this time Wallenda will cross with just a 40-lb. pole. "Part of my Niagara dream was taken away because I had to wear a tether," he says. "This one will be done the way I want to do it: just me and Mother Nature."
To prepare, Wallenda has been training in his hometown of Sarasota, Fla., where airboat fans simulate the wind gusts he might experience. During training, "I put my mind over the Grand Canyon," says the father of three, whose wife of 13 years, Erendira, 31, is herself an eighth-generation performer. "When I actually do the walk, it's the opposite. I'll say, 'This is the same as training. You've done this a million times.' "
Maybe even more: At an age when most kids are learning to toddle, Wallenda was testing his balance atop the wire in the backyard where his parents, both wire walkers, honed their craft. The legacy of his great-grandfather Karl Wallenda, a famed acrobat who plunged off a wire to his death in 1978 (four other family members have died while performing), is his inspiration. "I think of him on every walk I do," he says. But unlike Karl, who had long stated that the wire was "how he wanted to go," says Wallenda, "I don't have a death wish. I'm a lot safer than people think." Erendira admits she's "nervous. But as a performer, I'm totally inspired." And if their kids opt to enter the family business? "They have my blessing," says Wallenda. "I want them to fulfill whatever their hearts desire."