Thursday, December 2, 2010

How far? or It’s just up ahead…

The hike down into the Grand Canyon was more than I could ever have imagined. In more ways than one… The whole idea of it had struck me with awe and wonderment from the start. But still I could not have prepared my mind and heart for what I would experience, physically, mentally, and spiritually…

Physically speaking, I’m working on my fiftieth year. Have a somewhat bad back, and terrible shoulder from years ago. Bad knees… Other than that, I’m in fine shape… As I just heard my knee crack just now… :)

Mentally, well, that would come to the test…

As far as my spirit goes, it would be broken many times over… and rebuilt even stronger…

We started off from the South Kiabab Trail head at about 10;30 in the am. The temperature was quite brisk and there was snow and ice at the top and about a half a mile or so an the trail. It was funny how when we stepped out off the pavement and onto the trail proper, my mind immediately raced with thoughts of slipping into the canyon… so we put on our ”tire chains”  and went down, down and down even further… The weight I was carrying was around 65 or 70 lbs. Not overly heavy but heavy enough… Turns out I was carrying more than the weight of my pack. But also the weight of all my fears and expectations and all that kind of junk you don’t want to carry on a long hike… Or at least for more than half of it.

There were going to be three hurdles that I was going to have to get over before I could get down and back out of there. The first was the physical strength… Just the act of walking down stairs can sometimes make my knees hurt with a dull ache. Seven and a half miles of down hill, with steps as high as two feet at times, poor Gaelyn, she wished her legs were a lot longer by the time we were done. So with all that, inclimate weather, old bones, heavy pack, I was ripe for disaster.

All three hurdles would combine at times into what would seem imposable to overcome, but like Winston Churchill once said, “… when all seems lost and defeat seems certain, just take one more step forward, for that then is when the enemy is most tired”… so I did… One more step, and new strength would be found when my mind would be distracted by some amazing beauty that took my breath away…

There are places one can go that require deep strength to go there… Down into the depths of the earth in the canyon, or deep into the depths of ones own heart and soul… Both, I think were achieved on this trip…

I learned that I can be physically exhausted and not die from it… I’m not talking about the tired after a workout. I’m talking about the tired you get from feeling your femur bones bending  and wondering when…

I learned that my spirit, that has been given by my creator God, can and will bring me through any physical “discomfort” I may encounter.

And I also learned that if you don’t drink enough water, the one you love the most will irritate you. Or visa versa… Gaelyn was a wonderful guide and companion. She has stolen my heart and I don’t have any intention of trying to get it back :)

We even argued about little things that didn’t mean anything… Like where we were on the trail… “How far is Phantom Ranch baby?” “I don’t know…” “You been here three times and you don’t know where we are? Common, you gotta know!”    You can see the point… Drink enough water and everyone gets along! Hahahaha!  Valuable stuff!

We spent two days at Phantom Ranch, camped not more than fifty feet from the most beautiful creek I’ve ever seen! Bright Angel Creek is it’s name. The water was like streams of living water, pure… It was cold at night, and during the day. But it was worth it! Then we went up to Indian Gardens for another night. Even colder than down at Phantom and a lot of deer all around, it was great…

It was all “fun and games” until I discovered that the hike out, just from Indian gardens would be the best test yet of my cardio vascular system to date. Mind you, I hit a wall at every destination, but was able to work through it successfully. Here, all three hurdles would try to gain up on me. The strongest opponent would be my own eyes and brain. At what would be interpreted as the rim from a certain point of view would only be on more layers of rock, or “liars of rock”  I called them and now wish to apologize for…  But we made it in one piece, and have an entirely new understanding of ourselves and one another.

I am home now, a little sore in the back but much stronger in the heart! It was an honor to be able to see and feel our Mother Earth’s “natural wounds”, compared to seeing and feeling her “un natural wounds” inflicted by mankind… She opened herself up to us and took us into her bosom and comforted us in our struggles…  She showed us how really beautiful she is and just how powerfully venerable she really is…

I have had some awesome experiences in my life and they just keep getting better. I thought I would save the pictures for last… Nothing I could say could do them justice… so here goes…

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  1. This is a beautiful tale of a wonderful journey! I love the insights that you share, it is so true that something like the Grand Canyon can be one of the biggest lessons in our lifetime. Its a great pilgrimage to discover oneself, and when you start that uphill you start to really ponder what baggage (physical and mental/emotional) you no longer want to carry. I am so glad you guys got to do that trip, and how much fun that you did a time of year that very few get to experience in that area. Lovely! Thank you for sharing the photos, its always fun to see the Grand Canyon!


  2. Great post, I feel like I have walked the trail with you both without all the aches and pains that go with it :-) Thanks so much for sharing. Diane

  3. Mike, you always surprise me with your writing. What a beautiful interpretation of your hike.
    I know when I hiked the Widforss Trail, I learned a LOT about myself and the trail. The last photo of you and Gaelyn says it all!

  4. A Grand Canyon hike is the ultimate test of body, spirit, and relationships! Steve and I have hiked there a half dozen times, and I always come away with a better knowledge of nature and of myself.
    Glad you and Gaelyn had this adventure together. You seem to have weathered it well.

  5. A blog with no name must make you a Nome.

    Wonderful to sense your expansion into and from the canyon and that which is ancient.

  6. Fantastic post, and pictures too. I love hiking and being in the outdoors, but the Grand Canyon is one place I have yet to experience.