I hiked the Grand Canyon recently with a group of buddies. We walked down the South Kaibob trail on a Saturday morning, camped by the Colorado River, and then hiked out Bright Angel trail on an early Monday morning.
Never having done this before, I made some important discoveries. One, as somebody who’d like to learn more survival skills, it was key having folks who knew a lot more than me in that department to follow around.
Being prepared by getting good gear was the first major step.
Thanks to great recommendations from my Outdoor Adventure friends at Miraval, I found a great pack, stocked up on ample amounts of food and water, grabbed a light one-man tent with sleeping bag and roll, packed the right clothes (lots of socks), and was able to do an extensive amount of walking without much damage.
No blisters, dehydration or major personal injury to be had. A big shout out goes out to Ian and Neil, you guys saved me.
I was, however, the sorest I’d been in a while.
Nine miles up, followed by a five-hour drive home, made my legs feel like quivering piles of jelly. It was interesting trying to will my feet from the garage to the back door, finally collapsing on the couch to the shaking head and smile of my wife, Sara.
Being out in nature for four days also validated things I’ve said in past column posts about the burden of technology, the unnecessary demands it places on life, and the need to unplug from it while tuning into the rhythms of the world.
Seeing the full moon light up the night sky while crickets chirped and the flowing creek buzzed in the background put me instantly into a state of harmonious flow with the living world around me. I slept when it was dark and rose when it was light. Flashlights don’t trump the night sky; same goes for the rising sun as a means to come awake—no need for alarms.
Feeling at one with nature provides a peace that is difficult to describe. It is everything that is right and good and true with the world. Too bad it only lasted a couple of days.
Monday morning, we broke camp and left for home with the sun rising over the Canyon. Streams of light rippled across the waves of the Colorado River as we traversed the Silver Bridge to the trail, seven hours of steady upward climbing in our future.
Faced with a dauntingly long journey, one gets to thinking. Can I do this? Do I have enough water? Food? Moleskin? Should I have brought poles?
Too many worrisome thoughts make you miss bits of wonder.
Through it all, hiking the Canyon became an amazing metaphor for life.
Sometimes it’s unbelievably beautiful. If you aren’t careful, breathtaking moments get missed. Sometimes the journey starts out better than expected; you get into a rhythm and the steps flow by seamlessly. Sometimes you get a chance to pause and just take it all in—to soak up the wonder of sunlight on water, a cool breeze on your face, the perfect photo-op.
Sometimes you hit a snag. Obstacles come: You take a fall, tweak an ankle, get a cramp, run out of water, get your feet wet in a running stream. Sometimes you need to stop—take a rest, fill up on food or drink, change your socks, lick your wounds.
And sometimes, even in the midst of unbelievable beauty and abundance, you get tired and stressed; the steps you’ve taken seem hard to remember, and those in front of you seem endlessly long; your legs and calves scream.
It hurts. It’s hard.
You don’t know if you can make it.
Ultimately, you realize that the way out is merely a matter of taking one more step and another and another. Success is just around the corner, even if it isn’t the one you just went around.
In the end, the trick is to keep moving.
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