I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon before, just about everyone in my family has been there several time…me, this was a first. We’ve all seen the pictures of it in books and magazines right, and we just keep flipping through the pictures. I admit I’m guilty of that. So this last week I went out to Arizona with the Grand Canyon with the main reason as part of a ‘celebration of life’ so to speak. I met my sisters and their husbands out there with the plan of hiking into the canyon at least one day, catch a sunset and sunrise the next morning. Driving up to the canyon from my moms home in Mesa is about a 4 hour drive with my ears ‘popping’ because the elevation changing gradually as we drove. 1,200 feet above sea level was the starting point (Bloomington/Normal is 800ft), moving to 2,000 then 3,000, the 4,000 eventually making it to 7,000 feet above sea level. Side note, the air is kind of thin when you’re that high so it’s easy to get winded just walking around your car. “So where’s this big hole in the ground?” I ask my sisters…’just on the other side of those doors (to the lodge). “What, is this Narnia or something…we open doors and it’s a whole new world?” So we walked up to the lodge walked in the front doors and out through the back doors…welcome to Narnia, because there it was!
As soon as I opened the doors my sisters looked at me to catch my reaction, and I don’t think I disappointed them, I was in complete and total awe…even losing my breath, not because of the altitude, but because of how magnificently ‘breathtaking’ it was. I can’t do it justice by trying to describe it, my vocabulary doesn’t contain words needed to talk about the beauty that was quietly in front of me. Wow is all I can say (actually there was a cuss word in there too).
I strapped on my backpack loaded with water, nuts, Cliff Bars and my camera as I started to head down the trail. Smiling as I past others coming UP the trail, I could see the effects of the altitude in their eyes and on their faces, hear it in their labored breathing and the large amount of sweat on their shirts. Grabbing a swig of water and handful of almonds now and then I worked my way down the trail almost 3 miles and, as agreed to with my sister, I turned around to head back up. Going down is easy, going up…well, not as easy. The path is well groomed and easy to walk, but the altitude is there to remind you that it’s in charge…not you as you climb. I was lucky, I trained on a stair climber/Jacobs ladder for an hour at a time several days a week preparing for this so my struggle wasn’t that bad (actually made it back up quicker than going down). The trail was taking it’s toll on others as they sat to the side catching their breath and chugging water. This hike isn’t for the faint of heart, or those not prepared. I passed a woman who looked to be struggling, offered her water, a snack, a companion to walk with her to make sure she made it ok. She assured me she would be fine and off I went again…hiking, taking pictures, smiling at those walking DOWN the trail knowing what awaited them on their return.
Getting to the top I texted one of my sisters to let her know I was back on top (she and her husband went about 1 mile before turning back), her response…”are you alone?” Ummm…did she think I picked up new friends along the way? No of course not, she was wondering if I was with my other sister and her husband. See…apparently I blew right by them on my climb back up to the top and didn’t even realize I passed them as I hiked. Apparently when you are busy thinking about life and choices not only you’ve made, but others have also made…you tend to move a little quicker as you walk. Who knew.
Needless to say, I slept really really well that night knowing we were getting up nice and early so we could catch the sunrise as it came into the canyon. That view and experience by the way, will make a grown man cry. It was 31 degrees that morning as we trekked out into the canyon, bundled up in an attempt to stay somewhat warm as we waited. Then it started to happen…we started to see the orange glow coming up in the horizon…click click click went the camera into the sun as it rose. A few of us actually pointed our cameras into the canyon AWAY from the sun so we could capture the magic that the light was creating onto the canyon walls. The colors in normal daylight are not that amazing honestly, but in the morning at sunrise they are magnificent! Oranges, yellows, reds all filling the miles and miles of the canyon as far as you can see. Tears ran down the side of my face as I watched the wonders that unfolded in front of me continue minute after minute. There were some people that were there by themselves trying to take a selfie that could show both the beauty and magnitude of what was happening, but just couldn’t get the right shot…so I volunteered to take the pictures for them. One woman asked “even though you’re a Cubs fan (I was wearing my hat) and we are White Sox fans, would you mind taking a picture?” At this point and time ma’am, I’m hoping we can all just consider ourselves to be members of the human race and set any differences aside…and she handed me her camera. There were people from Chicago, New York, Ohio, and some places that I have no idea where they were from based on the language they spoke, but at that moment…that one moment in time…we were all part of a select group that, together, were watching a miracle happen on a cold November morning.