Grand Canyon

The Great, Grand Canyon…

       We all know the Grand Canyon as an incredible natural wonder; it is number one on endless bucket lists and well-worth the detour from Las Vegas. When I was twelve, I went to see the Grand Canyon with my father. We stood on the giant glass horseshoe that opened up like a tongue over the abyss. I was young and fascinated, pressing my face against the edge of the glass wall to look past my toes to the far away, dusty bottom. I remember thinking to myself, “What could possibly be down there?” My father’s girlfriend couldn’t bring herself to walk over the edge. She and my sister scuttled back to the safe, sturdy canyon wall.

       I had no idea that fourteen years later, I would stand again in the canyon, but this time at the very bottom of that crevice. I was bubbling with excitement – this time I was down deep inside, looking far above at the shelf where everyone else I loved lived. It felt like Mars. With no way to contact anyone else and limited distractions, I was completely immersed in how gorgeous the canyon was. I could barely believe that at one point that I had wondered what could be down at the bottom. Cacti, sheer black rock walls, small lizards, scorpions, long stretches of sand. I had believed as a child that once you’ve seen the Grand from above, you’ve seen it all. How wrong I was.

       But rafters know how deeply precious and awe-inspiring the Grand Canyon is, riding the incredible river that carved the canyon as deep and impressive as it is today. They respect it, they cherish it, and they know the secret they are guarding. I had heard my friends talk about it with bated breath. It was the holy grail. I believed them, but only to an extent. How life-changing could the place really be? Beyond what I ever could have comprehended. There was something so human about the experience. We were bone tired at the end of the day, but we would set up camp, cook for one another, and make a fire. We would sit around in a small circle, holding our plates of warm food, and smiling at one another over the smoke and glow, laughter echoing off the canyon walls.

Grand Canyon
       I had believed only ocean water could be so tumultuous and clean.  No place could rival the power of water in the ocean, churning and twisting around me. I was wrong. The river was almighty and moved with such a force that I could slowly begin to understand how it had carved its way down through rock and sand, forming the monstrosity that is the Grand Canyon. I saw why native cultures considered it sacred; everything about it feels holy. It makes you feel small, but in the best way. It’s comforting to know that the world is so much bigger than you, and whatever problems you bring down into the canyon. There is such extensive relief to know that something this breath-taking existed long before you. It will continue to exist long after you are gone.
       It changed me. When I first embarked on the trip, I took the time to describe the trip as “once in a lifetime”. Rationally, it made sense – how many people get to spend twenty-six days floating on a river in one of the most stunning natural wonders of the world? But it made me more grateful, more present, more alive. Tourists and enthusiasts get to see the river and feel a minute of that excitement. It becomes a memory they cherish and tell whenever the opportunity arises. It becomes history.
       For those of us lucky enough to enter the Grand, and raft it to completion, it becomes an obsession. It is an itch we can never quite scratch again, until we are pushing the boats off on our next trip with excitement brimming in our eyes and our lungs. From that point on, nothing else will do. Not even standing above the entirety of the Grand, suspended in time, floating over a mile above the next piece of solid ground.

Silhouette of Grand Canyon rafters

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