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.