Reflection on the Grand Canyon
Reflections on the Grand Canyon
I had a wonderful…and difficult…time hiking from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to Phantom Ranch then up to the South Rim. Here are some of the lessons I learned from our hike:
Provide, in advance, what your body (and soul) will need for the challenges that lie ahead: Greg and I wanted to get an early start on our hike into the Grand Canyon because we knew the temperature at Phantom Ranch (and along the last six miles of the trail between Cottonwood Campground and Phantom Ranch) would be 109 degrees that afternoon. So we caught a 5:30 a.m. shuttle from the Kaibab on the North Rim to the trailhead and got started hiking down at 6:00 a.m. I ate a banana as we started, and I felt great. Unfortunately, that’s all I ate for quite a while, and I didn’t drink much water as we began our hike. I felt fine at the time and didn’t realize how much I would need sufficient water and food into my system in advance of the heat that was soon to come upon us. As we walked those last 6 miles of our 14.2 mile hike, my legs began to cramp because I had not provided my body with enough water, salt, and protein, and I had a very difficult time with that last leg of our first day’s hike. I recognize how easy it is for us to do this spiritually as well. We don’t know what challenges lie ahead of us and we feel fine at the time, so we do not take the time to fill our souls with the spiritual sustenance we will need when the tough times come. Then we “cramp” spiritually and have a tough time muddling through those tough times. Physically and spiritually, we need to provide ourselves, in advance, what we will need for the challenges that will come our way.
Travel through challenges of life with a good companion: It was so helpful and encouraging to make this trek with my son. When my calf cramped severely, Greg rubbed it down. He kept after me (even at the beginning) to drink more water. He took extra weight for me on our hike up on the second day. He kept encouraging me. Plus we laughed a lot and enjoyed the time together. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to have tried to do this trek without him. In all the adventures and challenges of life, we need a good companion (or good companions) to travel the way with us—people who will help us when we need help, people who will encourage us when our energy is depleted, and people who will enjoy life with us.
Never leave your companion: The day before Greg and I began our hike we received word that a woman died on the South Kaibab Trail about a mile above Phantom Ranch in the intense afternoon heat. We were also told that her companions had left her. I have not been able to find confirmation on any of the news reports that her friends actually did leave her (but I did read a report of someone else being left behind by her traveling party). The point is that no one should go through the challenges of life alone. It can be deadly. So let’s stick with one another through the hard times!
Travel lighter: When hiking the Grand Canyon, you need to bring sufficient water and sufficient food, but you need to be realistic about it. On the way down, we loaded up all of our water containers and drank almost every drop we carried. That was good. The next day, on our hike out, we knew we would pass some rest stops with water supply, so we filled up our water bottles only the amount we knew we would need (and a little bit more) so that we would not be stuck with too much weight. We brought down with us much more food than we needed. That wasn’t too much of a problem on the way down. But it was a problem on the way up. (Actually, I had thought we would be able to dump unneeded food at Phantom Ranch, but the signs instruct us not to leave our garbage or anything else there, so we carried it all out.) It gets me wondering: How much extra stuff do I hold onto that I don’t really need that just weighs me down? What things in my life should I stop carting around to make the traveling easier?
Build into your life sufficient time to recover: Upon reaching Phantom Ranch following our 14.2 mile hike in the desert heat, and preparing for our 9.5 mile hike up Bright Angel Trail the next day, I took it easy. I knew that I would need to recoup my strength and energy, so I laid low and didn’t over exert myself in that heat (and I enjoyed a wonderful steak dinner at Phantom Ranch that night). Greg and I realized the smartest thing for us would have been to plan into our trip an extra night at Phantom Ranch so that our muscles could relax for a day before pushing up the mountain again. This is true for all of life, and is the reason God calls us to honor the Sabbath. We need to build into our lives time to recover from the stresses and strains of daily life. A day of worship and rest is essential.
Even amidst the struggles, never stop taking in the beauty. As I struggled with cramps on the way down, and as I struggled with sore muscles and exhaustion on the way up, I put away my camera. I just did not have the energy to take pictures. I needed to concentrate merely on putting one foot in front of the other and keeping going. I put the camera away, but I never stopped enjoying the immense beauty of the canyon. Every bend in the trail gave a new perspective to the beauty that surrounded us. This challenges me never to stop looking for the beauty and the joys that surround us even amidst the struggles we face.