"How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation."
(An account of the Grand Canyon from the perspective of a 'first-timer')
The Grand Canyon stop was one of the few pre-planned events of this summer trip. On the long road up to the Grand Canyon I joked with rev that my excitement level was around 1.3 and dropping with every hill. I did confess to him, however, that I was very excited to see the Grand Canyon for myself, and even more thrilled to descend into it.
As we entered into the National Park we pulled off at Desert View (for those who have been there) to get our first glimpse of the canyon. Good thing. I would have almost certainly crashed if I saw the canyon for the first time from the road. I don't care what size television you have with whatever kind of resolution.. you need to sell it and take a trip to the Grand Canyon. No image can do it justice. As I saw the expanse I exhaled sharply. It took my breath away. My excitement quickly rose to 22. Out of 10.
Fast forward to the hike. I thought it was great that within a couple hours of seeing the canyon for the first time I was stepping over the edge. Fortunately, I had a friend who has hiked the trails quite a few times. The trip down was magnificent. The sun set a little over halfway through our descent which provided for some beautiful hiking. I enjoyed the night hike down the inner gorge, and I especially enjoyed watching bats run into Brady. He didn't seem to enjoy that part so much.
I thought the canyon was really windy at one point, but then realized that although we were thousands of feet up, I could already hear the roar of the Colorado River's rapids. What a powerful display. We eventually reached the bottom of the canyon in relatively good shape. The impact of the descending steps for 7 miles was rough but easily tolerable. After finding a place to lay down on the canyon floor we soaked our feet in the Bright Angel Creek. Before this Brady lost the nipple to his Camelbak when it caught on a bridge railing. It was washed downstream before we even knew what happened. So Rev didn't drink any more water. Kidding.. he plugged the hose with a pen.
Anyway, we slept, we arose, and we set off for our ascent. The first 7 miles of the climb up the North Side were bearably flat, so we kept a decent pace. I was enjoying the rushing creek that we followed, as well as watching the sun creep down the canyon walls, closer and closer to the inner gorge. At our second rest break I realized that I may have a rough day ahead of me. My right trapezius was in significant discomfort, and my legs had begun cramping with nearly every step. I had a sodium-enriched meal and laid down for a bit before we began the actual ascent. I was frustrated that my muscles were wearing out so quickly. Discomfort is one thing, but a cramp is hard to work through.
The short breaks became more frequent, and we were able to bite off the ascent one chunk at a time. I noted on our hike that I really liked the camaraderie that was displayed among hikers. With almost every group that was headed in the other direction we would stop to see where they were going or where they were from. I also carried some of our prayer cards and we would tell them what we were doing with our summer. I really liked that sort of community within the canyon.
I was a little disappointed in Rev, though. He's been packing my Banagrams game this whole trip but somehow didn't consider it to be essential gear for our hike. I can't imagine many people can claim to have played speed scrabble in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and now we can't either. Someday. He did forget a bottle of Arizona sand in a pocket of his pack, though, so he did carry that through the canyon.
Moving on, we continued our slow climb. With 1.2 miles left we still had almost 1,500 feet to climb in elevation. I may have been a tiny bit irritable at this point, but I'm sure it was solely due to the flies. Still, one step at a time found us at a lookout rock a half mile from the trail head. In a few minutes we rounded our final curve and saw our path open onto the canyon rim.
So that was fun. Seeing the canyon was something, but experiencing the canyon was something else. I realized that in the hike. As I was hiking, I wasn't enjoying it because of the beautiful views or the wonderful sights. Those were great, but the primary reason I was enjoying it was because of the experience and the challenge. It was great because we weren't on the outside, looking in. As we stood on the North Rim I repeatedly told Rev, "Hey, remember that time when we were on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, and then we ended up on the North Rim?" One step at a time.
How can that challenge my faith? James 1:22 says, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." It goes on to talk about the man who looks intently in the mirror, and then walks away, forgetting what he looks like. I could have stared really hard at the canyon, but it wasn't until I hiked the 22 miles through the canyon that I realized the magnitude of this handiwork, and truly appreciated and enjoyed its beauty. No amount of looking could have done that for me. To be a follower of Christ is a call to action. Not observation. Oh mercy.. it's not a life of misery, either. It's the unexpected adventure! So great.. Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech once called "The Man in the Arena" that hangs on my wall. I would suggest reading it. Interestingly, he is the man who declared the Grand Canyon to be a national monument in 1908.
"O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures." Psalm 104:24