Sunday, January 19, 2014
According to the Grand Canyon National Park website, the average high temperature of the inner gorge in July is 106.3. The average low is 76.8. July is the hottest month there. And July is when we're going to be there.
From a cold gray January in the Pacific Northwest, where the temperature is at this moment a brisk 33, that sounds like heaven.
When we decided last summer that this would be our next big adventure, the heat wasn't a huge factor on the plus side. White water rafting, the canyon itself, birds (California Condors!), a break from the chaos of modern life, hiking - those were high on the list.
Right now imagining myself on a sandy beach on a night warmer than my house is now, darkness complete enough that the sky is white with stars, body exhausted in the way that only a day on water can bring—that picture is enough to counter the wet gray wool of January here.
The Grand Canyon has called to me from childhood. I spent hours scouring old National Geographic magazines that had been given to us by customers from the milk route. Those were the days when it felt sacrilegious to throw one away. I longed to see the colors and the grandeur for myself one day. I envied and marveled at the people with the courage to travel the Colorado River through the gorge, in the time before the Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, before the river was tamed. I imagined myself among the tribes who called the canyon home, placing myself in the midst of the beautiful artists' renderings of what it might have looked like then.
Years passed and while the dream never quite left me, I never actively sought to claim it. Like so many dreams, I tucked it away in a place called Someday.
About ten years ago, Walt and I did a part of the Grand Circle. On one magical day we drove three hours from St. George to North Rim. I saw my first California Condor. We drank in the indescribable majesty, and soaked in the healing heat. I didn't want to leave.
For a long time I wanted to do the Bright Angel Trail hike down into the canyon. A part of me still does. I also wanted to do the mule ride until a good friend who is not afraid of anything did that, and said she'd never been that afraid before. Even so, a part of me still wants to do that, too. Walt, however, finds neither of those options even remotely appealing.
And so last summer we somehow found ourselves talking about rafting the Colorado through the canyon. It's the water that calls us both. And the camping, only this time with the luxury of having someone else pack everything.
I want my body to have this experience while the challenge and the pleasure still have the chance to occupy the same space. I want the feeling of connection with Walt that happened in Belize and that happens on every hike we take. I want to feel the aliveness that only happens for me when I'm a little afraid, when I'm outside, when I'm doing what felt impossible right up to the moment of doing. And I want to see California Condors.
It's been a year and a half since Walt and I went to Belize. I carry parts of that time with me like a smooth stone in my pocket. Always there as a reminder of who I am beyond a teacher of fifth graders and an aging woman whose life is dangerously close to settling permanently into the safety of conventionality. I really like the person who was in Belize, and the partner she shared it with. I'm looking forward to spending time with them both again in just a few short months.