"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

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.


Barb said...

You'll love this experience, Deb. Whether viewing the Canyon from above or looking up from the river and imagining ages past, it's a place like no other. I did a raft trip through the Canyon that stretched me and helped me grow. We slept without tents on sand bars - I was terrified at first about snakes and scorpions! I also backpacked the floor of the Canyon for 7 days with 3 girlfriends and 2 small tents. I count both of these experiences among my greatest life adventures. I've often looked down from the rim and marveled, but to be on the canyon floor, dealing with the rapids, is a whole different experience. I've never since seen a a blacker night or witnessed such an infinity of stars as the Canyon provides. You've chosen a fabulous adventure!

Linda Reeder said...

Your description and your anticipation almost make me want to do this too, but not quite. I am envious of your excitement and your courage to stretch yourself.

Terri Tiffany said...

Ive been to the canyon twice--each time the desire to hike down in never grasped me. I admire what you do and how you aren't afraid of some kinds of adventure.

DJan said...

I too think you will love this experience. I hiked the Bright Angel trail to the bottom of the canyon and up the Kaibab (or maybe it was the other way around, it's been thirty years now) and loved it. I was with several other women and we spent two nights in the cabin. I think you are doing it just right, being on the water, having someone else carry the heavy weight. I can't wait to heard about it! :-)

yaya said...

I've been to the Canyon 3 times in my life and I've enjoyed it every time...however, I never hiked it, or rafted, or camped. We did try to do the mule ride but you have to make reservations well in advance. But it still was a wonderful adventure that I know you'll love. I'll look forward to your tales and pics!

Midlife Roadtripper said...

What a grand adventure. Yes, you should do things like this. I admire your bravery and I so enjoyed your essays regarding Belize. Can't wait for what comes out of this one.

Good choice. Brave woman!

kario said...

I love that you and Walt plan these huge adventures together and that you revel in them so deeply! My dad and his wife did the Grand Canyon when he was about your age and I know he counted it as one of the most awesome adventures of his life. Have a ball!

Retired English Teacher said...

Wait, when did it stop being sacrilegious to throw away National Geographic magazines? You mean I did not have to move those boxes of them with me to our new home?

Seriously, I am so excited for you. In my other life, back in the day when I was married before, I was a river runner. Did you know that? My former husband and his father had a river running business in Utah. I never ran the Colorado, but I have many memories that precious to me of those days on the river. Yes, I was a very different woman then. I wonder if I can find part of her again?

I hope you have the most amazing trip. I know you will. As always, you leave me in awe of the way you use our language. I can not wait to hear how this trip will be for you.

Dee said...

Dear Deb, my cousin Phil, who's 81 now, took that trial down into the Canyon about twenty times when he was in his fifties, sixties, and early seventies. For him it was a sacred journey, filled with mystery and beauty and wonder. Now, because of his heart, he's unable to do the trek but when he talks about it there is in his voice both joy and awe.

From your posting, I think that you and he have shared a similar dream. I'm so looking forward to reading your posts when you and Walt explore the Grand Canyon this coming summer.

I've been away from blogging for several weeks and so have missed all your postings during that time. If there are any you'd especially like me to read, please let me know. Peace.

patricia said...

So happy that after our gray week, there was sun for our weekend! You are mimicking the adventures of the author of the book we are both reading. I can't wait to hear what you do next! Love.

lily cedar said...

The Grand Canyon sounds amazing. Mother Nature has a way of restoring the soul.

Sandi said...

I love how you manage to plan the most thrilling adventures, and that Walt is more than willing to go along! I am envious, and probably nervous enough for the both of us! I am hoping that I will still manage to visit the Grand Canyon at least one more time before I'm too old and rickety to do so!

Even though it's been over forty years since I hiked to the bottom, it is still my most memorable experience, ever! You will be so grateful that you planned this trip. Lots of love and hugs to you, Deb!