One thing about conquering the canyon: before you see it, it seems ok, reasonable, even possible. The moment you see THE GRAND CANYON, you think WTF and how does this 'conquer' business really work and where was my head when I was laughing and taking bribes? On day one, we meet the guides (Gene and Jo Ann Taylor), who discuss various trails, share their experiences and answer questions. A pep talk for sure. They offer the following rules:
I began to rationalize, counting up the miles I have sauntered, walked, skipped (oh, sometimes it's true), jogged and said to myself, well... if you can do 13.1 or 8.0 or 5.3 in a single day in the sun, how difficult can this really be, never mind that the hills might be the scale of a ramp on the expressway.
Turns out, pretty damn difficult. Down seemed ok. Breathing at 8,000 feet was stable, heart rate normal. A few missteps as we started the first switchback down and Kathi Kinnett (the hiker!) cautioned me about stumbling (a gentle reminder we were on the side of a cliff) and told me to stick my heel in the dirt for stability. I did find it appropriate to watch my feet - one quick glance over the side and I tightened my stomach and every other muscle in my body and did Bikram breathing - in through the nose, out through the nose. Otherwise (they say) mouth breathing innervates the sympathetic fight and flight response and flying over the cliff seemed a really bad idea at the time.
So, we made it to 1.5 mile mark for fresh water and a bathroom stop. I sat in the outhouse (really!) and wondered just how the hell I got myself into this. I walked outside and the view took my breath away one more time, so I continued, down and down to the 3 mile stop. It was amazing to realize the grandeur, the majesty, the brilliant engineering job of the Master of the universe.
As we looked out, Gene got out his camera (those damn camera people are always sticking their lens into your business), took each one of us aside and asked why we were there. Dave Woods, (father of Jordan, the son he went in to wake up one early morning only to realize he was not given the chance to say goodbye) said he came for Jordan, to find a place that Jordan would have loved to see and hoped that Jordan's view was clear as he saw his mom and dad standing in for him, hoping that Jordan was smiling. Each person said something that at once ripped your heart out and at the same time, confirmed what was in each of our heads.
After a few private moments, trail mix, bathroom visits, fresh water and shared wisdom of this crowd, we started back up. I looked up at that great cliff and recalculated the miles and thought I would never, ever see the top. I wished for an elevator, a helicopter rescue, a friendly mule... and then started up, Kathi behind me, sending me her strength. We walked, rested, caught our breath, drank water, walked; people, not really strangers passed us both ways, up and down, as they too were on a mission, perhaps similar in importance. We made it to the top and much like childbirth, I forgot about all the hard parts the second I emerged from the trail and thought about another day, another trail, another time in this Grand Canyon.
Endurance. We do it every day. Confirming our ability to endure by partnering with nature on this level reinforces the fact that we are a strong and capable community, equipped to deal with the many challenges and trials that come through the door of our heart.
Maybe in life it is the same rules - when walking, watch where you are going. When enjoying the view, stop a moment to enjoy, take it all in, breathe. And if you go down (and we all do) remember it is mandatory to get back up.
Pat Furlong, Founding President, CEO
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