8 Life Lessons I Learned at the Grand Canyon

1. Believe. This canyon will test you, physically and mentally, but you’ve prepared well. Six months of physical training, hundreds of weighted bench step-ups, numerous day hikes on both the South and North Rims, and now your body moves with ease over demanding terrain. You got this.

2. Cooperate. Upon arriving to camp late one evening, you set up a cohiker’s tent while it’s her turn to make dinner for the whole crew. This band of hikers is your family. On this trip, someone may offer encouragement in a moment of doubt; someone else might give a much-needed push from behind when you and your pack are stuck in a narrow rock chute.

3. Focus. When moving over narrow ledges with steep drops, contract your gaze to the exact place you want to put your next step. Then take that step. Do that again. And again, and again, until you’ve made it through the challenge.

4. Pause. Every so often, stop. Take in where you are right now. The scent of juniper on the breeze. The Colorado River crashing through a cataract. A raven gliding up to the rim, then back down, conspicuously enjoying the ride.

5. Wonder. Be ready. Canyon Magic will happen when you least expect it. Like discovering a basketmaker-era cistern in the middle of the trail at the exact moment that you and your guide are dis­ cussing the ancient people s who lived and traveled in the canyon.

6. Persist. When you think you can’t continue, take a break. Breathe. Then get yourself and your gear together. Shoulder your pack and get moving. There are several hours of uphill today. Doesn’t matter how you got that intestinal bug-you have to make it to Horseshoe Mesa for the night.

7. Rise. Get up before dawn at least once. You’ll be glad you did. A river of stars mirrors exactly the river that runs through the canyon. The canyon wren welcomes the sun as the first rays play on canyon walls and touch the willow where the bird spent the night.

8. Reflect. Once you’re out, stand at the edge. Look to where you started, over thirty-five miles away. Between here and there was the knee-aching de­scent through the Redwall, the first gasp of cold river water on your boot-weary feet, the up and down and around of the Tonto Plateau, the faint hoot of an owl before dawn, the unending climb back to the South Rim. You’ve completed your journey.

 

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