What a Way to Start 2016!

Our family’s New Year’s trip to the Grand Canyon jump started my goals for the new year as I had more revelations than resolutions! We joined siblings and cousins to hike into the base of the Grand Canyon and spend two nights at Phantom Ranch . Our group of 11 included 4 fit college students, one energized nine year old and 6 of us age 50-ish folks. Besides learning that getting more fit is part of my 2016 plan, the experience was full of insights.

To get to the bottom, we hiked eight miles on the Kaibab Trail, a steep downhill trail that descended a mile to the canyon floor. Wearing Yax Trax on the icy path, I started the day with “Slow and Steady Wins the Race.” By mid-day, my motto was SLOW and STEADY is my PACE. In the midst of a challenge, I had to find my own pace and keep it.

Heights make my head spin (stepping onto a down escalator makes me pause). The trails on the edge with the sheer drops and rock slides were daunting. Focusing on the hard solid path below and just ahead of my feet allowed me to move forth.

And when the trail was exposed on both sides, it was hard to put the “side-blinders” on. That’s when camp songs come in handy. Singing calms fear: “I love to go awandering along the mountain track, and as I go, I love to sing, my backpack on my back…”

Our hiking reward was two nights at the base of the canyon in Phantom Ranch- a magical base camp built in 1922, a year after Camp Illahee. Gretchen, Gardner, and I stepped into the female cabin with 5 bunk beds and three strangers. I had the urge to play camp counselor and come up with cabin guidelines and lead the “highs and lows” or “pows and wows.” However, there wasn’t too much time for cabin bonding as we were all well asleep by 8pm. Bunk beds are really comfortable.

Having time as a family was one of the best parts of our adventure. Being a parent is a process of protecting, encouraging, challenging and molding…In the early years we carried our children on our hikes and then later waited for them at each rock (usually chocolate was involved to keep them going). In the end, they may pass us. On this journey, I couldn’t keep up with mine and relied on them to carry part of my pack and to wait for me.

We had a “rest day” on the canyon floor hiking over 12 miles out and back to see Ribbon Falls. (I decided that my brother-in-law needs to run Illahee’s hiking program. Somehow he talked us all into this hike as a day of “rest.”) At least it was comparatively flat, and we had beautiful scenery and were able to talk and laugh A LOT. I also had lightened my load and relied on others to carry my stuff…. That meant when I couldn’t catch up, I was behind without water or snacks. Not a great idea. Knowing what I need and carrying my own “stuff” is essential on the journey.

I was especially nervous about the ten mile uphill journey out of the canyon on day three. After all, an $800 mule rescue ride out would be terribly uncomfortable as well as humiliating. My uphill pace was pretty consistent with my nine year old nephew. And nine year olds are capable of impressive feats. Their steps may be small but their feet are steady. We chatted along the way about the Star Wars movie, Transformers and when we might stop for the next Oreo. Nine year olds can do a lot more than we think they can, including encouraging grown-ups. Half way up the canyon, he remarked that his favorite part of the trip was looking back at how much he had accomplished and seeing how far he had come. Wow! What a bit of wisdom. We started pausing to rest and look back in order to be encouraged by the steps we had accomplished knowing that we were capable of continuing to go forth.

With each pause, I noticed the colors around me. God is quite a landscape architect – using many shades of greens in the red rocks and tucking plants into the nooks and crannies. Our family had “oohed and ahh’d” as we stretched out to look at the night stars or to observe the canyon’s colors change throughout during the day. Rick Warren, in A Purpose Driven Life, opens his book with “It’s Not About You.” He writes that we were created to worship God. He wires us to appreciate the beauty that He creates and worship is an outcry of our appreciation. God’s color palette is magnificent and fills the soul. In the midst of the vast canyon and its challenges, I was embraced in its beauty. What a way to start 2016!