I stood about a mile down the Bright Angel Trail inside the Grand Canyon in sunny Arizona and heard a 10 year old teary-eyed girl complain “We could have gone to Disneyland”. Before her parents could reply, I said, “I felt the same way when I was your age, but now I realize my parents gave me experiences I could never duplicate in an amusement park.”
Her mom and dad just shook their heads knowingly and my beautiful bride and I turned and began the descent to the 1.5 mile house below. My wife didn’t correct me for speaking out and I thank her for that, but what I said was the truth. No man-made faux entertainment facade can duplicate God’s creations. I know, as my Dad made sure I saw raw nature growing up as we meandered coast to coast.
The Bright Angel Trail begins at the rim the Grand Canyon and to put this place into perspective, let me relive my first glimpse into the giant crack.
We drove my Jeep from Baytown to Clovis, New Mexico the first day – 700 miles. That is a long way in a lifted Jeep running 4.88 gears and 35 inch tires. Day two found us in incredible Sedona, New Mexico. I say incredible because it is a Mecca of trails, hiking, and ATV off-roading and this appeals to the freedom-loving side of our psyche.
We wanted to hike to Cathedral Rock and not knowing the ins and outs, we were disappointed when the parking area was full. We were redirected 2 miles away to the auxiliary parking lot. To put it in plain English, I was PO’d, as in “not particularly happy”. Well, it turned out that this redirect was a blessing in disguise, as the 4.5 hour round trip hike on the trail was exactly what we physically wanted. It also prepped us for the big crack hike.
The other way was a round trip of about an hour and the easy way in and out and not at all what we wanted. Sometimes our path is not our own, but exactly what we need. Think about that a moment. If I was a Bible preacher, that would preach. It would preach good. Adversity is actually our friend.
We wanted to do more there and we did, seeing ancient cliff dwellings and because of my Dad and Mom, I have an appreciation of such historical sites. Wrapping up, we drove north for the Grand Canyon and the historic El Tovar hotel – the one where Teddy Roosevelt stayed – and Sir Paul McCartney. Some of its attraction is lost on me though – like no elevator and almost non-existent Internet service. Old Teddy probably didn’t notice.
Well, seeing we had already hiked through some clothes, we had to make a laundry run and this took a couple of hours after check in. Neither my bride nor I wanted to hit the sack before seeing the actual Grand Canyon, so we stepped off the 100 yards or so to the rim behind the hotel to get our first look at the big crack.
Holy Evil Knievel! Talk about something bigger than what you can imagine!
I immediately stepped back and took a deep breath. I had a feeling of acrophobia, mixed with a healthy dose of vertigo after looking over the measly 4 foot stone wall. Abyss! Honest as the day is long, I looked down on the stone path next to me only to see where some soul had lost their supper. I can’t think of a better way to explain what the first sight of the Grand Canyon is, than to say someone took one look and tossed their cookies.
To sum up a challenging and vigorous hike, my Bride I and carrying around 15 pounds of water each, made it to Indian Gardens and back in 7.5 hours. That is a 3800 feet descent and back. That year of training at the gym named after the clock paid off. Although others do it faster, most don’t, regardless of their ages.
One bizarre observation I had visiting all the State Parks was the total lack of Texans. We met only 5 in a week of travels, 3 of which were working concessions. I made it a point to question probably 60% of hikers we encountered. Most were from other countries and continents, Poles, Israelis, French, German, Russians, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, Britain’s - you name it, we met them.
The rest of my encounters were Americans from the northern part of the US, escaping the cold.
Do American’s visit our national parks? Are we shallow amusement park people only? Are we really this plastic? Are the YouTube videos of Americans being out of touch with everything except sports and the entertainment industry actually true? We talked at length with a French couple at the highest point in Mesa Verde for a half hour and they had been touring America for… 5 months!
Do foreigners know more about our history and geography than we do? I shudder to think this is true, but all evidence in our parks and historical sites points in this direction. I want more. I want to see and experience more of our history. I don’t want to repeat it; I just want to recognize it. I want to “be it”.
The drive to New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado in my Jeep probably cost me twice the cost of gas of a passenger car, but we did it and we did it in American style. I think the miles added up to over 3000 and we enjoyed every second of our American road trip. Oh yea, the money we spent stayed in America too.