It’s the planning before a trip that almost kills it. I’m not a happy-go-lucky trip planner. It’s my nature to over-engineer, to want to tie down every little detail, to fret about all the uncontrollable and unknowable elements that constitute an adventure. What if? What if? What if? Then I worry about things that might happen while we’re gone, everything from an early hurricane to a water leak that floods the house. Once all those concerns are tamped down, the existential ones begin. What are we running from? What are we running to? Do we really want to go anywhere? Did I ever tell you I’m a really fun gal?
Sometimes a trip is just a trip. I’m sorry now that I was still wrapped too tight to go down into the Grand Canyon. After our experience at Bryce, I understand now that (a) I had the physical ability to do it and (b) our experience at Grand Canyon would have been even fuller, more dimensional, and we would have in some ineffable way, become part of the canyon.
This insight, however, is like life in general, where the “if onlyies” can only be seen backwards, and each step along the path, even those tentative ones where we edge up to the rim, have to happen before we can enjoy the lush valleys of life, before we build the emotional strength to descend into arid canyons, play among the rocky amphitheatres and struggle, victorious, to the sky.
I don’t mean to leave the impression that we just walked to the rim and peered over. Over our three nights there, we hiked both paved and unpaved portions of the rim trail, from Mather Point all the way to Pima Point, near Hermit’s Rest, where we caught a shuttle back. We rousted ourselves out of bed about 4:30 one morning to go out to Yavapai and Mather Points to watch a sunrise. We walked the Trail of Time.
The Grand Canyon Village, at the South Rim, is a crossroads of pilgrims from all over the world. Roughly five million visit every year. The average visit length is two hours.
Two hours. I thought that was a typo when I read it in some park literature. That was before I saw the tour buses lined up like runners at a marathon line, the bass notes of diesel engines ever-present. Tour directors blew whistles at their charges and barked instructions like drill sergeants. “Okay, people. Look at your watches. It’s 10 o’clock. One hour! Got it? The rim is that way! Be back eleven o’clock! Not back? Long walk to Los Angeles!”
Most of the visitors we saw were Japanese, Chinese, German and French. This was true not only for the Grand Canyon, but Zion and Bryce as well. We heard many languages, and saw beautiful children. We mingled with folks at the geology museum, rim restaurants, and on the more highly traveled paved portions of the rim trail.
Mostly, though, we found spots out on the unpaved portions of the rim trail, areas where most visitors had neither time, inclination or perhaps ability to wander, and we stood or sat, and just took it all in.
Next: Hoover Dam, then Las Vegas