As we head down the Bright Angel Trail, my confidence begins to erode. Where did the moon go? It is dark and our head lamps are going to be our only light. Carolyn and I are in good moods considering all the anxiety I caused due to my ADD. I am leery of heights anyhow and being on a trail where some missteps can send you cascading off into the unknown runs through my brain. Carolyn takes the lead which is good for me since I’m not the experienced Grand Canyon night hiker. About five minutes into our descent, Carolyn turns to me and says “I think we should say a prayer.” (If she only knew, I had been praying since I strapped on my pack.) I lead us in prayer which is always a good idea but probably moves to a great idea when I’m part of the hiking group. You can just picture how dark it is with a moon that is way south and we are walking in the shadows of the Canyon Rim. I’m already slipping and stumbling over those rocks that aren’t easy to see and luckily I catch my balance each time without injury. So I pray on.
For me the Canyon is such a spiritual place and I find my self in awe each and every time I am here. I am quite thankful that Carolyn has introduced me to this spiritual place. I don’t care about the argument of how the Canyon was created, I just know I completely feel the presence of God in the solitude of the Canyon.
It is cold at the start of our journey but at the first watering hole, I have shed my jacket as the warmth of the canyon has settled in on us. Nobody is on the trail and Carolyn and I get to share intimate conversations about the world around us and our personal fears and things we just don’t normally find the time to discuss. We discuss our daughters in detail, our hopes for their lives, and our love and admiration for them. We discuss Caitlin’s wedding, Jordyn’s schooling, financial matters. We talk of growing old, our fears of the world that our children’s children will have to face. We discuss what is important to us. Should we stay, should we go? Nothing is off limits in our late night canyon journey.
Our spiritual lives are opened wide. It is a spiritual sojourn into the Canyon where we can connect, reconnect and bare our souls, sharing as we go. (Note that only our souls are bared)
All of this goes on and on as we descend close to 5000 feet stumbling along. We see scorpions, deer, and spiders galore. I continue to suck in some water and munch on Carolyn provided snacks. I am prepared–thanks to Carolyn.
Once in awhile we can even see the moon on some switchbacks. Remember those nice hiking poles that Carolyn bought us at Flagstaff Big 5? Well I snapped the end off of mine at the 30 minute mark and was like oh what am I going to do? Carolyn is so smart, she just says hey make that pole’s end longer and it will still work and by golly it did. We pull into Indian Garden around 1:00 a.m. or so and rest up and fill up our water bladders, snack and there is nobody around. It is eery but liberating knowing that the Canyon on this trip is ours alone. About half way there knowing that we have to cross the springs about five times in the dark and try to avoid getting your shoes wet and we still have to descend down Devil’s Corkscrew.
That part of the trail at night is disconcerting but I am ordered to the front because Carolyn is feeling the affects of my light that shines from behind. As we get to the Resthouse where the trail heads along the Colorado River, I’m feeling wobbly. I knew that I shouldn’t have tempted fate with a non traditional Grand Canyon Beer. I am paying the price for messing with my traditions.
We can hear the river roaring but we can’t see it since our headlamps fail to reach the river and with no light from the sky, we continue on. As we approach the home stretch, I’m really struggling to stay awake. We cross the river and head through the campgrounds where we finally see a live human being headed to the restroom. As Carolyn walks behind me, she asks me if I’m ok because she says that I am walking funny as in an unsteady walk. I know I am tired, lack of sleep has caught up to me (I still think that breaking traditions has added to my unsteady walk) and I stumble on and into the Phantom Ranch. Nobody is around and I pull up to a picnic table, take the pack off and lay down knowing that breakfast is two hours away. We have arrived 4 and a half hours after our start and I’m feeling ill. Carolyn is worried and she knows I’ve got something going on since I have not said much since Devil’s Corkscrew area.
I’m down, my calves hurt, I’m feeling nauseous, my hip is on fire, and I close my eyes, and I am off to la la land. With the thought of a 5000 foot ascent ahead of me, I need rest as the lack of sleep has caught up with me. As I drift off I am praying for a multitude of things What will the morning bring?