7 Nights Backpacking in the Grand Canyon
Although I was new to the backcountry world, I told myself, “Just do it.”
I packed what I thought was necessary, brought one too many sweaters (which actually came in handy as pillows) and forgot to leave my ego behind. One ankle-bandage and 6 miles later, we had descended into the canyon and there was no going back.
Yeah, I probably should have asked more questions. Like, “how many snacks should I really bring?” Or “is my travel coffee mug really necessary?”
But I was comfortable in the naivety of my youth and satisfied with my sense of direction up until I realized I had committed to a week-long backpacking trek with 7 strangers into the largest canyon known to man.
A deep, mysterious divinity carved from billions of years of erosion by our Mother Earth’s natural elements of water, ice, and wind had created a place of majesty. And I was walking straight into it with 60 lbs. on my back, carrying a load of uncertainty, too much trail mix, and not enough insanity.
Two years ago, I had not considered that scaling canyon walls and voyaging into unpredictable weather was more about self-perseverance and motivation than physical strength.
Every single one of my preconceived notions about backpacking was ultimately transformed.
While I once thought these activities to be too strenuous or even dangerous, I realized this is actually a perceived fear, a myth, that I convinced myself because I was nervous about taking the risk.
I remember walking along the edge of a rigid cliff in single-line formation, terrified I would fall 335 ft. to my death and never live to tell about my frybread addiction.
In actuality, this part of the trail was also the most rewarding. After two miles of climbing down fallen boulders, where lemon-colored water pooled in the crevices of ivory rock, we came to a sandy beach abundant with the narrow-leaved paintbrush and Blue Grosbeak flirting with the undergrowth.
It was serene.
The water rolled by in slow, turquoise waves and we rested for a moment in time, the sun warming our beaten skin as we cooled from miles of perspiration.
After returning home, I appreciated the little things so much more… like pizza, and shampoo.
Months after, I still remembered how the Milky Way visited us, emerging from within the universe, gently tilted against the black horizon. And the rustle of all the canyon creatures that rose with the night, awakened by the lunar fluorescence of the moon.
During these nights, I was reminded by the serenity of my mother’s homeland on the Navajo Nation, and I was grateful for the desert sea of coral sand where her hogan rests at the base of the mountain.
This experience ultimately changed my perspective about “outdoor recreation.”
It brought me to understand that there’s more to hiking and navigating canyonlands than learning how to boil water or pack your bag efficiently. While these are both pretty practical skills, I learned more about self-perseverance and how to navigate my own fear than how much trail mix keeps the belly full.
I was challenged to descend 1,500 ft. into my most transformative state-of-mind while learning that there’s more to life than that delicious slice of cake I so desperately couldn’t wait to devour.
It was a life experience waiting to happen, and it was all up to me to begin the journey.
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