It amazes me, how much time I spend making messes future me will need to clean up. My satisfaction with the clarity of thought I’ve been enjoying is tinged with worry that I do not have enough spit reserves for the cursing that might be required every time I hear 2016 in the coming years. I wonder what consequence I’m creating for myself this time?
I might not look like it, but there was a time I was quite the outdoors-girl. My father was a geology instructor at the local college and every fall for eight weeks he took a class of thirty college students camping. As each of his children grew, he would give us the option of accompanying him on different weeks. The favorite trip of most of his kids was the two week long haul that covered almost every national park in Utah including a boating weekend on Lake Powell and hiking rim to rim in The Grand Canyon of Arizona. It was the Super Bowl of camping trips, and year after year I managed to be incredibly busy in October.
Not long after I turned sixteen, my dad put his foot down. I was going and I would love it. I protested, I cried, I said I wouldn’t go. I was and still am deathly afraid of heights. My knees go weak, my legs shake, my stomach somersaults. He didn’t care. It would be good for me.
The first day of the hike, we left a snowy North Rim and descended seven miles to Cottonwood Campground. I was surprised how pleasant I found the trail, excepting that bit pictured above. The scenery was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I was tired, but exhilarated.
The second day we hiked to Phantom Canyon, the official bottom of the Grand Canyon. On the way there we took two side trips, one to Ribbon Falls and one to a little swimming hole up a side canyon with no discernible trail except whatever rabbit scat dad pretended to see.
So after hiking another seven plus miles through some of the most fantastic rock formations I’d ever witnessed, here I sit in the Cantina at Phantom Ranch in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It’s here that I have a painful realization.
It’s all uphill for two entire days to get out of here. I’m already suffering with blisters, bug bites, sunburn, sore knees and mild dehydration. Everything I own is coated with a red dust that will never quite wash all the way off. Ring-tailed cats will scavenge my food tonight, right out of my carefully strung up backpack, but luckily I won’t forget to shake out my boots in the morning, checking for scorpions and tarantulas. Don’t even get me started on the pink rattlesnakes.
Long before I ever visited Phantom Ranch, I knew it was ten miles of uphill from there to the South Rim. I just never really thought much about it. Even as I sat sipping my five dollar lemonade (and that was twenty years ago), I wasn’t worrying about it. I was still awestruck by joining a somewhat elite crowd of people. I’d witnessed natural beauty that no picture could do justice, come to a whole new appreciation for lemonade on a scorching day, how bad could ten miles of uphill really be?
When I look down at my feet this year, sigh at my slow but steady pace, I find myself wondering what I haven’t planned for. Often at night as I try to fall asleep, I picture the future, wonder how far away it is, wonder how badly I’m miscalculating. I try to figure exactly how much of it depends on choices that aren’t mine, and then run every possible scenario in my head. It’s serious business to me, recognizing the consequences when they hit.
Oh, the end of the story? I made it out. Then I went back and did it four more times, turns out it was really good practice for that ridiculous thing called adulthood.