Creating Consequence

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.

Grand Canyon National Park: North Kaibab Trail in Redwall 0985
The worst section of the North Kaibab Trail
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.

Ribbon Falls. The little grotto is heaven on a hot day.

Hiking in the inner gorge along Bright Angel Creek.
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.

Phantom Ranch Cantina. Best Lemonade on the planet.
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?

Bright Angel Trail. That middle part is called The Devil’s Corkscrew. It’s especially lovely.
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.


0 thoughts on “Creating Consequence”

  1. wow! That’s an amazing accomplishment and more times than I have done it – which is zero, zilch, nada. That worst section would do me in, I think.

  2. I’m not going to disagree with your own final evaluation of this, your life is your life, but this story sounds horrible, horrible, horrible from beginning to end. I guess I’m just not susceptible to pretty pictures? Or something?

    1. I freely admit it would be a nightmare to many. There was a time, it terrified me.
      I’ve lost my enthusiasm over sleeping on the ground. Truth be told, I never slept well out in the middle of nowhere in a flimsy nylon shell. But I put a pretty damn good face on it for all of my college days plus some.

      1. I camped out quite a bit until I was 25. Then I moved to Germany, didn’t have time or access to my gear, and lost the inclination. But camping is an entirely different thing from hiking — something I had a pronounced disinclination toward. Although I did go hiking once in Germany, with the big heavy boots and everything. But that was the end of it.

  3. First off, what an amazing journey this was…four times. I love moments/adventures like this because they do in some way call to something larger than the actual event. In your case, it was analogous to your larger life journey. There were setbacks along the way and magical moments. We can walk the safe line in life with moments of mild ups and downs. I prefer to take the adventure and experience moments that take my breath away. On that journey to higher highs, there will be setbacks that cause lower lows. In the end, I believe we will look back on life and savor the magical moments that took our breath away and won’t have to wonder “what if”. We will know.

    1. It is something I’m proud of, now, after the fact. It scared me to death up front. I find, I often get tied up worrying about the lowest lows and can end up treading carefully enough to miss some magic.
      I’m working on it. I don’t want to wonder, I want to know.

      1. Yes, you should try getting “tied up” to experience some magic…๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜‰ Carly, I think your awareness of the gap between wonder and knowledge and how it plays in your psyche will lead you to the path you want. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ๐Ÿ˜‡

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