Recently, as a passenger through some truly beautiful country on my way from Utah back home to California (how is that my home? I’m still in awe), we wove through impressive canyons and saw signs for the grandest one of all. I recalled my own attempt to hike it years ago.
Our family took a trip “out west.” To east coasters like us, west was pretty much anything west of the Mississippi. We knew the eastern seaboard like a good ol’friend, traveling it frequently in our adventures. The west was unknown. So for us, the west meant Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Arizona. We stood in Four Corners. We gazed with marvel at Yellowstone. We were bored rather than gored by the bison. My favorite by far was the wildflower peaks of Yosemite.
The Grand Canyon? Unimpressed.
It was a big hole. Admittedly a REALLY big hole, but other than that? Eh.
At least that’s what 16 year old me thought. So keep in mind, we traveled in a large SUV with a third row for three weeks with a SIX YEAR OLD. Nina was six. I haven’t asked her about the Grand Canyon frankly.
Nin? Big hole, amma right?
Our adventurous dad decided that he and I should hike it. Here’s where it gets interesting. To “hike” the Grand Canyon, you descend and then must ascend. You walk these donkey paths and switchbacks, while donkeys pass you, bearing their savvy tourists who swing around those corners praying today isn’t the day that Puddin misses her step.
Canyon hiking is so counter-intuitive and opposite of hiking mountains where you expend all this extra energy in the beginning and get to skip/slide your ace back down the mountain. It was just a half of the length down and back up. I can do half. You can do half. We all can do only half. Right?
16 year old me said, sure – why not?
So we checked our maps and packed our packs with sun valley granola bars, the most dry awful sustenance known to man. We must have had limited options. That morning, as we sat in the hotel restaurant, my dad pointed out the “hiker’s breakfast.” It consisted of a ridiculous amount of food. Pancakes, eggs, bacon, toast, fruit, hashbrowns – more carbs than one person should EVER eat – let alone a 5’nothing 16 year old obsessed about the size of her thighs. (Can we take a moment and say that I dream of those thighs here at 37 after 3 kids and a lifetime of good good food?)
I scoffed at that man, sure of my own prowess, ordering some measly breakfast more befitting my standards of acceptable teen breakfast food. Wise? Nope. My poor dad. It’s just one of a million moments in which I’ve played the expert to his expertise. Admittedly, he’s the one I learned this sure sass from, so you’re welcome, sir.
I was all good hiking down that canyon. Like so so good. Avoided all that donkey crap. Negotiated those donkeys plodding. Rolled my eyes behind my glasses at those tourists. Feeling so confident. Until we got to our halfway point.
Hikers know it’s good to just keep a steady pace and keep moving. If you stop too often, you lose all that momentum and confidence and muscle repetition thing. I sat on some rock colored reddish orange like every other rock in that very big hole and told my dad I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t climb out. I stated it like a manifesto – like a boss.
Like many other moments in my life, my dad rose to the occasion with sarcasm. He’s a good man lacking in the finer points of compassion and empathy.
“Well, how do you plan on getting out of here then?” he asked incredulous. “We don’t have a donkey. It’s gonna get dark. I’m NOT CARRYING YOU OUT OF THIS CANYON!”
It was very encouraging.
I got up. I hiked my butt out of that canyon. We got home before dark. My little sisters were waiting up there. What did they do all day? I dunno. Swim in a pool? Go shopping? Great job girls. Know what I did today? I HIKED THE FREAKING GRAND CANYON. Well, half of it.
This story is such an epic one in our family’s history, but as I retold it on that drive from Utah, I realized it’s also MY story. It’s how I approach life. I move in with gusto and confidence. I feel every inch the expert of whatever I’m moving out into, whether it’s teaching, leading, or building. However, about halfway through, I want out. I want someone else to get me out. I’m tired. I’m stuck. I don’t believe that I’m capable of the climb. I’ve hiked into the canyon, and there ain’t no way I’m getting out without help.
Praise God for my helpers. The people in my life who look me in the face and say, nope, I’m not carrying you out. You climb. You put one step in front of the other girl and keep moving.
Praise God that he’s walked alongside me when I’ve not had people – you know those lonely moments where you’ve climbed into canyons of your own making. They aren’t good spaces of beauty but dark holes filled with the steps of your bad choices. God’s there too.