The Canyons and the Companions

by ehulett on June 26, 2011

When you look at a picture of the Grand Canyon, you see it. When you actually see the Grand Canyon with your own eyes, you feel it.

My first view of it was from the south rim near the El Tovar Hotel on a beautiful afternoon in June. For me, it had a power which does not translate into photos or even videos. It is like a living thing looming in front of you.  You can feel it’s pulse. You can hear it breathing.

As I looked over the side I was both drawn by an overwhelming desire to start an immediate descent, and disarmed by the scale of its magnitude. It was an enigma of contradictions.

As soon as you get your first view of it from horizon to horizon you have crossed the threshold between what you have always known and what you are about to experience. You immediately know it is the biggest, most powerful thing you have ever seen and yet you still underestimate it.

Of course I was not the first to feel this way.

In the year 1540 Coronado sent some men to scout for the lost cities of gold he hoped to find in the new world. Instead, they found the Grand Canyon. They could not locate a path to the bottom so they, like most tourists, were only able to view it from the rim. When they reported back to Coronado they said there appeared to be a stream at the bottom of the canyon, and they estimated the width of the stream to be about ten feet.

In fact, they were looking at a part of the Colorado river that was about a half mile wide.

Four hundred and seventy one years later I found myself  standing at the same Grand Canyon having the same problem encompassing its scale. And yet, I planned to hike across it in one day.

Fortunately, I was not alone.

My wife and I had cast our lot with a group of about 20 others, most of whom were strangers to us. We were comforted by the fact that our leader, Jean, had made this rim to rim hike many times. If it had not been for the trail she had blazed before us  I am not sure we would have had the courage to try it.

The entire group hiked from the south rim to the north rim, then spent the night at a lodge on the other side. We rested for one full night, then about half the group hiked back again to the comfort and safety of the El Tovar hotel.

The twelve hour hike from one side to the other revealed a different kind of beauty around every bend. Sometimes it was a splashing stream. Sometime it was the sun reflecting of the red, brown, and black rocks of the canyon walls. Sometimes it was the unbelievable comfort of a cool breeze on a grateful brow, or the joy of a four by two foot area of shade.

But despite the beauty of the Grand Canyon I found that the most valuable natural resource I encountered, the most precious national treasure on the voyage, was the group of people who traveled with us.

You see my wife and I are police officers and very rarely do people call us to rush over and see something beautiful, or funny, or to tell us something nice. Most of our days are spent dealing with the most ugly things that human beings can do to one another. So when you work in that environment day in and day out it is easy to forget that you are only dealing with that five percent of the population who repeatedly rely on police intervention. Even when you consciously tell yourself this with your logical mind, it is easy to lose perspective.

So what a joy it was to be surrounded by intelligent, pleasant, interesting (and yes) attractive people. I can’t tell you what a spiritual boost it was to see that better part of humanity again.

Melinda and I were very appreciative of every single member of the GC 2011 group, because each and every one of them was a cool breeze on an a heated trail, and the welcome shade  from a relentless sun. We thank them all for reminding us how beautiful a journey life really is.












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