#RunningTo DAY ONE: Seeing the Grand Canyon
It didn’t seem like I was approaching the world’s most illustrious crater. I suppose I was expecting many mini-craters leading up to it. You would think that a gigantic hole in the ground would be preceded by lots of littler ones, right? Instead, what I saw for sixty miles leading up to the Grand Canyon were a litany of trees and flat desert.
I raced through the entrance gate pushing 5am after driving eight hours through the night. A twenty-minute power nap and 24-ounce coffee from AM/PM helped me catch that Grand Canyon sunrise.
Caught it with five whole minutes to spare. #RunningTo was officially off the ground.
Following the signs, I hustled toward the long fence where I first caught sight of a mammoth fortress of rock. The closer I got, the inexplicably deeper this jagged wall descended. Dozens of onlookers stood along a rocky jut, cameras pointed toward the canyon’s opposing northern rim.
An eerie gray enveloped the ins and outs of the canyon as the sun perched up from Utah. Her bright yellow light pierced the sky and gradually filled the canyon. Shed her sacred light on all of us.
#RunningTo DAY TWO: Hiking the Grand Canyon
It is one thing to admire the Grand Canyon from above. Stepping down into it, however, is another matter altogether.
Surrounded by red- and brown- and gray-lined crags of ancient rock, I felt certain I was no longer on Earth. That I was descending into Mars or Pluto and that I should be wearing an astronaut suit or oxygen mask or something. I’d remembered to pack my tent and sleeping bag, but how could I forget my astronaut suit?
I started hiking down just after 5am. I couldn’t help stopping at every other turn, pulling out my camera, trying to capture the wonder of what would undoubtedly not translate in a two-dimensional, digital format.
At some point I learned to stop taking pictures. Learned to bask in the breathtaking glory of it all, lest I miss any of it.
Only 1% of the Grand Canyon’s visitors even did what I was doing: hiking to the bottom and camping overnight. I felt giddy over being part of such an exclusive group.
By mile 3 of 7, my left arch and right big toe sufficiently strained from a constant downhill jaunt, my spirits couldn’t have ascended any higher. Looking out over the zig-zagging switchbacks and horizon-approaching paths, I only wanted more.
More turns, more drops, more wonders to absorb and more dusty steps to wander. It felt masochistic in a way. That I’d be willing to suffer a second big toe of discomfort or even a blister or three in order to see and live and breathe more more more of this remarkable place.
I didn’t want it to ever end. This hike, this adventure. This inspiring, ever-moving forward.
#RunningTo DAY TWO/THREE: Living the Grand Canyon
Seven miles and four-plus hours later, I transcended the reclusive Colorado and reached Bright Angel Campground. I pitched my tent by Bright Angel Creek, named in contrast to the Dirty Devil, a muddy putrid stream just north of here.
Because I’d left the rim at sunrise, I quite literally had an entire day to rest and recuperate. I spent considerable time in the creek, my back reclined against a rock cut like a veritable lawn chair. My aching feet were instantly cooled and soothed in Bright Angel’s healing waters.
I stared down as minnows frolicked at my feet and multiple deer waded ten yards downstream. These confident Grand Canyon deer walked nonchalantly about the entire campground having never seen a shotgun or a Hummer.
I was reminded of the closing moments of Through Painted Deserts, how Donald Miller said we humans are in awe of mountains and nature, but what if mountains and nature are actually more in awe of us?
What if the deer at the bottom of the Grand Canyon cannot contain their joy over trotting among mankind? What if the minnows literally dance amid trickling waters because they get to swim with – even glide against – the foot of a man created in the image of their own Creator?
What if at the bottom of this upside-down mountain, everything is actually right-side-up?
What if this bizarre otherworldly environment is the most normal, the most natural I’ve ever lived and breathed? For deer and fish and humans and all creation to coexist as one without distraction or delineation?
For us to cry out to our Creator alongside the red rocks towering around us on every side?