After I accepted Bill's help and we had made our way slowly to the north rim of the Grand Canyon, I was exhausted. Upon reaching the top, I learned from my fellow hikers that the lodge where we were staying was two miles from the trail. All we could see was the trail head sign, a water pump, and a wilderness highway surrounded by spruces and pines.
It was now cold and dark. The stars were bright, but we weren't in the mood to enjoy them. Eventually, we got a ride from a family who was looking for a campsite and gratefully we climbed into the warm vehicle that deposited us at the lodge entrance.
I walked into the building, sat down in a leather chair and immediately fell asleep.
My fellow hikers took care of getting checked in and finding out if we were too late for dinner. Thankfully, we weren't and I perked up at the thought of bread, pasta and a big diet Coke. I ate as much as I could and took the rest with me. After I got to the room and got cleaned up, I had to decide whether I was OK to hike the next day or not. It was about 10:00 p.m. and the alarm was set for 4:30 a.m.
The question in my mind was, "what happened?" If I knew the answer to that, I would know what to do the following day. We planned to hike back on the same trail to the Colorado River, and then take a different trail up to the south rim. The second day would be three miles longer than the first. Now that I was no longer climbing and had eaten, I felt pretty good, just tired and cold. I fell asleep.
When the alarm rang, I was surprised that my energy was back and I wasn't too sore. This was a good sign. My kidneys also seemed to be functioning normally. That was one of my biggest concerns. Were my kidneys OK? Was it the altitude? Or was it a problem with fuel?
I talked it over with my friends as I ate my leftover pasta and bread. Bill was pretty sure I had bonked (ran out of fuel). Since I felt so good after eating, I agreed and loaded up my backpack. This time my strategy would be different. I needed food more often, more of it, and I needed liquid calories once the climb got tough, because I learned that I don't want food once I'm working that hard. So Bill set his timer to chirp at me every 20 minutes as a reminder to eat, and I loaded food into my front pockets where I could easily access it without taking the pack off my back.
We got the shuttle to the north rim trail head and hopped out. It was gorgeous! I had missed all the views the night before, so to arrive and begin hiking as the sun came up through the pine trees was fantastic. And this time instead of looking up wondering when the top would ever get here, I was looking down and out over the entire canyon.
As I started down the trail, I decided to let yesterday go. I had stumbled, but it was time to turn around.
As I did that, as I let it all go, I felt alive again. I felt the cool air of the canyon hit my lungs and fill me up. I gained my footing and found my stride. Now this I did not expect. My big fear all summer while I was training for this hike was day two, yet here I was feeling great. I decided not to get ahead of myself, because we were hiking down not up, and up is where I ran into trouble. Then I heard "chirp chirp" - take a bite of food. Eat.
After many magical moments, we arrived at Phantom Ranch campground, where they have the world's best lemonade. I drank a big glass with my Oreos and then filled up an empty water bottle to take with me for the end. We had 11 miles to go, all uphill, gradual at first but then steep switchbacks for the last few hours.
As we walked along the Colorado River, I was flooded with thoughts about Clear Rock, this newsletter and our journey together. I suddenly believed that it was possible to boldly climb out of this canyon. I knew the truth because I had written about it for years.
Take small steps.
Drink lots of water.
Eat lots of healthy food to fuel the climb.
Go your own pace.
Stop and turn around often enough to see how far you've come.
Don't hide from the pain. Walk with it.
Receive healing, forgiveness, and grace when you stumble.
Believe in what's possible.
Know the truth.
Know who you are.
Turns out that's all we need to know to accomplish anything. And to remember that no matter how far we have gotten away from where we would like to be, we can turn around. We can start again. We can learn and grow and let yesterday go. And we can stand in confidence with our arms held high knowing that we didn't give up.
You are loved. Never, ever, ever give up.