Who knew the Grand Canyon could offer a grand transcendence.
On a clear mid-July day I woke up at the Grand Canyon, to the peaceful yet immediately breathtaking scene of a rising sun creeping its way down hundreds of feet of sheer red-rock cliffs before reaching winding, impossibly blue river. I stood up, and I walked to the riverbank to brush my teeth. This was the full extent of my morning beauty routine. I passed no mirrors, no clocks, and no toilets. My hair had been in the same ponytail for days, and my feet were developing a very defined tan-line from the Tevas I had borrowed for the week. By any “real-world” standards, I needed a shower and a change of clothes. But as I sat down to an impressive spread of waffles, bacon, and other breakfast indulgences, my appearance held no significance.
This was day five of my six-day rafting expedition down the Upper Half of the Grand Canyon. It is a trip I believe everyone should make an effort to take. In my years of travel, I have never found another experience that so perfectly struck a balance between abandoning the real-world burden of appearance and technology in pursuit of adventure, and the luxury of being served three gourmet meals per day without having to carry a pound of it on my back. Leaving civilization behind for a week and spending my days free of time constraints and responsibility in one of the most magnificent parts of America was therapeutic, fulfilling, and fun.
Throughout the trip, my group and I were led by a handful of guides that seemed to have endless enthusiasm and knowledge about the biological, physical, and political history of the Grand Canyon. They steered us through eighty-nine miles of water in six days- 225 miles for those on the fourteen day trip -and led us on hikes to caves, waterfalls, and to ancient Native American ruins that will never be seen by those who do not fully enter the Canyon. Each day presented something new, whether it was a major rapid, a natural waterslide, or a giant beach within a cave. We put all of our trust in the guides, and rarely asked questions about what we were going to see next. At night we ate in a circle and listened to stories.
Rafting down the Grand Canyon, as I quickly learned, meant living by the light of the sun; we never knew what time it was, and after the first day, we never asked. It meant the most extreme exercise of the “take only pictures, leave only footsteps” mantra, as the beauty of the Canyon itself discouraged anyone from jeopardizing its perfection. Most importantly, though, it meant the type of reflection that we do not find in a mirror. I spent six days immersed in the majesty of Arizona’s natural wonder while taking a break from reality. The trip also culminated in the physical challenge of climbing seven miles up steep switchbacks to exit the Grand Canyon. It left me in a euphoric state of peace and accomplishment.
The thorough exploration of the Grand Canyon is a unique experience to each person; for me it was a week of absolute relaxation and an opportunity to focus on my immediate surroundings instead of past or future preoccupations. Simply looking in from the rim, I believe, does not do it justice; the adventure of committing yourself to the Grand Canyon for one to two weeks is unparalleled, and the view from the inside is nothing short of life changing.