The Lighter Tale is Heavy Enough
Our hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon evoked the tragedy and despair of Macbeth but also the comedy and hope of Pi. For Macbeth, the tragedy of life is its meaninglessness so his tale is dark and heavy. Our adventure was marked alternately by despair and wonder. The steep arduous trails with endless switchbacks made our destinations seem to recede and recede … in a daze, Jeff donated his heavy wool Pea Coat to the ghosts of the Canyon. But there was always an amazing view just around the turn and we forgot our troubles for awhile.
For Pi the horrific slaughter of his mother and the terrible vengeance he exacted on the cook led him to construct the lighter tale for telling. The dark truth he discovered about life in the desperate condition of nature was transformed by Pi through the symbol of the adult Bengal Tiger into a better but no less-true story about life. For us, playing below the rim forced us to reckon with bare naked nature and the ravages of age. Not exactly like Pi, much less Macbeth. But death is death and we could have met a meaningless demise a thousand times. A little colder, a little more wind, and we may well have not made it back to the rim that dark night of ascent. With that, there are things we can’t tell and things we can …
When we made it back to the South Rim that night we remembered that the trail’s end feeds hikers right to the entrance of the Bright Angel Bar but Jeff and I clean missed it and wandered around the dark grounds for 10 minutes before stumbling inside. We had become delirious at the only safe moment to be so. We sat in the Bright Angel Bar for 3 hours with a thousand yard stare trying to figure how we made it back alive. About midnight, we got up to move but couldn’t. Our bodies had locked-up and we could only hobble in excruciating pain. It’s called the “Canyon Crawl” and we had it bad. For the next 5 days getting dressed, stepping into a tub, or up the stairs was next to impossible. The only thing we could do well was laugh. There’s no accounting for Jeff and I hiking to the floor of the Canyon and making it back alive. But we did.
Unless you’re under 30, in tip-top shape, and you respect nature, you shouldn’t do what we did. There are shorter, safer, sane-er hikes all over the North and South Rims. Should you decide to ignore my advice and survive to tell about it, you’ll walk on billion year old dirt and have the adventure of a lifetime. But like Jeff’s coat, some things are better left in the Canyon. The lighter tale is heavy enough.
Grand Canyon, January 27th – 30th 2014
This was my first time to hike the Canyon though I had seen it from the rim a few months back while on a cross-country motorcycle trip … I assumed the trails to the bottom and back were as smooth as the trail heads you see from the rim so the arduous difficult barriers of logs, rocks, and dusty red sand were a total shock as well as debilitating
My friend Jeff had hiked the Canyon several times in his younger years – the last when he was 40-something but this time he was 60 and so was I … it’s fascinating how our memories play tricks on us … Jeff suffered mightily this time and I became terrified for his well-being on the afternoon of the first day … we should have turned-back right then … I’m glad we didn’t but we got lucky … real lucky
When we left Grand Canyon on Thursday, January 30th, the weather took a sharp turn for the worse … had it looked like that when we arrived on Monday we wouldn’t have been able to do what we shouldn’t have done
Jeff and I have hiked the Canyon for the last time
I may never go back … I can’t imagine returning to Grand Canyon and not walking through the ancient wilderness
You won’t believe your experience in Grand Canyon … but you’ll never forget it