because THIS is a definition of the northeast. and i just passed one in route to richmond. i immediately felt at home. now, if you don't have any idea what i'm talking about, then this will not make a ton of sense, but i will try. so a more universal SIMILAR example of a wawa, would be a 7-11. BUT, 7-11 does not compare to wawa - or, "the wa" as it is affectionately quipped by those who hold it so dear. why are wawas held so dear? let me explain.
while i grew up around the wa, i did not find how truly euphoric of an establishment it was until i was at seminary. we had a wawa just one block from campus. first of all, their coffee. oh, their coffee. more flavors than you could imagine at one place - original roast, dark roast, irish cream, hazelnut, and on and on. simply wonderful. second, would be their amazing sandwich counter. i LIVED on their tuna salad subs while i was at seminary - particularly while i was a vegetarian and our caf's definition of "vegetarian option" was mushy vegetables, or some mushroom-concoction.
anyways - it's a beautiful place. should you ever pass one in your travels, and have yet to experience the wa, PLEASE do yourself a favor and have a cup of coffee and a sandwich.
but i'm gaining miles toward the end of my road trip. i'm winding down by visiting some good friends in viriginia before arriving at my brother's in NJ on sunday. last night i spent the evening with my friend dwight - who was an advisor for my youth group when i was in high school. we made a great connection, largely through guitar-playing, and have kept in touch ever since. and now HIS kids are 17 and 21 - so crazy. it was fun to catch up and share about life.
i had a long drive from florida to virigina - about 16 hours worth of many miles. and i was often overwhelmed by this feeling of being free - free from any regrets or baggage from a challenging job that i left in CA - free from being anxious about what might be next (or WHEN what is next might come along). it's been really amazing. i sensed it most this morning on my drive from the norfolk-area to richmond - and i remembered the song "i feel free" by cream and i popped it in. it's starts off with this great 3-part a cappella intro. have a listen - the clip on iTunes has the intro in it. but this feeling is great because i don't have a problem trusting the long run of things in my life - but i usually have a really hard time trusting in the shorter term things - like when i'm unemployed and not really sure what might be next. i would normally be super-anxious and freaking out right about now - especially being only a couple days from "settling" back somewhere, and reality will undoubtedly hit.
but i'm really taking in this feeling - feeling very blessed, and feeling god's grace in it. because i know that i'm taken care of. i'm in the church hill area of richmond right now, and i just walked around the historic st. john's church, and saw this on one of the gravestones there:
"Be thou obedient unto death, and i will give thee a crown of life."
and i can breathe easy - because i know that is all that god requires of me - to be lovingly obedient.
tricolor heron. he was hunting for little fishes.
roseate spoonbills (the pink) and wood storks. the spoonbills, quite obviously, have a spoon-shaped bill - so crazy unique. and the wood storks are federally endangered.
the florida softshell turtle. super weird looking but very cool. their necks can stretch out almost their full body length.
i think this guy is a baby florida redbelly cooter (not entirely sure with how small it was).
eastern diamondback rattlesnake folks. almost freakin STEPPED on this guy - he was stretched out across the path. yikes.
anhinga #1. these guys have such character to them. and their wing designs are so gorgeous.
there you are - some more samples of what i've seen down here.
while i was out on the beach all by my lonesome on easter Sunday, i happened to bring with me EXPERIENCES OF GOD by Jurgen Moltmann. i love this man. he is this amazing german theologian, who writes about god so poetically, beautifully and practically. he was in the german military in WWII, and spent time in a belgian POW camp. it was there, in the midst of that horrendous experience that, he says, "Christ found me." so i love that his knowledge of God is rooted in this tangible experience of his. i was introduced to his writing in seminary, and it’s hard to pull me away from something of his. if you have yet to read anything by this man, i would recommend SOURCE OF LIFE. it’s amazing.
but anyways. i’ve got EXPERIENCES OF GOD with me and i’ve read about half of it already, but had left off with it sometime ago for some reason or for some other book i wanted to read at the time. i typically don’t sit down and read through a whole book on theology at one time. i peruse it. until i eventually get through it. but today – THIS DAY – this easter Sunday, i picked up THIS BOOK, and where did i leave off? “The New Beginning That Finds the Future” – where he talks about what” you guessed it – “Born Anew to a Living Hope Through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ From the Dead”. talk about the write book on the right day. so i want to share with you a progression of his thoughts that spoke to my soul on easter day.
"It becomes quite a different matter if we stop looking at Christ's resurrection in the perspective of history and look at history in the perspective of the resurrection. Then we sense that the compulsion of evil has been broken. Life is stronger than death. And then we shall find the familiar way of the world in comprehensible."
"Faith means rising up out of indolence and joylessness, and participating in the resurrection process. Christ's resurrection is God's way of giving us new life. Being born again to hope is the way in which we acknowledge Christ."
"The rebirth of an individual person is nothing less than an anticipation of the rebirth of the whole creation. So the rebirth of our small, unimportant human life is linked with the divine future for the whole of creation. In this way it gives our transitory life a permanent significance. Our life becomes the sign of hope for the future of the whole world. We ourselves become hope - God's hope in this world." (!!!!!!!!!!)
"Christian faith is essentially faith in the resurrection."
"Faith in the resurrection does not look past death to eternity. It sees the raising of the tortured and crucified Son of Man as GOD'S GREAT PROTEST against death and against everyone who plays into death's hands and threatens life."
"Faith shares this passion. It shares in God's protest, by rising up out of the apathy of misery (and even more out of the cynicism of prosperity) and by fighting against death in the midst of life."
"We show our hope for the life that defeats death in our protest against the manifold forms of death in the midst of life. It is only in the passion for life and our giving of ourselves for its liberation that we entrust ourselves utterly to the God who raises the dead."
man that's good stuff. i come ALIVE when i read stuff like this. because he doesn't just talk about God - but about who we are to live as a response to God. beautiful stuff. anyways - i offer it to you. i pray that it speaks to your soul as well.
so i’m rEALLy thankful that these posts (true to their name) are post-experience. for one, i might not have done things if i knew what i was getting into. and two, there are certain people (hi mom!) who would be having heart attacks knowing what i was up to. this is for sure with my time in the southern part of everglades national park. but i’ll get there :)
so i got here later saturday evening – got to cruise a couple of my favorite spots on the drive in. even got here in time for the evening ranger program (there’s my nerd side again). caught a great moonrise after. i actually slept in my tent saturday night and got some good sleep. knowing that the next morning was easter morning, i was curious how much i could “make it” into easter, as i was not with any friends or family, nor anywhere close to a church. but i decided to just get up early, and make breakfast while watching the sunrise over the florida bay from the visitor’s center, while i read the resurrection stories in the four gospels. it was an amazing sunrise, and just a really simple time to reflect on the pinnacle of our faith.
then i headed straight to the ranger station to see about kayaking out to the backcountry for an overnight. i’ve done that before here, and it’s really fun being out in the swamp all by yourselves (i was with a friend that time). so i really wanted to do that again. so i got a beach campsite out on the very southwest-most tip of florida…and had to kayak across the florida bay to get there. i didn’t think much of it, since i could hug close to land most of the way, but i was out in open water, sometimes pretty far from land due to being pretty shallow. especially on the way back, i was at lowtide, and was at one point probably a mile from the mainland, out in open water, in my little blue kayak. talk about vulnerability.
here’s where it gets interesting. on my way OUT, i find myself paddling straight toward a crocodile, who is sitting on the muddy bottom with his head poking out of the water. and he isn’t small, folks. from the size of his head, i would guess he was 5+ feet. i stopped paddling, but was still drifting closer. he slowly drew under the water and disappeared. even with all the alligators i’ve paddled by, i never felt so freaked out being in open water with a pretty good sized crocodile. i did NOT feel like the crocodile hunter – “SHE’S A BEAUT!”.
THEN, on the way back, at the point where i was probably a little under a mile from shore, in the open water, in my little blue kayak – i see a dorsal fin. at first glance, i’d assumed it was a harbor porpoise which are all over (and very cool by the way). but the porpoise’s (like a dolphin) tailfin goes horizontally, so you don’t see it out of the water when you see it’s dorsal fin. well this dorsal fin i was seeing, had a tailfin sticking out too. maybe you’ve already guessed, but YES, a shark’s tailfin goes vertically. about 20 feet away was a shark. luckily, it looked relatively small judging by the distance from it’s dorsal to tail fin. but still. a shark. not very far. from me and my little blue kayak. i won’t tell you about the larger dorsal and tail fin i saw about two minutes after that.
but it was worth the trip. i got to spend some time on a SECLUDED BEACH all by myself, and listen to the surf all night long. bugs, you ask? well let me tell you. no mosquitos. BUT. the WORST no-see-ums i have EVER encountered (yes LaVida folks – i mean THE WORST EVER). in the split second it took me to get into my tent to seek solace, like 500 of these things got in with me. wow. i spent the next hour mashing little pencil-tip-size-bugs on the inside of my tent. unbelievable. but i got to see this sunset…
and this sunrise…
who knew BC was christian? i loved finding this cartoon a couple years ago. when i REALLY think about easter - like really, not just kind of, but REALLY - i feel the same as BC. i feel so blessed to have taken hold of this.
so i've been trying to carve out some time to really meditate on easter these past few days. so between yesterday (friday) and today (saturday), i read through the crucifixion stories in all the gospels, and tried to see what stuck out to me. i'm holding out on reading the "final chapter" until tomorrow morning, but i wanted to share with you what has stuck out for me - two bits:
first, is in Luke. and it's when one of the criminals being crucified to jesus shares with jesus: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." and jesus replies to him: "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." this exchange FLOORS me. reading it this time and letting it soak in, i can feel myself up on that cross next to jesus - owning my own shortcomings and failures - and asking jesus to love me anyway. and of course jesus loves me anyway - he wants me there in paradise with him. wow. the peace that that communicates to me is indescribable.
second, is in matthew when peter is in gethsemane with jesus on the night of his betrayal and falls asleep after jesus asks peter to stay up with him. i definitely would have fallen asleep too for sure. but it's what jesus comes and says to peter - "watch and pray so you will not fall into temptation. the spirit is willing, but the body is weak." that was powerful to me today. i often don't feel like i have any control over my mind and body, and scripture talks a lot about how our bodies are weak and we need to make sure our spirits persevere. and that gives me a little bit of comfort - not an excuse - to know that my body and mind will often let me down (or even do battle against what i know deep down i desire). but it's my spirit - my christian spirit - that needs to be strong. but then i know that my lack of discipline doesn't really help keep my spirit strong. and THAT is when humility breaks in and i know that it's jesus that i need. while atheists often call this aspect of religion "weakness" - we know better. this is what a lot of people refer to as the "foolishness of the cross". but really, this is called wisdom - to take hold of eternal life - the gift that jesus offers to us join him in paradise.
praise the lord - he is risen! he is risen indeed.
i got into florida late tuesday night. i had a great opportunity to rendezvous on wednesday with my friend heather who just happened to be vacationing down in FL with her fam - staying with her aunt. heather and i have worked at LaVida for a few summers, and she came out to the bay area last year to run the big sur marathon - AND beat her goal time. now, if you don't know, the big sur marathon is considered by many to be THE most difficult marathon due to it's many long uphills and downhills. but it's also one of the most beautiful, as it largely skirts the pacific ocean. i got to be heather's support crew - it was really fun. heather has been a great spiritual friend over these last few years. it was great to catch up with her.
i then made it down to south florida - the land that i love - on thursday. i stopped through sanibel to check out my old stomping grounds (where CROW was), and continued on down to the everglades. i had a rough start to my adventures on friday, as i had decided to try the north end of everglades national park, and was severely disappointed (AND the weather wasn't cooperating very well). but by noon i had moved on to bliss - turner river - considered one of the best canoe trails in florida. here's a taste of what i saw...
this is why i love florida - because specTACular wildlife like this is ALL over the place - even in the drainage ditches along the sides of the roads. and i am an utter wildlife junkie. i can't get enough - birds, reptiles, mammals - holy cow. so turner river got my blood pumping and i was psyched. paddling with alligators is like nothing else - completely exhilarating and SO nervewracking at the same time. a few of these guys were like 6ish feet, and were only 5-8 feet from me as i was paddling. so cool.
then i made my way down to the keys - i decided to check em out under a good friend's advisement. so i came down to key largo, to john pennekamp state park. they border the florida keys national marine sanctuary, which contains some of the most spectacular coral reefs. so what did i do? i took a snorkel tour out to the reefs. we went out to grecian rock reef. now i had never snorkeled before, and figured it shouldn't be too hard. but i got in that water - out in the OPEN OCEAN, like 5 miles out - and i was a little freaked out. i was totally hyperventilating through my snorkel. it took me a good 10 or 15 minutes to get the hang of it and to calm down. and once i did - holy cow. it was so amazing. this whole underwater world just a couple feet below the surface of the water...and i was gliding through the water just above it. so many beautiful fish. i wasn't getting my hopes up of seeing anything WAY supercool. but what did i see?
that would be a NURSE SHARK and a BARRACUDA. i definitely kept some space between me and the barracuda (these aren't my pics by the way - they're off google images). so cool. i also saw this cool squid thing (not sure exactly what) and a bunch of spiny lobsters. not many people saw the nurse shark or the barracuda, so i was pretty psyched.
anyhow - it's been amAAAAAzing so far. now i'm headed up to everglades proper - where i've been a few times before and LOVE it there. tons of wildlife and great paddling. will report after that.
hope you all are well wherever you are :)
this is how most of biloxi, mississippi looked about two years ago. i was in biloxi with a group of seminarians about 6 months after the hurricanes hit, and the only words i could use to describe the ENTIRE city, were "utter devastation". it was unlike anything i had ever seen. an ENTIRE city basically destroyed. it was an intense experience, filled with lots of stories of tragedy from folks who lost their homes. so on this trip, i was very interested in driving through biloxi to see what progress had been made over the last two years. when i was first there, i was initially appalled by how little seemed to have been done in those first 6 months after the hurricane. so on this trip, i was a bit skeptical as to what the city might look like after two more years.
my goal (obviously) was to get into town during daylight in order to SEE, but that didn't quite happen on the day-after-saint-patrick's-day. so i got into biloxi JUST as it was getting dark. but nonetheless, i was able to find my way back into the city, exactly as we had gone in two years ago. i remember first driving into the city on my previous trip, entering a main street in town that had no signs left, and traffic lights uprooted and toppled over. upon turning onto this same street two years later, it felt like a new and fresh place - lights and signs were resurrected. but my mind was on the houses - the houses that had been so completely devasted after the hurricane. i wanted to see the houses. i got a few blocks down the main road, and turned right into the city. now, while i thought it might be a disadvantage to be in biloxi when it was dark, i quickly found that i was seeing lights on in houses...what an obvious way to see whether or not houses had been repaired and re-inhabited. and to my surprise, LOTS of lights were on in houses. even in the more-devastated southeast area of the city (see below)...
houses had been rebuilt - and a lot of them even rebuilt on STILTS. i was really impressed. i could see that hope was prevailing here in biloxi. even the biloxi bay bridge that had been largely destroyed (see below)...
had been rebuilt. i didn't see it for myself, but got to talking with a local guy, tyson, where i had dinner. he had been there during the hurricanes and was telling me about the progress of the area. i wanted to find some authentic southern place for dinner - so i ended up at Doughboy's Pizza and Po'Boys. and if you've never had a po'boy, you've bever been to louisiana or mississippi. good stuff. and cool to connect with tyson. the more i experience things like this, the more i'm convinced that we need to get outside our church buildings more often.
it was an encouraging stop - even with the very big and brand-new casinos looming over the recovering city. there's something just not right about that. but still, i was encouraged. and i know that it's largely due to groups like PDA and the Red Cross and Samaritan's Purse that have beeen making huge headway in the recovery effort. especially PDA, which is a branch of the Presbyterian Church USA - they have made a long-term committment to being down in LA and MS to keep on with the rebuilding. that's impressive to me...and gives me hope.
this was my perception of texas growing up - what i knew from pee wee's big adventure. probably not all that accurate.
anyways. after some long driving, i arrived in waco, texas last saturday (the 15th). my friend meredith from seminary is currently working on a phd at baylor in religion and society (right meredith?) and lives in waco. it was a perfect stopover point to spend a couple days in the crazy state known as texas.
the only other experience i've had with texas, was a week in austin about two years ago...and most texans say that austin is kind of its own flavor of texas. so i was very curious to experience waco this time, as well as driving near-diagonally across the entire state (it's friggin HUGE, by the way). i had a great drive on a backroad highway in the northeast corner of the state (287), then a quick jump down to waco from fort worth. as i arrived in waco, i drove down the length of waco drive, as it seemed that it would be a main drag of sorts. it was a great taste of the city - a real mix of lower and middle class it seemed. and i liked it a lot. it seemed very raw and real - none of the 1.5 million dollar homes that i was surrounded by in CA. just a whole lot of people who probably grew up in waco, working for a living. it felt very authentic to me.
another goal of mine to see this guy in his natural habitat. this is david crowder for all of you who live under rocks. he is an amazing musician, who is also the worship pastor at university baptist church (UBC) in waco. i've seen him in concert many times, but really wanted to see him lead worship at his church. here's how remarkable this guy is: the david crowder band now tours internationally, and almost constantly. and no matter where they are, they will fly back to waco nearly EVery sunday to lead worship. how cool is that - that their priority is always on their church, and not on their professional-musician-status. i'm impressed by that. anywho. it was a GREAT experience to get to go to church at UBC. their teaching pastor josh carney gave the message, and i was impressed by how much he shared about himself and his own struggles. they have been doing a wilderness-theme for lent, and josh spoke about psalm 63, and the contrast that the words "your love is better than life" is from the wildernesses we experience. this i loved - with regards to 'your love is better than life', he said - "if we're honest with ourselves, do we really buy that sometimes?" he was talking about it in reference to the really hard spots we hit - our dark nights of the soul. and i was like PREACH IT BROTHER - it's hard to know that God's love is better than life sometimes...especially when everything seems really dark. it was great. then two nights later, i met their community pastor, john mark seelig, at a bar, and he and i chatted for a bit. overall, i was really encouraged by UBC. there is hope for the church. i need those reminders often.
other than that, there was just a lot of hangout time, bar time, and good talks with meredith and some of her friends. we took a quick side trip to austin to take her friend linnea to the airport, and we walked 6th ave. downtown, and then had dinner at the famous Stubb's BBQ. if you are ever in austin, GO HERE. as i brought my first rib to my mouth, my tastebuds FREAKED out - i could not savor those things slow enough. i could have eaten like 19 racks of them. amazingly flavorful. go.
then there was saint patrick's day. i hadn't even thought about st. patty's day before arriving in waco. upon mentioning that to meredith, she replied: "i've got it covered". i didn't ask any questions. it was a lot of fun - we hit two of the great local spots - a nice low-key pub called the dancing bear, then an authentic texas bar called scruffy murphys. beautiful. some of the crew below at scruff's (meredith is to my right) -
yes, i realize i am not wearing green - sue me.
it was definitely one of the most fun evenings i can remember in a long time. i'm now a big fan of texas. well, not the whole big-truck-thing. that i'll never understand. but most of the rest has grown on me. anyways. thanks to meredith and jenny (and penny!) for hostess-ing me :)
so this past friday was a day of driving. i wrapped up my time at the grand canyon friday morning, and got on the road - headed toward central texas. waco to be exact. while a lot of driving, it ended up being a pretty fun day. i needed to get through arizona and new mexico, and i wanted to at least get INto texas before i stopped for the night.
as Petrified Forest National Park was right on route 40, i figured i'd drive through. i was a bit intrigued with what exactly a petrified tree looked like and how they came to be. i stopped off at the first viewpoint with a small loop trail called 'giant logs'. i took a quick loop around and literally there are fragments and sections of whole trees that are literally fossilized, laying scattered all over the ground. it's so cool. the look just like trees, but they're rock.
here's the park brochures description of how petrified trees came to be:
"in the distant past, after trees fell over from natural causes such as old age, flooding, or lightning, they were carried downriver, settling on sand bars and creating log jams. the trees were buried under deposits of sediment, slowing down the process of decay due to the scarcity of oxygen. silica-rich ash spewed from distant volcanoes, was mixed into the sediment. the silica dissolved into groundwater and the solution seeped into the cells of the buried trees. crystals formed within spaces in the logs, including hollows, cracks and the interior of the cells. the wood tissue degraded, partially of fully replaced by minerals, leaving behind beautiful fossils."
there were also some remains of a puebloan village from somewhere between 1200 and 1400. on some of the boulders nearby, there still exist petroglyphs - ancient drawings and images that these people made. i have always been fascinated by petroglyphs - and this was my FIRST EVER opportunity to see real, original untouched ones. (this was also the first time i got to use my new 300mm telephoto lens (!!!), since the glyphs were pretty far away for a normal lens)
i especially love this last one with the bird-ish creature with the human in it's mouth. not sure what that's about, but there sure are some days i feel like that.
the wind was REALLLLLY whipping through the park for some reason - it was relatively flat and all. but HOLY crap. with the forces it was putting on my roof rack (see bryce post for how much stuff is strapped on my roof) - it actually ripped one of my thule feet off. so i had to do some minor roofrack surgery there in the park, and all seems to be well - i had to use a couple hoseclamps to secure the rack back down onto the roof since the one foot wouldn't latch anymore. i'm keeping a close eye on it at the moment - but it made it through new mexico and texas so far!
i stopped off in albuquerque friday night to (FINALLY) post all my canyon adventures for y'all. kind of a cool town. then i pushed on a few more hours and got about 80 miles into texas before i PASSED out. the next morning (saturday), i started the day with a dirty breakfast at a waffle house (my first time ever!) and took a sweet backroad highway all the way to fort worth, and then a quick jump down to waco from there.
had a nice long day in the car friday - and mostly just loved being with my thoughts and with my music. so here i offer you my top 15 songs from the day - songs that truly made the drive a blissful time (in no particular order of course...)
Gavin DeGraw - Crush
Mike Doughty - Looking at the World From the Bottom of a Well
DMB - Bartender
Big Head Todd and the Monsters - Broken Hearted Savior
Paul Simon - How Can You Live in the Northeast
Fair - Carelessness
Audioslave - Show Me How To Live
King Crimson - Three of a Perfect Pair
Amos Lee - Shout Out Loud
Live - Meltdown
Galactic - All Behind You Now
Jason Mraz - Did I Fool Ya (live at java joe's version)
ALO - Maria
Indigo Girls - Ozilline
Patty Griffin - Long Ride Home
so there you go. next post on my time in texas. hope you all are well - thanks for following along with me :)
after my decent, i awoke the next morning with my calves nearly LOCKED stiff. i’ve never felt muscle tightness like that before. i wonder if i can even stand – let alone walk. i mean, i’m still in my sleeping bag at this point, but they feel REALLY tight. i slowly flex and stretch them a bit, and maybe they’re not so bad. i get out of back, and stand up – wow, they are SOOORRRRE. but i’ll live, and can even walk!
so since i was spending two nights at the same site, i had a free day to do whatever i wanted. there was a nice long dayhike up the north slope of the canyon to a place called ribbon falls. 12 miles roundtrip. sounds good! i had breakfast and headed up the trail.
it was a beautiful hike up a couple miles through a canyon, then it spread out more into some wider valleys with rolling desert landscape. the bottom of the canyon is true desert – it gets less than 10 inches of rain a year. so it’s a lot of dirt, rocks, cacti, and a few small woody bushes. that’s about it. but it’s got a beauty to it all the same, especially as it’s bookended on either side by massive red and black rock cliffs.
the falls are gorgeous. a perfect spot to hangout and eat lunch and relax. the above pic is from behind the falls, this landing that water falls on, then cascades down to the bottom.
that was about it for day two at the bottom. the calves did pretty good on the dayhike up to the falls. big steps up or down were pretty painful. i only had one aleve with me, and i decided i had better save it for the hike out. thursday morning, i got up early and popped my aleve. had a quick breakfast, packed up and was on the trail by 7am. it was a relatively uneventful hike up. i was a little worried because of my sore calves, but just figured i’d take it easy and slow. i passed like 4 or 5 mule trips (see left). i figured it might take me 6 hours to get up, as it took me about 4 hours to come down. anybody want to guess how long it took me to get to the top? 4.5 hours. AND it was 2 miles longer going up (a different trail) than going down. and did i mention that the hike went UP 4500 feet in those 10 miles? me = hardcore.
it felt really good to get back up to the rim. it was a tiring hike up, but it went fast, and i felt really mellow most of the way – happy that i had gotten the opportunity to experience the canyon from inside it. when i got back to my car, i unpacked all my stuff, and went IMMEdiately to the shower/laundry house (did not pass GO). took a long, hot shower (WOW) and then sat for about an hour and a half while the laundry did it’s thing. it’s always an amazing feeling to get clean, even after only a couple days out. that’ll never get old!
now i’m off to gorge myself on a congratulatory dinner at one of the cheapy cafeterias. and i think i'll grab one of those 20 oz. newcastles from the grocery store. mmmmmmmm. tomorrow i get on the road headed toward texas to visit with my friend Meredith, see david crowder at UBC, and celebrate st. patty’s day! should be good times. peace to you all! stay tuned...
so my 2nd thru 4th days here at the canyon will be comprised by a hike down into the canyon, spending two nights at the bottom, and hiking back out on thursday. the following two posts will detail the adventure.
i had a shuttle-to-the-trailhead to catch at 7am. the earliest place to get coffee opened at 6:30am. this was going to be close. i was like a vulture waiting outside the cafeteria that was supPOSED to open at 6:30 but didn’t unlock it’s doors until 6:40. i was getting nervous. but i got my coffee and got to my shuttle no problem. phew. that coulda been bad. but i’m not addicted, really. i just knew i needed it THIS day.
i finally started my hike down at about 8am. i had about 8 miles and 4500 vertical feet down ahead of me. i was a little intimidated, but i’ve hiked pretty substantial elevation before. they say it’s a pretty intense hike down to the bottom – and i’m sure in the summer it’s even more intense when it’s 115 DEGREES. yikes. i’ll stick with my 55-degrees-and-cool-breeze thanks. this picture at the trailhead made me laugh –
i think it’s funny that the observed message - with our eyes drawn to the picture of the guy who has just had a heart attack - is that they are basically telling you that they don’t want to drag your corpse back up to the top if you keel over because you’re too out of shape to hike down to the bottom or aren’t careful or are just stupid and don’t drink enough water. anyways. i begin my way down.
and it’s a beautiful hike down. i try to look around as much as i can while keeping an eye on my footing – as i’ve got nearly 50 pounds on my back. for every bit of elevation i go down, the views change. i feel really lucky to get to experience the canyon by going down in it. during one of the ranger programs i went to at the bottom (yes, i’m a nerd), i learned that only about 1% of the 5 million visitors to the park each year actually hike all the way to the bottom. that’s crazy! i would have guessed a lot more than that. but apparently i have joined an elite few. i mean, that’s still 50,000 people a year, but out of 5 million! AND, since half of the allotted people per night at the bottom stay at this mini-resort-ish ranch place, only 25,000 people a year are actually hardcore enough to FULLPACK all their gear down to the bottom and camp in the campground. booya for me.
my thoughts on the way down are largely (obviously) about what i’m carrying, as my back (and my legs!) begin to feel the weight of my full pack by about mile 3. and i realize, as i periodically do when i’m backpacking, that i’m carrying EVERYthing i need to survive right on my back. i’m probably carrying even MORE than i really need to survive actually. and every time my mind settles on that, i think about how much CRAP we all own. i especially am very aware of my crap, seeing as i just shipped about 2500 pounds of it across the country, and have my car full of whole bunch more. why do we acquire so much stuff? i have spent a lot of time over the last couple years thinking a lot about simplicity, and how i can slowly orient my life toward living more simply. and one of my biggest hang-ups has been all my stuff. i can’t seem to rid myself of it. i don’t really know what to do about it, but i am very aware of my crap – and most notably the 50 pounds of it that i have on my back. it’s certainly hard to ignore it when it’s literally weighing down on me. and it’s easy to be aware of our possessions since we can see them surrounding us every day. but what about our internal crap? how aware are we of that? i, too, have been trying to get a better handle on my internal stuff lately – emotions, reactions, needs, etc. it’s a bit more difficult to get rid of ‘frustration’ or ‘resentment’ or ‘envy’, than it is to toss out that old bed or those knick-knacks from some trip 8 years ago. it’s a bit more painful too. but i’m glad i’ve become more aware of my crap. i think it will help in the long run.
i get to the bottom of the canyon in about 4 hours. it’s a perfect day. i head back to the campground and stake my claim. it’s about 1, so i head back out toward the river and take up residence on small stretch of sand on the shore. i head down to the water, and i stick my feet in the mighty colorado river. i let the 47 degree water numb my toes and the tops of my feet. the river looks strong – like it has taken lives before. i sit for a number of hours and read on the bank. i’ve started Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. it’s really good. as i head back to camp i stumble across a ranger program and sit in. all told, i ended up going to 4 different ranger programs while i was down there. it was great. i learned about the civilian conservation corps, bats, plants of the grand canyon, and the geology of the grand canyon. i love learning new stuff.
so that was my first day. it was amazing, and by far the most experiential and emotive. i’ll put day 2 and 3 in another post.
so i’m going to divide my grand canyon trip into at least a couple parts, because it entails a couple of parts. this will make sense, i promise.
so after sleeping on the picnic table, i got up and warmed myself in my car for about 20 minutes so i could feel my fingers and toes again. then i hurried over to the backcountry office that opens at 8am. as i had mentioned, i had been hearing that hiking down into the canyon fills up pretty quick, and sometimes folks have to wait a few days for there to be an opening to go down. they only allow 90 people a night at the bright angel campground – which is the only campground ALL the way down at the bottom. and i was getting a little nervous that i might not get to go down – hence my desire to get to the office as soon as it opened. and all my worries for nought! i found out that i could hike down to the bottom tuesday, and stay tuesday and wednesday nights down at bright angel campground. perfect!!
(in the foreground of the pic above, the trail that i’ll be hiking down on tomorrow goes along that ridge)
so monday i ended up just taking it easy, exploring this crazy national park. it really is the strangest i’ve been to yet – it’s kind of like its own bustling town. there’s a train line that comes in and out each day. there’s a whole system of shuttle buses, and there’s even a “market village” where there’s a big grocery/outdoor store, post office, and chase bank. kinda strange. but nice – everything you need…and a lot that you don’t! but after i got acclimatized, i decided to take a walk to get my first glance at the canyon. i slowly wandered down a trail that said would take me to the “rim trail”, which edges along the top rim of the canyon, for nearly the entire length of the developed park – about 4ish miles i think. as most people informed me before i came here, it is hard to put into words what a first glance at the canyon makes you feel. it really is this unfathomable formation – no picture can do it justice, and no words can describe. so i won’t even really try – i’ll just say that to take it in that first time, it moved me. a lot. i sat for awhile just staring out at the expanse – TEN MILES ACROSS, ONE MILE DEEP. unbelievable. then i sat some more and finished off donald miller’s book. and i think it was the combination of his words and the view that i was looking out upon that brought me to tears – grateful tears. miller’s last chapter were his kind-of concluding thoughts on what faith and god are all about. and he talked about the real gifts of life that god gives us, are learning to love yourself, and then allowing others to love and come alongside you. and those are two things that have become very real for me this past year, and i really believe miller is right. and those are powerful things.
i spent the rest of the afternoon walking the length of the rim trail, taking in the canyon from all the lookout points along the path. it was really cool. i was excited to get down to the bottom. soon. very soon. i went down to take in the sunset over the canyon after dinner, and was off to bed.