The Hardest Hike

grand canyon


The year was 2000, a very big year.  Everyone was bracing for the new year with all of its promises and all of its threats. Warnings swirled: unstable computer programs, apocalypse fears, and the realization that this would end partying like it was 1999. 

 We prepared for that year in many ways and looking back I know now that we did not prepare at all. We planned the trip of a lifetime for that year.  (we= my immediate family at that time – husband and 4 kids, along with two other families – all together 12 people, 3 motorhomes, and one cat.

The original thought was that we should plan a ‘cross country camping trip’ instead of our usual southeast destinations. And, then it rolled over to the grand idea to see the Grand Canyon. I was all in for this. Why not…if we are going to take such a trip, we should hit that awesome national park.

I was not so convinced of the idea our group proposed – that we needed to see ALL of the Grand Canyon, top to bottom and back to the top again. The planning took another shocking turn for the worse when we realized that a few of us were too heavy and we still had two children who were too young for the mules to carry us on this venture. That left two options – helicopter or backpack. Financially the decision was final. Backpacking we would go, oh my.

So, we planned, researched, practiced, and dreamed of the hike. Six adults, six children (age 5-15), 12 backpacks, 5 tents, 12 hiking sticks, 6 bottles of corona, countless bottles of water, Gatorade powder, various cameras, lots of homemade trail mix, freeze dried food packs, and a huge sense of adventure, and we thought we were ready. I am glad we did not know what we did not know. I would have been scared to death.

The dates arrived and we ventured the 30 hours over the road from Florida to Arizona. July 2000. July!!! I don’t think it gets much hotter! But, we did it and I am so grateful for the photos and video journal to help remind me of the sights and scenery and even the sense of wonder we experienced. We all knew the importance of recording our memories as best we could. Telling about it could never be as effective as seeing it. The photo of the squirrel trying to get into a backpack to take some trail mix, or the sunset over the canyon rim, or all of our dirty hiking boots and socks piled in the RV bathtub, and most especially, all of us submerged in the creek at the bottom of the canyon, watching the sunset, while cooling off and rinsing the trail dust away.

I confess that I whined frequently both out loud and to myself during that trip. It was hard – backpacking in 100 plus degree weather, carrying 50 pounds of supplies and equipment, changing altitudes beyond my imagination, worrying about everyone’s condition, safety and health, and all while I was definitely out of shape. But I would not trade that trip for any memory or other vacation. It represents the best memories of my family – working, exploring, helping, enjoying, and savoring the total experience.

Life is a lot like that trip. It takes some planning and preparation, some courage and determination, and the awareness to record the moments to reflect on and to share in the future. What is next on my hike through this life? Are there more squirrels stealing my treats, or a cool creek to settle and relax in? And, I always like to know where the next laundry mat is. I pray for a sturdy pack, enough water, and rest stops at the most opportune times on my hike. Amen.

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