The Grandest of Canyons

February, 2014

For weeks leading up to the trip I was giddy with anticipation. Las Vegas was just an afterthought to me. Sure Vegas would be fun, but the Grand Canyon? That’s where my mind had settled and that’s where it was going to stay. We left early, renting a car and driving the 5-plus hours to the South Rim of the Canyon having heard that the Western Rim, the side closest to Vegas, wasn’t all that impressive. In retrospect we should have set aside at least two days for this excursion. 11 hours of driving  doesn’t leave a lot of time for exploring.

Still, we were going to make the most of it.

As the miles sped by bringing us closer to our destination my excitement exploded. I was practically vibrating in the seat, peppering Kevin with questions every few minutes.

“Are we there yet? Are we close? Are those rocks part of it? How about now?”

I had spent weeks researching the best hike for us hunting for something that would fit within our limited schedule and something that would work with both of our fitness levels (Kevin is fit, I am not). I settled on the Bright Angel Trail and we had agreed to hike down into the canyon to the second tunnel and then make our way back up. I went over my maps and notes as we drove closer and closer.

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon

Finally after what seemed like (and was) hours we made it to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and it was … well … it was …

Actually it was quite underwhelming.

At first glance the Grand Canyon looks exactly like the posters advertising it. 1980’s photographs washed out from constant exposure to the elements, vast and incredible but still somewhat lacking.

The problem is it is just so large, stretching out impossibly far with thousands of curves and crevices etched out by time and all competing for attention. There is just too much to see and your eyes refuse to focus. To make matters worse the sky stretches over top, blue and cloudless without any of the sun kissed reds and yellows that are so popular in the photos and making the canyon look even more washed out.

We had committed ourselves to an 11 hour day of driving for this? Disappointment settled in my stomach and my smile felt drawn on my face, tight and fake, as we wandered along the rim making our way towards the Bright Angel Trail Head.

Thankfully this impression, this washed out tourism poster of a natural wonder, redeems itself from the right vantage point.

Shortly after begi1379209_10153942221560177_952523815_nnning our hike the colours started to become more vivid as our range of view became smaller. The Grand Canyon from National Geographic Travel Magazine fame was finally appearing.

There was snow and ice coating the ground in some corners, contrasting perfectly with the carved out desert rocks.

My excitement rose which each step we took, descending farther down and thrilling me.

This! This is what we had decided to drive 11 hours for.

The hike itself was fantastic, only moderately difficult with the hardest portion being the trek back up to the top, both because it was uphill and because it brought us closer to leaving the canyon.

The switch back trails and the two tunnels were stunning and immensely rewarding. The trail actually goes much further reaching the bottom of the canyon and is apparently even more spectacular the farther down you go, but we sadly didn’t have the time.

We didn’t pass any of the much warned about mules, but we passed many an awe inspired hiker, all sharing the same quiet appreciation of the marvel surrounding us.

When it finally did come time to leave I felt a twinge of sadness. This was a place I had always wanted to visit and we had literally only scratched the surface.

Luckily, aside from an extremely underwhelming first impression, The Grand Canyon also instills in its visitors a deep down desire to return.

After all, the Grandest of Canyons needs a commitment of time worthy of its secrets and a willingness to explore.

Descending into the Canyon

Descending into the Canyon

Note: For more information on the Bright Angel Trail – http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/upload/brightangeltrail.pdf

 

 

Read Between the Lines: So It Begins

So it begins …

Not so long ago I went on a journey to three lands far, far away and down under.

The first was a strange sort of land where beets are common place on Hungry Jack Burgers and where no standing really means no parking. A place where drunken line-dancing to Shania Twain is a cool past-time and talking about the apostles is not considered a biblical reference.

The second looked like my hometown and had a hostel with an aura reminiscent of the Bates Motel. There was snow on the ground in the middle of August and shops were closed for winter holidays, a place where it’s really cool to take pictures of horses that almost made the cut for Lord of the Rings, but were too camera shy.

The third was a friendly place where “I’ll get right to it” means “Maybe next week.” Where it’s required to drink narcotics as part of a welcome ceremony, fun to bet money on frog races, and where wearing a skirt that falls above your knees means you’re a prostitute.

Where everyone in two separate countries tells the same joke, and where stop signs are about as frequent as a Jamaican on time. Where “Bulla”, “Oi”, and “Hello” all mean the same thing and the bitter beers actually taste good. A place where you can swim alongside dolphins and penguins at the same time.

During this voyage of self-discovery I tried and failed repeatedly to conquer my fear of heights and lost (most of) my vanity. I made fast friends and shocked the locals (“You’re snorkeling in 20°c water! But aren’t you cold?!”), spent my evenings drunk and my mornings planning the next evening’s debauchery, and learned the perils of dolphin watching the morning after a party.

Together with my sister, I braved crocodiles and cuddled nature’s boxer. I wondered how they built the Opera House and wandered into (and quickly out of) King’s Cross at night.

I flew from a raft and fell from a plane. I climbed into the abyss and up a glacier.

I wake-boarded in shark infested waters and learned the tricks of bucket showers. I said farewell to seeing long distance, and said a very friendly “Hello” to two Danish men.

I was branded by travel and by a man with a scorpion tattooed around his left eye and experienced the time of my life.

Read Between the Lines: The Mostly True, Slightly Embellished Story of a Canadian Abroad

Forward:

It’s human nature to embellish. Just like the game telephone (Do you remember the game telephone?) stories become more and more fantastic each time you tell them.

That lucky shot you make in pool becomes a strategic, heart-stoppingly intense win. The man who lives down the street from you, the one who gets off the bus at the same stop and walks behind you for two blocks on his way home, becomes a sex crazed stalker. Life goes from mediocre to resembling Thursday night prime-time in an instant. It doesn’t make you a liar, it makes you human.

Everyone does it.

Eventually these stories become more real to you than the truth. I will admit I have often made my life sound more interesting than it is. This is a natural side effect of being boring.

(I am quite boring.)

Consider yourself warned. This is primarily a piece of fiction, though every story is based on a real event. Much of which you are about to read is true, with a touch of the sensational thrown in here and there to give it that “page-turning charm”. It’s up to you to figure out what is true, and what isn’t. But honestly, I wouldn’t overly speculate. Just sit back and try to be entertained. (While I frantically try to entertain you.)

Everyone has a bit of a story teller in them, and this is my opus.

Welcome to the Mostly True, Slightly Embellished Story of a Canadian Abroad. Ladies and gentlemen, read between the lines and enjoy the ride.