All I knew about my trip to Arizona was that by the end of it, I would have finally seen the Grand Canyon. I too would have a story about seeing one of most beloved and famous destinations in the country and I could check it off the bucket list I never made. Maybe now I will make one, just so I can already have it crossed off and look all accomplished.
It was all I talked about for weeks leading up to the trip, aside from the nerves I felt over meeting Kevin’s mother for the first time. I daydreamed about it. I bragged about it. I googled pictures of it, knowing that everyone said no photo could compare to the real thing.
I asked for advice from those who had hiked the canyon and made a mental checklist of what I would need to bring and want to do there:
- Wear wool socks, “to wick the sweat,” whatever that means
- Buy big floppy hat, to ward off sun and look sweaty but fashionable
- Drink two gallons of water
- Don’t fall off the edge of the rim
I pestered Kevin with questions about his previous visits and asked for pros and cons of various trails. I was ready, I felt.
When we got to the cabin Monday evening we made tentative plans for the week. The weather was looking unpredictable for the next two days, so it was decided we’d see the Grand Canyon on Thursday.
Thursday morning came and I got dressed in my pre-selected going-hiking-in-the-Grand-Canyon outfit. I had my camera in my phone and my fully-charged camcorder ready, along with a picnic lunch prepared by Kevin’s mom. We drove north.
We made a couple stops on the way, including a trading post in Cameron, where Kevin got me a necklace with a bear fetish pendent, which I still don’t totally understand but I’m told it’s a symbol for strength. I should have put it on right then because it turned out I was going to need it in bulk quantities.
Finally we stopped at the Watchtower, right along the south rim of the canyon. I walked with Kevin, his brother, his sister-in-law, and his dad. His dad stopped with me to read a sign detailing the history of the Watchtower, and I took a few pictures. Then I was ready to finally see the canyon: nothing more could distract me from the main attraction. Like a lost puppy, I looked around for Kevin, who I was sure couldn’t wait to show me this beautiful, amazing view I had been waiting weeks to see. But I didn’t see him nearby.
Then I looked down the path and saw him already at the Canyon’s edge with his brother and sister-in-law, overlooking it all. Without me. This thing I’d been so excited for him to share with me.
My heart sank.
Very shortly after that, my blood boiled.
I walked up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder.
“Hey,” I said. “You couldn’t wait for me?”
He shrugged, not seeming to appreciate the gravity of the situation. He didn’t appear to notice that I hadn’t been standing behind him, nor that I had stopped by the Watchtower sign with his dad.
“I know you’ve seen this before so maybe it’s not a big deal to you, but this is the one thing I really wanted to do,” I said in a terse whisper.
I turned my back on Kevin and stormed away to another part of the lookout, which was not a very dramatic gesture, because the entire lookout spanned about 15 feet. I was finally faced with this amazing view I’d been looking forward to. I was torn between being furious while at the same time absolutely overwhelmed by what I was seeing. I pouted, arms crossed, staring out into vast layers upon beautiful layers of rocks that were there long before me or my relationship with Kevin and thinking, great — he’s gone and killed the Grand Canyon for me.
We walked back to the car as a group. I thanked Kevin’s dad for bringing me, since I was the only one of the party who had never seen it.
“Of course,” he said. “I always get excited when I get to share this view with someone new.”
“I feel that way too,” I said loudly, half over my shoulder at Kevin. He scowled. Or at least, I think I felt him scowl at my back because I refused to look at him the whole way back to the parking lot.
In my head I added one more item to my Grand Canyon checklist:
- Get into bitter spat at South Rim
Vacations with my family were ideal settings for heinous arguments between my parents. Something to do with a combination of stress and high expectations, I can only assume.
“But why didn’t you check to make sure I turned off the coffeepot?” one might shout at the other before agreeing to call the neighbors to make sure our house hadn’t caught on fire in our absence.
“Now we’re late for the damn alligator tour,” the other would say witheringly, after our home’s security had been confirmed.
Kevin tried to cheer me up in the car, but I was not having it. How could he have ditched me at the Grand Canyon? Or rather for the Grand Canyon?
I was in no position to be angry a while later though, once we were hiking down a switchback path a mile long down into the canyon. Immensely freaked out by both the heights and the narrowness of the trail, I steadied myself against him and listened to his patient, whispered advice as I fearfully stepped down the steep path. He was so sweet and encouraging and helpful that I couldn’t stay mad at him.
We hiked about three-quarters of a mile down but then decided to turn around because it was looking more and more like rain. We headed back up slowly, with me having to stop about every thirty feet or so, struggling to breathe because of the altitude. He stopped with me and waited until I could breathe again before taking off for the next short stretch. I felt like a wuss because, as much as they tried to tell me it was just because I wasn’t used to being 7,000 feet above sea level, Kevin’s brother lives in Brooklyn with his wife and neither of them was gulping for air like I was.
We made it back up to the top just before the rain started. We literally slammed the car doors shut a moment before the rain started coming down in sheets.
It was beautiful, and even though I was an asthmatic waste of space on the trail, I am seriously proud of myself for hiking a mile and a half (round trip) of the freaking Grand Canyon. It’s not something I would have normally chosen to do myself, but I am glad it was on the agenda. We could have just went to see it, where I would have merely stood there, stewing throughout a few unfortunately-timed minutes, and then been driven back home in the most unpleasantly quiet car ride ever.
I am grateful to his family for being willing to make the drive up there and spend a whole day seeing sights they’ve already seen. If you ever get the chance, I hope you get to go.