Every morning I walk past a framed print in my hallway that says, “Collect Moments, Not Things.” I purchased the print because it highlights the importance of time and how we choose to spend it. In order to not get distracted by lesser things, I’ve asked God to help me be more intentional about what I’m investing in. He’s proven to be such a good guide that I took it a step further and asked Him to write my bucket list. I figured since He was the one who created me, He would be able to come up with far greater adventures, goals, and causes worth pursuing for my life than I could. By praying this, I also understood that I had to be willing to step outside of my comfort zone and say yes when opportunities presented themselves.
You see, I know my friend well, and her definition of “visit” would mean something much different than how the average visitor to the Grand Canyon would interpret it. Her visit meant hiking from the North Rim to the South Rim in one day. She had completed this epic adventure the year before with a group of friends and was so moved by the experience that she was eager to do it again.
The Rim to Rim hike begins at the North Rim where you descend 14.3 miles to the bottom of the canyon before climbing 9.6 miles back out again to the South Rim.
Saying yes to her invitation would mean almost 24 miles of visiting the Grand Canyon up close and personal. To see the beauty both above and below the rim, we would have to be willing to work hard for it – less than 1% of the 6 million annual visitors attempt the rim to rim hike each year – let alone in one day!
Since taking the path of most resistance is the preferred route for the majority of my adventure-seeking friends, I wasn’t surprised she wanted to repeat this challenge.
PROCEED AS IF SUCCESS WERE INEVITABLE
After much planning, preparation and training, the big day finally came. My husband Jason and I, along with Chimene, her husband Arnold, and our friend, Howard stood at top of the North Kaibab Trail, both nervous and excited about descending into the canyon.
We were told the day before that the water sources along the trail were shut off due to a pipeline that broke. If we chose to continue with our plan, we would have to use water from streams and the river. Each of us had water purification straws and iodine tablets so we unanimously made the decision to proceed as if success were inevitable!
The low moments serve a purpose because they allow us to experience greater highs.
That being said, the first step we needed to take in order to be successful was to ask the Creator of the Grand Canyon to guide and protect us. Hand in hand, we bowed our heads as Arnold prayed a beautiful prayer asking for God’s favor, protection, good weather conditions, and for the pipeline to be repaired, all of which I was in complete agreement with, then he added, “and if there’s anyone who needs our help, use us to be Your hands and feet.” Both Arnold and Chimene are doctors who always seem to be in the right place at the right time when needed. Having this empirical data, I selfishly thought, oh great, we’re going to end up carrying someone out of this canyon!
GOOD JOB, GOD!
We started our hike in the dark which enabled us to witness the sun as it began to rise over the canyon. I couldn’t help but think, good job, God! You’re such an artist! We had a cloud covering for most of the morning giving us favorable weather, and miraculously the pipeline was repaired so we didn’t have to worry about our water supply! God was answering each and every one of our prayers.
ENDURE AND PREVAIL
However, we knew that in order to be successful and complete our hike, we would have to endure and prevail against our temporary, negative emotions.
Looking back, I realize the low moments served a purpose because it allowed us to experience greater highs. For example, the slight anxiety we experienced as we began the dark descent was quickly replaced by the wonder of the sunlit canyon. Our fatigued legs were refreshed when we sat in the cool water of the Colorado river, and even the sting of blistered feet couldn’t replace the happiness felt when a much needed rain shower provided relief from the hot afternoon sun.
I now understood why Chimene wanted to come back and experience the Grand Canyon again. The physical, emotional and mental challenges presented to us proved that we were not merely existing but fully alive. The beauty we got to experience was earned; which it made it extra special.
HOW MUCH FURTHER?
As we were climbing out of the canyon, the incline became greater as we maneuvered the never-ending switchbacks on our journey to the top. The closer we got to our destination the more we began seeing day hikers and tourists on the trail. We only had a half-mile to go when we noticed a tired couple sitting on a rock. From the expression on the woman’s face, the blisters on her feet and how she sat facing away from the man next to her, it was clear that she wasn’t happy.
Exasperation and defeat characterized the man’s demeanor as he sat with all of their gear stacked in front of him: hiking poles, water bottles and both his and her backpack. I’m speculating, but if I were to guess, the woman had had enough and was done hiking for the day! She may have been persuaded to hike the “easy” four miles down to Indian Garden for a nice, little day hike. What the man probably didn’t consider was the four mile climb back up. Problems arise for the ill-prepared if they aren’t used to climbing up steep inclines in the heat of the Grand Canyon sun. Unfortunately, they found out the hard way that there isn’t a shuttle to drag weary travelers back to the top.
The physical, emotional and mental challenges presented to us prove that we were not merely existing but fully alive.
As our group tried to pass by them on the trail, the woman cried, “how much further to the top?” Trying to encourage her I said, “not much further, you only have a half of a mile to go!” She wasn’t encouraged.
With a look of desperation on her face, she mumbled, “I can’t do it. I can’t take one step further.”
It was then that we noticed the clothes she chose to wear for the day. A hat that proclaimed,
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” to go along with a USMC shirt that said, The Few. The Proud. The Marines. My husband, being a former Marine, smiled and said, “Hey, your tough! You’re shirt proves it.”
“It’s not mine, it’s my son’s!” was her agitated and quick response.
Mind you, the man next to her, who I’m assuming was her husband, wasn’t saying a word. Who knows how long they had been there or how long he’d tried to get her moving. It was going to be dark within the hour so they needed to start hiking soon but she was having none of it.
Having been in similar situations in my life, I felt compassion for this physically and mentally fatigued woman who falsely believed that giving up seemed to be her only answer. I pointed out what her hat said and gently reminded her that it was true. She could do all things because it wasn’t her strength that she was putting her trust in but the strength of Jesus.
A joy shared is twice as great and a burden shared is half as heavy.
Then I prayed for her and encouraged her to start walking in faith, believing that Jesus would loan her His strength to get her to the top. Ironically, as I was encouraging her, I realized I needed the reminder as much as she did! After being on my feet for over thirteen hours, I physically felt her pain!
As she slowly began to stand up, I don’t know whose prayer was answered, the man or the woman’s! Seeing a hint of doubt in her eyes, I suggested that she repeat Psalm 18:1 to help her persevere as she climbed the mountain, “I love You, O LORD, my strength.”
I was able to give her this advice because I’ve had to practice it many times over the years. Both myself and everyone in my group have completed many endurance events and races, to include full Ironman Triathlons. We know the best way to complete a 140.6 mile event is to break the race down into small victories.
For example, during the swim portion of an Ironman triathlon, I don’t think about how far I need to go but instead I focus on just getting to the next buoy and then the next… until I’m out of the water. This same exercise on breaking the event down into manageable steps is repeated on both the bike and run portion of the race until I cross the finish line.
Jason, having this knowledge as well, pointed out that she just needed to get to the next boulder about 25 yards away where she could sit, regroup, and then start again. The idea of just going from boulder to boulder must have resonated with her and her previous look of defeat began to transform into a look of hope.
We said our goodbyes and continued our hike to the top that was so close and so far away at the same time! Our screaming feet and aching muscles were relieved for a few moments when we turned around to see that our weary friends, hand in hand, had made it to the first boulder, and were about to start making their way to the next rock. They were on their way to the top where they could rejoice and feel the joy that comes from resting in hard fought accomplishments.
As our group reached the top of the canyon, we turned to see the magnificent view and witness with our own eyes, how far we’d come. I’ve learned that a joy shared is twice as great and a burden shared is half as heavy. Our joy was multiplied because we accomplished this strenuous undertaking together and by choosing to stop and help our fellow hikers, all of our burdens were lightened.
That evening as I reflected on this bucket list accomplishment I couldn’t help but smile. Hiking the Grand Canyon allowed me to see God in so many ways – His creativeness, His power, His strength and His love for all of HIs children. He pushes us outside of our comfort zones in order to refine us, make us stronger and build our faith. He is a gracious God who hears our prayers – He answered every single prayer that Arnold asked for– even the one that I was worried about! I laughed when I realized that even though we didn’t have to physically carry injured hikers out of the canyon, by being in the right place at the right time, God used our words to lift and carry them. A moment that turned into a beautiful memory and a lesson demonstrating the power of encouragement and prayer.
FIND YOUR CANYON AND PRACTICE, “YES I CAN”
So what’s on your bucket list? If you choose to step out of your comfort zone and allow God to write it for you (which means doing what He calls you to do), you will experience firsthand that faith truly is a Fantastic Adventure In Trusting Him.
LINK TO A CANYON NEAR YOU
https://www.alltrails.com – Search over 100,000 trails with trail info, maps, detailed reviews, and photos curated by millions of hikers, campers, and nature lovers like you.
https://www.backpacker.com/trips – Your dream backpacking trips are waiting for you. Find and explore new hiking trails and backpacking routes across the country with advice, adventure travel stories, topo maps, photography, and more from the experts at Backpacker.