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Thoughts on the Grand Canyon - the Easy Way

Bighorn Sheep live and breed in the Grand Canyon, Arizona.People will often identify themselves, or not, as "the outdoors type." They are, or at least like to think that they are, athletic, adventurous, on the lookout for the next trail to conquer with their well-booted feet. I did, and still do, put myself in that category. So when I took some decidedly non-outdoorsy visitors on a day-trip to the Grand Canyon this week, I was resigned to having a less-than-satisfying experience. Sure, we'd stand at the rim, take a few snapshots, buy a few postcards. But we certainly wouldn't stray from the flat, paved path along the rim, and that wouldn't really be experiencing the Canyon. I was so wrong, and so happy to be that way.

It inspires reverence like no other man-made holy place I've ever encountered.

The Grand Canyon may well be the most accessible of the world's wonders. At the place in the park where the main lodges are, a carload of people can practically park right at the edge of the South Rim, which is bordered by a wide paved path with excellent interpretive materials and amazing viewpoints along the way. Little kids, grandmothers in wheelchairs and spry teenagers were all in the same place, marveling at the same views, and I have to believe, thinking the same thoughts.

People often say that the Canyon itself defies description, and I'll leave it up to a real poet to try. But what struck me about this trip, when for once I wasn't determined to sweat out another mile, or climb up another rock face, is the way it affects the people who visit. It inspires reverence like no other man-made holy place I've ever encountered. Even at the point in the Rim trail where the ice cream shops, T-shirt stores and various lodging facilities converge, and hundreds of people are milling around, it's oddly, beautifully quiet. Voices are low, people are polite, even warm and friendly to total strangers. While I usually go into the wilderness to get away from people, I found something lovely in sharing that afternoon with a couple hundred others.

At one point, people were pointing excitedly at a Bighorn Sheep, posing on a nearby outcrop, staring into the chasm as if he, too, was in awe of it all. As I watched him, then let my gaze travel up and down cliff walls and across that unbelievable emptiness, I felt an unmistakable, overwhelming, singular sense of love. Not the feelings of humility or smallness that some people talk about when confronted with the hugeness of it all - but love, and the pure and rare understanding of what it was.

So, rather than charging down North Kaibab trail with 40 pounds on my back and ice crampons on my boots, I was sitting on a rock wall on the Rim, kicking my feet over the edge, eating an ice cream cone and literally loving it all. Not a bad day after all, and I highly recommend the experience to trail blazers and couch potatoes alike.

Article by Sarah Horton.

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