The river appears dissatisfied. I have just walked 7 miles down the South Kaibab Trail for another visit with a temperamental artist. Seven miles of panoramas, panoramas revealing a small segment of this masterpiece called the Grand Canyon. The river, not content with its work, continues its relentless search for perfection. It continues to carve and sculpt; slowly improving upon that which no human can improve. The changes are subtle, imperceptible from above, but I know they are real. They must be real. I cannot walk to the rim without knowing the vista before me is more beautiful than the time before. I cannot hike without loving my Canyon more than I loved it before.
The river seems out of place, it does not belong in this desert. I focus, allowing the sound of white water to dictate my experience, moving my thoughts to a cooler place, away from the surrounding desert. Gradually, my eyes regained their dominance; I begin to shift my field of view. White water is replaced by the harsh beauty of the Canyon wall. Searching for the unseen rim, my eyes reach the edge of the inner gorge. Squinting against the desert sun, I know the river does belong, it belongs and it dominates. Through years of relentless persuasion, it has shaped this void. Knowledge of Arizona’s geography tells me I am not standing at the lowest point of this state. The bend in the back of my neck coupled with a monolithic rock wall in front of me makes me feel otherwise. I am standing at the bottom of Arizona. Logic aside, I know my legs, heart and lungs will agree with my assessment long before I reach the rim.
I have hiked the Canyon in rain, snow, heat, and cold. I have hiked the Canyon led by the glow of my flashlight, humbled as the rising sun opened the vast expanse. I have watched it shrink under the subtle illumination of the moon. I have allowed myself the momentary luxury of not caring why. Not caring why a lonely tree sat in silhouette against a red orange sky, not caring why clouds accepted the color of a sunrise, not caring why the skeleton of an old tree still radiated beauty. Not caring why, but grateful, grateful to be part of the experience. I was below the rim.