Moose in the Grand Canyon: Chapter One

One last tug secures my instep crampons; winter’s ice makes them necessary. Our destination is almost one mile below us, just over seven miles by trail. I have been there before; they have not. My eyes move quickly, glancing at the trail, the ice, their equipment, their faces—they are ready. Pausing for a moment, I focus on him. I need no courage to face this challenge; I have done it many times. But I draw strength from his presence, strength from his past. He is stepping into another unknown, an unknown made possible by a given, a bond. An unknown made possible by friendship.

We share a common background, our lives intertwined by a love of aviation and a combined 70 years of flying aircraft. His career was curtailed in 1990 when doctors diagnosed a persistent deadly cancer.

Losing one love, he was sustained by another, a constant in his life. She was with him when he was too sick to talk, when morphine would not control his pain. She was there when he was in remission, and held him when his 6 foot 2 inch body withered to 128 pounds. Her love wrapped his inner strength, holding him close when doubt seeped through his resolve.

His life, now a series of unknowns as he moves through experimental treatments, is defined by the way he confronts adversity, by his ability to defy medical predictions. It is defined by his words, “probabilities are not the same as possibilities.”

Through him, through his battle, I have learned that I do not understand pain but I came to understand courage. I have broadened my understanding of strength, integrity, optimism and determination. “Hero” has moved beyond written definition.

My Canyon experiences fed his imagination; my hikes became part of our friendship. I never set foot on the trail without praying for success in his struggle for life. I never hiked without discussing the journey with him.

His optimism, his way of making the improbable happen, made this hike possible. While not cancer-free, he has gained enough strength to experience a small slice of this fissure. He is strong enough to walk in the Canyon.

Stepping from the rim to the ice of the South Kaibab Trail, Moose accepts a gift. For the next three days reality will reshape years of imagination, possibility will triumph over probability. He will live in the Canyon.

Mike Bennett–Moose lost his battle with cancer February 3, 2009

4 thoughts on “Moose in the Grand Canyon: Chapter One

  1. These comments were made by Moose before he lost his battle with cancer. Used with permission.

    You did it again! Both Allene and I needed a serious makeup job as we read through the “finished” product. I cannot express in words how moved we were by the application of your gifts to this very personal piece. Somehow you capture almost a lifetime in less than a page. You capture both the depth of emotion and the joy of living in this story of the canyon and its interlopers. In the process you capture a love that fills my life with gratitude and joy. Thank you for your grandly exaggerated description of my traits. I hope some day to live up to them. You are a gifted friend for whom I shall always be grateful.

    Cheers and Thanks Moose


  2. Mike,

    We are all very fortunate that you share your remarkable talents with us. What you have captured about Moose and the Canyon is perhaps just a glimpse of the courage and beauty they behold. But that glimpse is worth 1,000,000 more words because it came from the soul and provides us with good memories, hope, joy, and sadness – all parts of the canyon of life that we explore, sometimes on our own and sometimes with others. The awe of nature and Moose’s gifts are passed along to us through your gifts and true friendship. All of us are better and more brave because of them.



    Liked by 1 person

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