Deep Connections - Episode 01: Grand Canyon
Welcome to the crown jewel of my favorite region on the planet. Ris and I are fortunate this mile deep chasm in the Colorado Plateau is just a few hours north of our current home base in Phoenix. Despite the relatively quick, easy and super scenic drive to this national icon, we didn't visit it until about a year after we moved to the Grand Canyon State. It now remains our favorite place to run down and suffer back up.
Ris had first visited the Canyon well before we were married. She was on a trip out West with her dad, exploring the red rock walls and beauty of the high desert region in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. She didn't dip below the rim at the time, so she experienced the beauty the way most tourists do -- which is still amazing --but little did she know what grandeur and bliss awaited after trekking a few miles down the South Kaibab trail.
We are both originally from New York, and we lived and worked for half a decade in the bustling, mountainless tourist trap of Manhattan before heading West. With our taste for crowds having turned a bit sour, we were reluctant to visit the Canyon since we were well aware of the scores of tourists who flocked to the South Rim during peak season. However, a pro trail runner that I know once told me that the best place to run and train is Grand Canyon, so I was confident the experience near the visitor center would be vastly different from a trip down to the Colorado River.
Our first visit was more of a reconnaissance mission, I guess you could say. It was last minute and late in the day, so we went only about a mile down the trail, took in the views and snapped some photos. For a few hours after, I felt underwhelmed and figured that would be one of my few trips to the Canyon, potentially my only one ever as I didn't feel the need to come back. You often hear this from people, and it might explain why so many Arizona natives never go to Grand Canyon even once in their lives.
As we drove back toward Flagstaff during sunset, the impact of the Canyon hit me. Suddenly. I reminisced about its beauty and vastness and decided that I desperately needed to know what it felt like to run down to the river, see the other trails and feel the monolithic walls tower over me.
We returned a couple months later for a hike down the South Kaibab trail to the river, taking Bright Angel back up to the rim. We were spent. We were also incredibly inspired. I remember coming up with the chorus for "Ghost Upstairs" during the beginning of our steep 9-mile climb out of the Canyon.We vowed to return again soon to further familiarize ourself with the place and, hopefully, get a faster time.
We've been back often enough that the South Kaibab trail now feels like home. The Canyon has continued to inspire several of my songs, most notably serving as the key metaphor in the chorus (and album cover) of "Higher Me."
The Canyon is always calling, and we're always ready to answer. As I write this, Ris and I are training to put in a solid Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim effort on the Kaibab. For all the times we've experienced Grand Canyon, we're sure this 42-mile jaunt will challenge us in new ways and teach us new lessons. It's just one of those places in our lives where we pause, look at each other, and say "we've been here before." Lifetimes before. It's good to be back every time.