I didn’t think he was serious. I think we were watching Donnie Darko when it came up that I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon. “Let’s go,” he said. (For the record, they all say that. We make tentative plans and then we don’t go.)
Friday night, I left work, went to babysit, and then flew home to shower and pack. By 10pm, we were on the road, headed west. He drove until Vail – where we encountered the full force of the law, so I drove until Moab, where we switched again, and then I promptly fell asleep. When I woke up, it was 7am and we were somewhere in Arizona.
We got to the gates of the park at 8:30. After a quick change of clothes in the parking lot, we went. And for the first time, I saw the Grand Canyon. It was beautiful.
We climbed around on rocks. Neither of us had brought an insane amount of hiking gear, so we stayed near the top and just looked around. Wandered through some ruins. (Not really ruins, more like signs pointing out trees and what things might have been. Underwhelming.)
(We were staring into the sun. Terrible idea. Both of us are squinty and look miserable.)
By noon, the awe surrounding the immensity of the canyon was wearing off and the annoyance caused by fellow tourists was beginning to wear on us, so we decided to bail on the park (and the already purchased camping reservation I’d purchased).
We had lunch. (I’ve been eating salami, cheese, and bread for weeks on end and it still tastes just as good every time.)
I asked that we find water, and he pointed to Lake Powell on the map. So off we went. Driving past the North Rim area of the Grand Canyon as you head toward Page, Arizona is like viewing the Wall in Game of Thrones. It’s amazing. It looms over everything.
We got into the park, wandered around looking for a spot to swim, and landed at a very sandy beach. We crossed a very nasty looking inlet and then hiked through some spiky bushes to an empty sandy beach area. It was empty, and so it became ours.
We decided to camp there, so we hiked back across the muck and got our stuff. And hiked back across the muck and back through the spiky bushes and down to our beach spot.
Swimming and a sunset walk rounded out our evening. We finished off the meat and cheese by the lake and fell asleep just after the sun went down. (I am a little bummed about that – I was looking forward to night swimming.)
I usually don’t fall asleep very well when I’m camping. I’m too jumpy and nervous. As 1:00 am rolled around and I was awake for the fourth time, I finally pulled out Mike’s sleeping bag and threw it over me. Snuggled into that, I fell asleep and stayed asleep. I woke up to an empty tent and a beautiful sunrise (ish).
Britt swam out to that giant rock you saw above, and I nearly had seven heart attacks once I stopped being able to see his head above the water. (I used to be a strong swimmer, but am really out of shape now and couldn’t have gotten out there even if I’d had to.) My consolation was a boat floating near the side of the big rock. In my mind, they’d give him a ride back, and that’s exactly what ended up happening. The boat came directly at me, someone yelled “Man overboard!” and he jumped to swim back to me. I waved, yelled, “Thank you!” and felt my heart start to beat again.
We packed up camp and headed home, but not before getting the car stuck in the deep sand and being towed out by a shirtless man with a cigarette dangling from his lips. “You kids have fun,” he said before climbing back into this truck and heading back to the beach. There was even a shower involved! It was outdoors with no warm water, but it may have been one of the best showers I’ve ever taken. I was so happy to stand in the spray and feel the soap slide down me and drain away into the sand.
The redness of the rock and the blue of the sky reminded me of our road trip through South Africa and made me miss the country. The Native American land that we drove through made my heart ache. Handwritten signs spelling out “Tire Shop” looked just like the ones in the South African townships. If you could replace the tract housing with metal sheets, it could have just as easily been Capricorn or Vryground. Even the roadside markets, with their handmade stalls and hand-painted signs were similar. I could sense the rawness of the whole thing, and I felt simultaneously moved and unmoved. It was interesting. It was the same mix of emotions I felt in Cape Town. Respect for the situation but understanding of the complexities that have made it so. Realization that there can be no swift change, and that the emotions that haunt those involved will not fade for generations to come, if at all.
I drove while he slept. I threw my phone on shuffle and listened to music and just let the road take me. I was happy. Once I started to ache, I pulled over, got food and gas, and then switched spots with him. I didn’t sleep on the way home – he’d brought me his Kindle to read since I mentioned that I wanted to read The Hunger Games. I got engrossed in the book while we still had daylight.
We landed in front of my apartment before 10. I hauled my stuff in and made noodles while Carlos yowled and rubbed against me, apparently surprised to see me return home. Instead of falling asleep immediately, I read a few more chapters of the book and then finally turned out my light.
The weekend was fun. I’m surprised that we traveled so well together and I genuinely enjoyed myself. I was stressed before we left because of my natural pre-trip stress and the fact that I felt like we weren’t communicating well, but as soon as we were on the road that all melted away. This continues to unfold in an interesting way, and I am quite curious to see where it leads.