Friday, January 02, 2009

Feeling Alive

January one's alarm was set for 4 AM and clothes were laid out as insurance to start early. I wanted to be near the head of the line; partially to get done early but mostly to increase my odds of success.

We arrived at the Grand Canyon's Back Country Office about 6:45. The temperature was in the teens and the sky was dark but I saw about ten people in line waiting for the doors to open at 8. We joined the group. The young lady in front of us had driven from Tucson, a distance of about 345 miles. The two young men in front of her had come farther. At 4 PM on the previous day they left Amarillo, Texas after work and got to the Canyon about 3 AM -- 695 miles. For two years they had been trying without success to get a permit by faxing a request knowing a mailed request was hopeless.

What causes so many people to lose sleep, drive so far, wait in the cold and stand for hours?

In part I think it's a reaction to the artificial world in which we live. Insulated from heat and cold, fed with industrial products, entertained by broadcast fantasy, bathed daily with scented soaps, living but not feeling alive. Knowing something is wrong, that something is missing, we've been taught to look for the next purchase to touch our senses and remove some inner need. In the end in seems and feels vain and useless.

We stood with a group that milled about, shifted from foot to foot, pulled zippers tighter and adjusted collars with a sense of excitement. Talking, joking, laughing. No impatience, no short tempers. The wait, the anticipation, the stories exchanged are part of the adventure. It was interesting to hear stores of previous treks where hardships were remembered with joy. The heat, blisters and muscle pains had been transformed into minor things that are part of living and feeling alive.

Julie and I got a permit for a five day backpacking trip in May. We going to hike about 50 miles to see the highest waterfall in the canyon that may be only a trickle at that time. There's enough snow on the North Rim that our chances are good for a large falls but it doesn't matter. We'll see wild flowers in bloom, encounter animals, gaze at beautiful panoramas, feel the breeze on perspiration soaked clothes and look for shady spots to rest aging muscles. I'll feel alive and thankful. That's enough for me.


Blogger Alex Pendragon said...

All I have is a hot, humid, chigger infested, tangled pine tree forest with no charactor whatsoever. I miss my hikes up the Chugiac mountains in Alaska.

1/02/2009 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Hodgens said...

Re: "I'll feel alive and thankful. That's enough for me."

In the morning, when I first get outside, my first prayer is: "I give thanks for this gift of life."

But the "feeling alive" part you mention is what really perks it up.

Our bodies and brains were not made for cubicles and walls...

I remember reading once that the brain "lights up" (think spect scans) in the cold. I doubt if it does in a sauna. Maybe in the cold it is the sense of being close to the alarm and alert reaction, but not quite fully there?

1/10/2009 03:41:00 PM  

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