Blog / Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Ellie and I have a love affair with Arizona. We went there a few years back after we had been dating for about a year because it seemed like a good place to go in the middle of January. It was and we fell in love with it but we hadn’t been back since. Whenever we found out a friend was going to Arizona, we did our best to convince them of all the places they needed to visit while they were there because they needed to love it as much as we do.

So when my mom asked if we wanted to go to Arizona for my great-aunt’s 90th birthday party, we quickly said yes. An excuse to go to Arizona was all we needed and I was excited for Ellie to meet Auntie Dutch.

Her birthday party was a surprise and it was held in a local park. When she arrived, nearly 100 friends and family were waiting for her. It was a beautiful day for a woman who truly deserved it. We spent the day in the park, wandering around and admiring its beauty while also meeting relatives I’ve only heard about until then and catching up with the ones I knew.

Arizona Family Photo
Kids, Grand-kids, Nieces, Nephews

The party was the reason to go to Arizona, but we stayed for the scenery. When you live in Wisconsin, any place that doesn’t have relatively flat land is beautiful. Arizona certainly doesn’t have flat land. Mountains. Lots of mountains.

One of the days we were there, we took a trip up to the Grand Canyon. We had been there the last time we were in Arizona but it was January and cold because apparently the Grand Canyon is up at the top of the mountains. Who knew? We didn’t so we mostly looked around that first time and didn’t want to brave the icy trail down into the canyon. This time, however, we were more prepared and the ground and temperature were more welcoming. We decided to hike the South Kaibab Trail down into the canyon, just as far as we felt we could go (Ellie and I have different ideas about what that means, it turns out).

The Grand Canyon Ridge

Hiking into the Grand Canyon has an effect on me that I haven’t really experienced anywhere else. It clears my head like no other. Standing at the ridge of the canyon, I was acutely aware of the pains in my back lingering from the week before when I had a back spasm that put me on the couch for a few days. At the same time, I was worried how we were going to to pay for the new engine my car was prescribed if I ever wanted to drive it again. Stress and pain seemed all consuming looking out at the vastness of the big hole in the ground. But as I stepped down into the canyon, that stress and pain left me. It left my mind. 

I would not say I have a fear of heights. I can calmly be up high and look out at the world below me as long as the conditions are right. I would say I have a fear of falling. As I approach tall bridges in my car, I think about how one small slip-up would send me careening over the side of the bridge to my doom. I visualize it and often think about how that visualization while I’m driving over a bridge is likely what would cause me to drive over the edge of a bridge. So yeah, I have this fear of falling and the Grand Canyon isn’t accommodating. There are no railings once you get down onto the trail. Nothing to hold on to but the wondrous nature. And that terrifies me but it’s that terror that clears my head. It becomes all consumuming and all of my other problems are put into perspective.

There was one point towards the point where we turned back where the trail went out to a point and then doubled back on itself and for maybe ten yards or so, there is absolutely nothing to hold onto be the ground below your feet. Openness surrounds you. It’s at that moment that the wind picks up and the swallows start swooping past your head. And if you’re me, you think about how this is the end. And if you’re Ellie, you’re hopping up onto the edge to get a better view. 

From the furthest we went into the Canyon on the South Kaibab Trail

It was a sobering experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

The day after, we went to Sedona to see one of the other naturally beautiful parks in the state, Slide Rock. If ever you’re in the area, you need to experience Slide Rock. It’s a canyon of its own but has the added benefit of water running through it and you can swim in the water. Again, the last time we were in Arizona, it was too cold to go swimming but it was still beautiful. This time, we came prepared to swim. It’s called Slide Rock, I think, because the path of the river cuts through the rock in the ground and you can literally slide down the rocks like a natural water slide. Even though the water was so cold, it was so much fun. In what felt like a half hour, we ended up spending over two hours playing in the water.

It had the added benefit of me not fearing for my life. So there’s that.

Our trips to Arizona always feel like they’re cut short. There were hundreds of other things we wanted to see but we didn’t have the time to see them all. I’m guessing sometime in our future we’ll be back in Arizona and we will be able to check more off our list.

With the birthday girl

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