Grand Emotion

Months of reading blogs and websites, researching the environment and geology, understanding park rules and regulations. The research was finished. Though we hadn’t received our backcountry permits in May, we knew there was a day-by-day lottery where we could still receive the permits to camp in the canyon. We woke up with the sun and drove the hour from Jacob Lake to the backcountry permit office at the North Rim. We pulled up to the office shortly before 7 a.m. when I believed it was to open. In reality, it was actually 7:30. It was a crisp morning as the North Rim is a higher elevation and covered in ponderosa pines. Our rental car had seat warmers, so we opted to stay in the car until anyone else showed up. We were prepared for a line, and maybe even waiting for three days before hearing whether we received permits. At exactly 7:30, the door to the ranger station opened and to our surprise, a line never formed outside. We walked in and sat down with one of the kindest, most helpful rangers I’d ever met. He went over our plan with us and even complimented our planning. I beamed pridefully, because outdoor adventures are about the only thing I plan with any detail outside of my job responsibilities. He tapped the keyboard a few times and casually said, “OK, it’s all yours.”

I sat there stunned. That was it? We got our permits on the first day, on the first attempt? My eyes began to tear up, which if you know me, is no real surprise. My friend laughed, and the ranger seemed genuinely happy to give us such good news. 

We finished our reservation, booked the Trans-Canyon shuttle back to the car and then drove to the lodge at the North Rim to explore a bit. I knew the Grand Canyon was on the other side of the lodge, but so far, the park had displayed only meadows of wildflowers and forests of Aspen and Pine trees. I was still riding the high from being awarded our rim-to-rim permits, and I wasn’t at all prepared to see this magnificent natural wonder of the world. We walked through the front doors of the lodge, and I stopped dead in my tracks, whatever sentence I was rambling just hanging. There she was—through a back wall of floor-to-ceiling windows—in all her grandeur. My heart fluttered and my breath caught in the back of my throat.

We walked through the lodge and caught the trail to Bright Angel Point, taking photos at every lookout. I stood there, mystified at her beauty. I whispered prayers of thanksgiving and reminded myself to never forget this feeling. To never forget this sort of beauty exists in the world. I prayed for those walking through hardships and illnesses to have the opportunity to experience this kind of beauty and this kind of peace, whether it’s through Mother Nature or another way.

After my own season of difficulty and anxiety, seeing the ridges and the colors of her canyon walls refreshed a sense of purpose and meaning into my spirit. I had the highest expectations for what I would feel when I saw her with my own eyes, and her beauty surpassed them all. As far as your eye can see, her canyon walls stretch in a sea of oranges and reds and greens and grays. You could almost see the entire rainbow in her lines and her jagged edges.

I imagined how many people stood in this exact spot and were overcome by the emotion of her “grand” beauty. I liked knowing I was in a place forever protected and one that generations before had also experienced. There’s an unspoken communion with the past in a place like the Grand Canyon. Within her canyon walls, the Grand Canyon plays host to every ecosystem found in North America. There’s a reason she’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and I hope to never forget how she made me feel.

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