I flew over the Grand Canyon recently (the photo above is from that trip, a commercial flight at about 30,000 feet), which reminded me of my love for that spot on the planet. Although it's been years since I've visited, I still think of it a lot. Many years ago I become a life member of what was then called the Grand Canyon Natural History Association, but which is now called simply Grand Canyon Association. It was a bargain, since they don't even offer a life membership any more.
My love affair with the Grand Canyon began with a road trip my family took when I was probably not even a teenager. Years later I fed my passion with many backpacking trips that eventually took me to nearly all of the unmaintained trails as a young adult.
When I was 21 I trained as a river guide with O.A.R.S. in Angels Camp, California. Within six months of my first trip down any river I was rowing my own boat down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Since it was a 30-day private trip (which are not allowed any more), I had to quit my job to go, which I did without hesitation. It was an insane thing to do on several counts, but I was young and in love. After that first trip I went down every year for the next six, usually leading a private trip.
The Canyon is where I proposed to my wife, with whom I will soon celebrate 23 years of marriage (beside Thunder River on the anniversary of our first kiss). The Canyon is where I almost died. Several times. The Canyon is where I learned many lessons I carry with me to this day. The Canyon is where I honed a self-reliance that forms my inner core of strength. The Canyon is where I learned that the wonder of our world and the universe of which it is a part is all the spirituality I need.
As river guides, we called it simply "The Grand". But as a backpacker I first called my love "The Canyon," which it will forever be to me. In my heart, at least, there could really only ever be one.