In October, my son Jason and I hiked the Grand Canyon from rim to rim. Because of the relative remoteness of the Grand Canyon, it takes a bit of planning to prepare for such a hike. So, I flew to Phoenix where Jason lives, and we drove to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon about three-and-a-half hours away. We spent our first night in the campground on the South Rim.
Early the next morning, we parked the car in long-term parking and hopped on a shuttle for the four-and-a-half-hour drive to the North Rim. Once there, we set up camp in a beautiful campsite just 30 feet from the rim of the Grand Canyon! Deer wandered through our camp from time to time and we hiked that afternoon along the rim with its stunning overlooks.
That night we enjoyed a campfire, over which we cooked our meal and watched the sunset over the Rim. It grew dark by about 6:30pm and we sat around the fire talking, staring into the coals and just enjoying the beauty around us. Without any ambient light, the stars were spectacular!
Then, we turned in early, knowing that we’d have a long, hard day ahead of us. We both slept about 10 hours that night, something I hadn’t done in years!
We woke up to a cool, crisp morning. The moon was so bright that we were able to make breakfast and pack up our camp in its light. As dawn approached, we hiked the mile-and-a-half to the Bright Angel trailhead where we started our 14-mile descent to the bottom of the Canyon.
Jason and I were both carrying heavy packs and the trail drops 6,000 feet over that 14 miles. We took our time and savored the amazing beauty of the Canyon all around us. We took a lot of photos, guzzled fresh, cool water and ate snacks from our backpacks when we got hungry.
Sometimes, we talked and other times we simply hiked along, enjoying each other’s company in silence, all the while reverently basking in the experience of it all. Occasionally, we would stop in wonder and praise God for His love and greatness that was so present all around us. We only met other hikers occasionally on our downward trek.
We reached Bright Angel Campground in the bottom of the Grand Canyon mid-afternoon and set up camp along Bright Angel Creek. We were hot and tired after the long hike down into the Canyon as the temperature neared 90 degrees. To cool down, we sat in the cold, clear water of the creek which did wonders to refresh us and soothe the blisters on our feet.
The sensation of pure cool water flowing over you coupled with the calming sounds of the gurgling creek is a sensual delight. Sitting there among the rocks of creek, I felt overwhelmed with joy and peace without a care in the world!
The bright sun and the temperature changes in the Canyon create a phenomenon whereby it can be dead-still at one moment and ten minutes later the wind is blasting through the Canyon, whipping through the boughs of the tall cottonwoods along the creek. From time to time, deer appeared with their young along the banks of the creek.
Jason and I sat around—and did—nothing. We watched, we listened, we felt the warm sun on our skin. We’d walk down to the creek and cool off again. At one point we were entertained by a raven robbing food that another camper had left unattended. From time to time we spoke with other hikers with whom we found a unique camaraderie. Jason and I talked and often just sat silently soaking in the peaceful surroundings.
After cooking a hardy meal over a cookstove, we turned in at about 7pm. Hey, we were tired, and it had been dark for a while already. Due to the warmth at the bottom of the Canyon and no sign of rain, we left the tent fly off. This gave us a skylight view of the stars as we lay on our backs. It had been a long time since I had been able to see the Milky Way so brightly!
Off and on all night, we experienced that toggle between rushing wind and calm. Far from disturbing, it was all part of the wonder.
The next morning, we awoke early and moved around the campsite flooded in moonlight. We took our time getting ready for the day and enjoyed a nourishing breakfast. We decided to take it easy that day to give our feet a rest. But we hiked a few miles taking in the loop that crosses the Colorado River over the Bright Angel and the Kaibab Trail bridges. We were in awe over the mighty Colorado River as it winds its way hundreds of miles through the Grand Canyon.
Back in camp, we spent the day simply enjoying our surroundings—watching, listening, talking some, enjoying each other’s company, and often being silent.
The next morning, we packed up our camp in the light of the moon, ate a cold breakfast, and began the 10-mile trek out of the Canyon in the dark. It’s a 5,000-foot-elevation gain out of the Grand Canyon up the Bright Angel Trail to the South Rim.
Five hours later, we found ourselves at Grand Canyon Village bustling with fall visitors.
Now, I realize that a hike like that is not everyone’s idea of fun and relaxation. So here’s what I meant by the title of this posting: How long has it been since you’ve simply taken time to relax, enjoy the out-of-doors and perhaps the company of someone you love? …Without entertainments, gadgets, media, or cell phones… just pure rest.
Jason and I both felt like this experience helped us recalibrate and renew. We had both missed our wives and longed to share the experience with them. Coming back into civilization made us more aware of those around us. We also felt more alert to the many things that distract us from relationship with God and others.
In Mark 6:30-31 we read, “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”
Christmas is a wonderful time of year. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to spend precious time with loved ones. But when the holiday frenzy is over, take time with Jesus as He says to you, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”