Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Pursuing Happiness

Before I took that first step onto the trail that would lead me to the Colorado River, I was carrying a lot of baggage. My pack was heavy.

I really don't like to write (or read) sentimental pieces, so I'll try to keep this one brief. And if you want you can skip the existential musings and go right to the end of this post to see some photos from the trip.

There are things that we all carry around with us that we really shouldn't: emotional baggage, dark stuff that can suck the life out of us if we let it. The day before leaving for Arizona, I received some news that just added to my dangerously heavy pack. I'm more than happy to carry some extra weight in my pack when I know that what I carry will somehow serve me, but this wasn't serving me. At all.

Most of us have some bullshit that we've been hauling around for so long that we've almost gotten used to it. It becomes our 'new normal', and we simply learn to live with it even as it snakes through our well-being and silently erodes our foundation. 

And then when there is a fresh new fallout, we suddenly remember that the old stuff is still there, stuffed deep inside.

Years ago, I made the only New Year's resolution that I would ever really repeat, over and over. It was simple: Be happy.

The hard parts about that resolution are the things I have to do to make it real, like:
1. Jettison chronically unhappy people
2. If that's not possible (i.e. the chronically-unhappy person is related to you) then practice detachment and limit exposure.
3. Figure out - quickly- when something threatens to steal your happiness, and run like hell away from it. 

If this seems like escapism, so be it. If it's immature, well, I'm OK with that, too. We all deal with things in our own way. My way almost always involves immersion into wide open landscapes and beautifully desolate spaces. 

Something about being in a place with so few artificial distractions helps me see things more clearly. That's probably why I love disappearing to the wild places every so often. 

With my fresh clarity and the cold morning Canyon air in my lungs, I decided I was gonna leave all that crazy stuff out on the trail.  The days and months and years of quiet and determined denigration were over as of right now. Those pieces of myself that were lost (given away?) in the days leading me here were just gonna have to stay lost. I didn't need them anymore.

On the third day of this journey, on a precipice off the Bright Angel Trail, I got a sense of the power of the rushing muddy river below me and it felt as though something were being pulled out of me, like ectoplasm, or snot. I know it sounds a little new-agey, but I could almost feel my existential angst being pulled down by the energy from that roaring river, to be dissolved into imperceptible bits and dissipated into the sea. 

It was surreal - almost like a mystical experience if I believed in that sort of thing. More likely a manifestation of my own imagination, but, hey, it was cool.

I'm hoping that this new mindset prevails into the new year, and beyond, and I hope that you can approach the new year with the same sense of lightness. Surround yourself with people you love (and who love you back), spend time doing the things you love to do, in the places you love to do them. Don't waste too much time on those things that suck your energy and steal your happiness. And, if you ever feel your pack growing a little too heavy,  I know what you can do to unload some of that baggage.

Bright Angel Trail

No shortage of drop-dead gorgeous

The mighty Colorado, viewed from the Silver Bridge

Near the Canyon floor

Dave outside of our Phantom Ranch cabin, Christmas Eve 2014

Dave at the Silver Bridge

The trail just below the Plateau

Desert view

The trail flattens out a bit near Indian Garden

Cottonwood, Indian Garden

Bumped into this guy, Iohan Gueorguiev, on our way out of the Canyon on Christmas Day. He's on an amazing adventure. Look him up at

Approaching Indian Garden on the way up

Having a cup of coffee and hat hair!

Me and Dave upon arrival at the South Rim

I carried this down the 12-mile trail in my pack, because it was soooo worth it!

Phantom Ranch cabins decorated for the holidays

Canyon floor ranger residence

Cottonwoods and warm temps at Phantom Ranch

That trail leading to the tip of the Plateau is a fun day-hike (Plateau Point). Our trail veered off to the right, just beyond that green streak that is Indian Garden.

View from our room at Bright Angel, South Rim

Clear Creek Trail, accessible from the North Kaibab trail, offers amazing views of the river.

The Silver Bridge

Sunset on the South Rim

This portion of the Bright Angel Trail out of the Inner Gorge is known as 'The Devil's Corkscrew'

Maple tree, Phantom Ranch

1 comment:

  1. Pam, I always love reading you after you’ve been immersed in the Grand Canyon. Thank you for taking us with you on part of the journey.