Sweat poured down my face as we passed under an arch. The path was dangerously narrow here and a daring look down the edge showed us a steep seventy-five foot drop hampered only by a couple of shrubs. “Wait for us!” Mom called out from behind. I turned around to make sure my sister was keeping up. She, being the ignorant she sometimes can be, didn’t bring her old sneakers with her. She was wearing her new soccer cleats which I guessed were safe enough but not very comfortable. Turning back around, I steadily descended down the Bright Angel Trail into the depths of the Grand Canyon.
The sun was up in its entirety and lit the entire canyon up. Leaning in against the cliff face, my feet were sore and my face drenched in sweat but I had never seen a sight like it. The red rock opposite us shone out and below we could see groves of startling bright green trees. We were almost at the fool’s bottom, the name I had given the seemingly flat plateau that Indian Gardens rested upon. Foolhardy hikers looked down and thought the trail ended soon. Actually it continued for some five miles. Many people turned back before even getting to Indian Wells. By noon we had trekked to the three-mile rest house. A quick lunch and then we set off for Indian Gardens but not before we were passed by a pack of mules.
It was a quick journey from the rest house to the Gardens and we made good time — it was barely one before we started to turn back. I knew we had barely gone down half way to the bottom of the canyon but it was still satisfying. Back again at the three-mile rest house my sister and I were already tired. It was a grueling and arduous task to climb back up. Still we saw mountain goats and other wildlife. Every step I took felt good like I had really done something. It took us barely three hours to hike down but nearly five to get back up.
Passing under the same arch I had come down, I looked back and saw what we had climbed up. Mom was giving us an encouraging and proud smile. Dad reminded us to drink some water again. My sister made a face to me, showing me she was as fast as me. I must have been too tired to feel annoyed by her teasing. It actually made me feel happy, and proud. It was nearing six and a haze was settling in. The sun, dimmed by this, made the canyon all the more spectacular.
A little past six we were back up and watching the sunset disappearing from these dry lands. My sister was back with her normal self and talking about buying some souvenir again. A young couple asked us how the hike was. Chuckling, they told me I should have taken a helicopter or at least mules. “Oh, the sights that we saw! Descending into the canyon on that helicopter tour was so fun!” Shaking my head, I smiled at them. They thought a helicopter tour was efficient and left them time in the day. Yes, it must be spectacular watching the Canyon from the air. However, I knew better.
The Grand Canyon is not something that can be explored in a few minutes. Even on mules you don’t get everything. The work that you put into hiking down and coming back up is a thousand times more rewarding. Scarifies from your physical labor bring up the best satisfactions. But it’s more than that, it’s the time you spent with your family and encourage each other to continue the difficult journey make the whole thing memorable.
Daway Chou-Ren of Holmdel, New Jersey, won Honorable Mention for this essay.
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