The Grand Canyon ("GC") has been described as many things by many people: magical, majestic, mystical, magnanimous (to get the "m's" out of the way first), scenic, breathtaking, beautiful, amazing, among others. Journeys through the canyon have also been painted poetic: as a pilgrimage, a spiritual journey, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and, in the words of Runner's World, "the single-most satisfying achievement in domestic trail running."
It may be all of those things. I don't know because I don't think the experience is quantifiable and I don't think it can be captured in a word, a phrase, or a mantra. Running the GC is truly unlike any other experience. Descriptors and phrases are incapable of doing the experience justice, of properly describing its challenges, its rewards, or its hardships.
I emerged from the South Rim via the Bright Angel Trail after 45 miles and almost 12 hours of travel. Exhausted, entirely depleted, hungry, thirsty, ever-so-tired, I lay on the asphalt in the shade -- the first asphalt under me in over half a day besides the sundry sections of asphalt across the many bridges throughout the canyon. It was difficult to fully absorb what had just happened, the enormity of what I had just done, where I had just been, the challenges that I had just faced. Not long thereafter I began to think about how I could capture the experience, what I might write about the experience, how I might describe it to people. I could not figure that out then and, three days later, I still cannot figure it out now. A blogger, or journalist, or writer generally, should always be fearful of saying too much, of saying more than what is true. Feelings, emotions, and experiences are too often fabricated by a writer, or are misremembered and inaccurately described, or are not known truly but are posited as truth.
I think the problem with describing the experience of traveling across the GC -- from the South Rim to the North Rim and back to the South Rim -- in a single day by foot is that one cannot fully appreciate and comprehend all of the feelings, all of the emotions, and all the complexities of the experience. I have told people that it was the most challenging thing that I have ever done and I believe that is true. The feeling of running in the canyon -- at first the open expanse with its multitude of crevasses, then the towering walls with unending layers of colors; the cool breeze at the top and the sweltering heat at the floor; the dirt and the rocks and the views and the lizards and the sudden recognition that you are tiny and helpless and have only one way out -- and the emotions that it evokes -- the excitement, the fear, the worry, the sudden rush of so many feelings at once brought on by fatigue and joy and hunger and sleep depravation -- are very, very difficult to know truly. The feelings emerge and are felt for an instant before other feelings take their place but the internal compass cannot stay focused long for the views of the GC turn one's thoughts outwards and distract the inner happenings of the self; the emotions rush back but fatigue overwhelms them; the fatigue is transcended but thirst and hunger prevail among all the other present feelings; finally you are finished and you try to understand how it all happened and how you did it and how difficult it all was.
And then, with resistance and sadly, you must leave. You drive back to your home or you get on a plane and fly away and you are left with pictures and videos of the experience. And you try to remember how it felt, how it all happened, each turn in the trail, each scenic overlook, all the breathtaking scenery. But it is gone and it cannot be recreated and it cannot be properly explained because it was never fully understood: the emotions and feelings and experience as a whole could not possibly be absorbed when it happened and, at a distance now, none of it can ever be properly absorbed.
You must run the Grand Canyon yourself to understand what it is like to not understand how to explain what it felt like to run the Grand Canyon. No phrase, nor word, nor account of the experience can properly capture what it is like.
|At daybreak soon after the start.|
|The scenic S. Kaibab trail|
|The Canyon, in all it's glory|
|Colors, colors, colors|
|DeNucci and Paul soaking it in|
|The crew (Paul, Chris, Derek, Jason, Mario, and David) taking it in|
|Views from the N. Kaibab Trail|
|Paul cruisin' along|
|Early on with Chris and Mario in tow|
|Nearly finished, taken from the Bright Angel Trail|
|...and Jason, crossin' bridges|