I love the Grand Canyon. I grew up in Arizona and hiked all the way down to the bottom three times and camped out twice: once at the base of Havasu Falls and once near Phantom Ranch off Bright Angel Trail. My Dad took me on those hikes when he was the Scoutmaster of a Boy Scout Troop, so it seemed perfectly natural that, decades later, I took my own son on a two week river raft adventure that brought us all the way through the canyon on the mighty Colorado. You could say I have a lifelong familial connection with the Canyon, which is why I was thrilled to go back and see it one more time last March when there was a bit of snow on the ground.
Of course, I don’t have 13 year-old legs anymore, and want to live a few more years, so hiking two vertical miles in a single day (down and back up) is out of the question for me these days. And while I could enjoy camping out under the stars on some soft cool sand after cooking my own dinner at the end of a long day of hiking, my wife is more interested in taking a leisurely stroll along the Rim Trail for a few hours before relaxing in the lounge at the iconic El Tovar Hotel , which is where we stayed. IOW, I have become soft.
A lot of very good authors have written about this landmark, so I won’t pretend to be an expert tour guide. I will simply observe, as I have before, that I think one of the best reasons to preserve our natural environment is not merely because conservation is a noble endeavor; no, it is because places like the Grand Canyon are perhaps the last classrooms on earth in which our children can learn undeniable truths unsullied by the pretenses and delusions of modernity. Indeed, given the trajectory of our culture, in which groupthink and virtue signaling take precedence over reason and logic, the only reality that the next generation may ever be exposed to is in the natural world.
Once you see a hawk swoop down to attack and eat an unsuspecting rabbit, a lone bison bull struggling to find a few blades of grass under a blanket of snow in a blinding blizzard, or simply observe the way a colony of prairie dogs survives only because every member in the group is vigilant-you realize that the world we inhabit is uncompromising, and, at times, cruel, and it doesn’t care at all that you had an unhappy childhood, let alone which victim group you belong to. There are no multiple choices, second chances, doublespeak, or media-generated happy horse shit that can conceal the terrifying reality that underlies all natural-and, by extension, human- existence: that we all must do our best simply to survive in a temporal life that is both precarious and fragile. Everything else is just bullocks, and understanding that is key to knowing that the most important thing to do during our short time here on earth is to prepare for what comes next.
What I love the most about the Grand Canyon is that it’s still there, and it hasn’t changed. Long after I’m gone, it will still be there for future generations, God willing, and in an ever-changing world, that is a great comfort to me. It is beautiful, yes. Grand…certainly. But its real value is in the realization that, while it has been there for a few billion years, my own life is like that of a gnat in comparison. I’d best make the most of it while I can. You should too.