While I have taken many, many trips since I first visited the Grand Canyon, it stands out clearly in my mind as if I had just returned last week. Whenever someone visits the United States, it is one of the first recommendations that I offer, aside from the imperative exploration of the San Francisco hills and Pacific Northwest road trips.
Boarding the plane, a feeling of excitement and nervousness overcame me. This would not be just another family trip– after all, I was with my parents flying into Phoenix to see my brother, who was studying in Arizona. This was the first time I would ever fly above the clouds, and doing so would open up the possibilities for travel that no road trip could provide. After the feeling of my stomach rising as it does on the steepest of roller coasters, I was hooked.
Shortly thereafter, we descended into the thick wall of summer heat, and I fell in love. Our itinerary would include visiting Tucson, where my brother lived, the uniquely carved town of Sedona, and of course the Grand Canyon. In the cities, I marveled at the people strolling along at nine in the evening in tank tops and shorts, eating ice cream cones or getting in their daily run. The sun had long fallen, but it was still about 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
The sheer number of succulents in the botanical gardens was mind-boggling, and the towering mountains in the desert reminded me of how trivial my 19-year-old self was. I was in awe of the arid landscape that seemed to expand into a never-ending horizon. But still, I wasn’t satisfied.
After sitting in the car, winding around the mountains like a spin toy, we finally pulled up to the first vista point. Standing before the Grand Canyon, participating in the grandeur of its infinite landscape, was like having a centuries-old secret whispered into my ear. “The beauty of the earth, all it possesses and all it lacks, is right before you.”
The red and brown layers of rock formation, plummeting down just over 6,000 feet magnetized me. It was an experience I can’t describe other than spiritual; something within me ached deeply to be a part of the earth before me. The view was almost too much to witness; it was a calm sensory overload that brought out my desire to not only be in the midst of the Grand Canyon, but to be the earth itself. Never before had I felt this sensation, and would not again until years later in Machu Picchu. I wanted to be a bird flying through the nearly 300-mile expanse of the gorge, soaring around its peaks and plummeting to its rocky depths.
We spent three full days exploring the Grand Canyon, stopping at as many vista points as my dad could handle, hiking through its novice paths, and getting as far inside the ravine as possible by taking a guided tour through the Colorado River, the turquoise waters perfectly juxtaposing the deep red of the rock that towered above us on either side.
At the time, as I prepared to move to Los Angeles, I had fancied myself a city girl in the making, lusting after the charcoal greys of concrete and industry and the vibrancy of nightlife and the poetry of four-walled coffee shops. The Grand Canyon still stands so vividly in my mind I suppose not just because of its prodigious beauty, but also because it reminded me to always embrace nature, to carry that calm and sense of awe with me, no matter where my feet chose to wander.
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*This is a sponsored post, but, like always, opinions, views, and stories are all my own!