Forty miles and four days to peace

River writing

Havasupai Falls is kind of a life trip. That’s what I’ve been calling it. A “life” trip.

I remember the moment that the trip came onto my radar. I remember it clearly. I was sitting at my desk at work, saw a story online about reservations and messaged a friend who goes every year.  I asked if he knew that the tribe had opened reservations online. That it was easier now to secure a spot.

He hadn’t heard. But went right away to make reservations. And then promptly asked if I wanted to go.

I didn’t check the calendar. I didn’t check babysitters. I didn’t check my conscience. I didn’t check anything. I just said yes.

And I’m so glad I did. “Glad” doesn’t even do justice to the emotion I feel about my spontaneity in that moment.

Like, my soul is grateful. Because, I definitely learned a few things from this trip.

I learned that nothing is more honest than the outdoors. And bikinis. And body odor.

Fairy falls

I learned that I can handle a 10-mile hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon…the Grand Friggin’ Canyon…carrying a 40-or-so-pound pack and not die. And then, after hiking around down there for three days, I can hike the 10 miles back out. And, you guessed it, not die.

That’s a big thing. Not dying is huge. Because I still have things to do.

Jurassic Park moment

I learned I have some irrational fears. Like, my biggest fears for the trip included starving, dying (<I mean, that’s a big one), having diarrhea and going to the bathroom outside.

I did not starve. I did not have any gastrointestinal mishaps, thank God. I didn’t die. And I didn’t have to go to the bathroom outside, except once on the hike out. And, it wasn’t horrible.

I learned that I can totally jump off a cliff into a secluded waterfall that spills into a crystal, teal-colored pool. So, it might have taken me an eternity of internal debate, with my toes gripping the edge of a 20-to-25-foot cliff, but I still did it. Okay, I did it only after seeing one of my new friends on the trip jump backwards into the falls. And I know he did it to show me I could.


He was right. The story is way better with me jumping than with me not jumping. But man, as a few of my friends would say, I was SO in my own kitchen on that ledge. Like, so. I had made a gourmet breakfast in my own head – that’s how badly I had psyched myself out on that one.

My legs were trembling. I would count down, and every time I got to two, and bent my knees, I’d back off. Then, I’d tell myself it was just water. It was just water.

But it was like 20 feet down!!  And, I’m a mom.

And then he jumped. So I did, too. Yeah, mom. A friend jumped off a cliff and I did, too. And I have video to prove it – because the photos are NOT flattering.

Another thing I learned: Photos of yourself jumping from a cliff are never good.

I learned how to work a jetboil. Wait, let me clarify. I first learned what a jetboil is, then I watched others use one. But now I know. And, I think I could totally use one. I’m smart.

Oh. This is huge. I learned I could trust someone enough to let them lead me to an underwater cave. What the hell? Who am I? Trust is a shaky thing for me lately, but I just did it. Like, that scene in the Titanic when Jack and Rose have to go under until they find an air bubble?  Yeah. Me. In the cave. Minus Jack. Also, minus me looking like Rose and the presence of a sinking ship. But otherwise, totally the same experience. Breath-wise. Exactly the same when it came to breathing and swimming and general anxiety level. But it was so worth it. Chilly, but totally worth the dare.

waterfall 1

I learned I could totally survive on Indian fry bread tacos, Uncrustables (preferably strawberry) and chocolate-peanut butter protein bars. Like, for a while.

I learned I can sleep outside. Yep. Newsflash: I’ve never camped. So, I did that. And I did it each night without the little canopy that goes over. I mean, you have to see the stars when you’re at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

I learned that $10 water shoes from Wal-Mart are totally money for traversing waterfalls and hiking survivor-style through thick weeds and along rocky cliffs – much to the chagrin of our fearless group leader.  Not naming names, Jason.

Look through

Oh, I learned that I can walk along a cliff, holding myself up, like a ninja warrior. Kind of like a ninja warrior – minus the bulging biceps. But seriously, I surprised myself.

I learned that I can walk for extended periods, hours, in wet socks and be totally fine with that. This is a thing. Some people can’t do wet socks. Or wet sleeves. I now know that I can do wet socks. Wet sleeves are way too dicey.

I learned a new kind of peace, one I haven’t felt in months, one absent of the black noise that generally drowns out any serenity I have found in recent months. I found that down there.

I learned that I can put on a sports bra, while wet and seated, inside a one-person dome tent without saying a single swear word. Right? Not easy. In fact, incredibly difficult.

I learned where the universe keeps a hefty helping of its magic. And I learned where fairies live. I’m totally serious. Fairies live behind the waterfalls down there. Not. Even. Joking. It looks like Neverland. And it feels that way, too. Which can only mean that magic is in ample supply.

Cave peek through

I learned that I am totally comfortable singing in the presence of sweaty strangers. Like, I got no problem with it. At all. I did it all the way out. Pretty much. And, man. That iPod totally carried me out.

That said, I learned I have a solid playlist.

I learned the joy of meeting new people. Of talking in utter darkness. Of wearing headlamps to the bathroom. Of writing on the shore of a raging waterfall. Of getting drinking water from a spigot jutting out from a rock and sucking it through a tube when I’m thirsty. Of the spectacular taste of five Skittles (or maybe 10) when you haven’t had candy in days. Of conquering fears. Of watching others conquer theirs. Of accepting help. Of sore muscles, because it means they worked really hard for you. Of double knots. Of frogs chirping at night.  Of exploring, with no real destination in sight.

Own risk

Of looking up, seeing a canopy of trees tucked between towering faces of age-old rock, sitting beneath a jet black sky and realizing how tiny you are. Because, I am. I’m tiny.

And, my universe may have some big problems, ones you don’t really ever wish on anyone. But, it also includes all of this new knowledge. And all of these memories that are stamped on my soul. And a peace and confidence I welcome, with open arms.

I just got to be me for a few days. In a big world, with heart-stopping waterfalls and quad-busting hikes, and dehydrated food, and pisser little squirrels that ate all my snacks, and a tree stump that literally called my name…and I can’t wait to do it again.

I hope I can. Because I’ll be a different me next time I go.

I already am.