October 17, 2008

"Buck up Little Camper!" -- Part One

We had so much fun in Arizona I could write and write (and maybe I will). I know this story's going to be long so I broke it into two parts. Stop back on Monday for part two.

After years of dreaming we were finally here. My family and I “oohed” and “aahed” along with the hundreds of other sightseers taking in the view. Spread out before us was one of the most amazing sights in the world—the Grand Canyon. Over a billion years of geological history appeared as a breathtaking sculpture. We followed the masses along the South Rim, soaking in sights from different viewpoints, but the sheer grandeur made it impossible to fully comprehend.

By late afternoon the crowds had dispersed. Most of them returned to their tour buses and were on their way to the next stop on their itineraries. They came, they saw, they photographed, they left. We were lucky enough to stay a few days and experience the Canyon more fully. We witnessed the first light of day awaken the slumbering giant; we viewed the setting sun paint the canyon walls; we gazed at the dreamlike vista gently illuminated by moonlight. We even saw elk grazing on the lawn of El Tovar, a coyote sneak out of view, a condor soar below and other desert fauna scurry and flitter about. It was all incredible—especially the view of the canyon from our hotel room!

Of the 5 million annual visitors to the Grand Canyon most arrive at the South Rim and experience its beauty from the many overlooks along the canyon edge. Only about 250,000 descend below the rim and hike the inner canyon. And less than one percent makes it all the way to the river. If the view looking down from the rim is so spectacular, can you imagine what it’s like to stand at the bottom and look up?

My husband was an experienced hiker when we met. To win his approval (and because I considered myself outdoors-y) we backpacked together. Not car camping and hiking with a knapsack mind you, but carrying a fully-loaded backpack up a mountain, to sleep in the wilderness, with no running water or facilities…for fun.

Part way into one of our first trips my foot started to hurt, the weight of the backpack burdened me and I was just plain tired. It was too hard. I wanted to quit and go home. With tears in my eyes I sat down on a rock waiting for the love of my life to rescue this damsel in distress and whisk her off to somewhere more comfortable. Instead, he returned to where I sat, stood right in front of me, gently tapped my chin with his fist and said, “Aw, buck up little camper!”

It was not the response I wanted—at all. Certainly I could have stormed off in a huff, angry I wasn’t coddled as I hoped. But I didn’t. While I wasn’t particularly happy about it, I gathered my inner resources, picked up my gear and continued up the mountain.

That day I learned a valuable lesson that has served me incredibly well over the years. I can do far more than I ever imagined and character is built on the path less traveled.

So when we visited the Grand Canyon there was no question. We were going in. For the sake of our kids (and my no longer twenty-something body) we planned a day hike and not a multi-day trek to the river and back. Starting at the break of day we hit the trail, loaded with food and water. Compared to the views from the rim we were astounded by the ever-changing and dramatic scenery of the inner canyon. Rock layers stratified before eyes. 20,000 years passed with each step.

Inside the canyon we met a community of hikers invisible from the rim. We chatted with fellow day hikers on their way down and overnight hikers on their way up. How long did it take you? Where did you stay? How much further until the next rest stop? We even met fellow Penn State fans! Despite the adamant warnings against it, we met a young guy who was finishing up a one-day round trip to the bottom and back. But most memorable of all was a group of middle-aged women from Iowa. They were close to finishing a rim-to-rim hike that started two days prior. And they were still smiling! I thought to myself, if they can do it, I can too!

Within several hours we reached our destination 4.5 miles below the rim—Indian Gardens. This small oasis of cottonwood trees, fed by an underground stream, was an unexpected lush surprise and a wonderful place to break for lunch.
But, as they say at the Grand Canyon: Hiking down is optional. Hiking up is mandatory. So, after a brief rest we began the journey back to the rim.

To be continued...


Peggy said...

Kelli dear,
Something else we have in common.
When things got rough, my husband always told me to "buck up" and "are we having fun yet?".
Your trip sounds like a great time was had by all, and I'm glad you are sharing with us your adventures.
You are so right that when we need some tender loving care because things are tough, God will always tell us to "buck up", with His powerful words of love, encouragement and strength.
Thanks for part one...and remember Lamentations3:21-22 where God tells us to "buck up" everyday because His love and mercies are new for each of us.
Have a great day.
Blessings and Love.....Peggy

Runner Mom said...

This is so awesome! Can't wait until Monday!

I think your comment of... "I can do far more than I ever imagined and character is built on the path less traveled." really hit home with me! You are so on target! Isn't it amazing the strength and grace that God pours upon us? Love it!

Enjoy your weekend.
Love you!

Cheryl Barker said...

Kelli, I knew you would love it. Can't wait to read part 2!

Anonymous said...

I remember laughing so hard when I first heard the "buck'up little camper" story! I actually said that to someone the other day, lol!


Susan S said...

"Over a billion years of geologic history." Hmmm...What does the Bible say about that?
Just here to make waves!

Glynnis Whitwer said...


Oh - I had no idea you married a man like I did. Before we were married, he convinced me I could hike to the bottom of the canyon with a full pack - and then back up again. And somehow I did it. He still thinks I can do more than I think I can. If left to myself I would still be sitting on the rim. We all need someone in our lives who believes in us like that. (And I try to remember that positive thought when he has me out training for a half marathon) Put that "buck up little camper" story into an article and submit it again. I love it. Just expand on the idea of being capable of more than we think we are.