by Stacy Montaigne AuCoin
David and I had scouted it out the day before, so we knew exactly where the Bright Angel trailhead began on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Months ago, we found it on the topographic maps David purchased for the trip. But within the darkness that permeates the early hour, our surroundings cast quite a different impression now. Shadow enveloped us except for the light that beamed out of the lamps on our foreheads. It was 4:13am. Lighting up the trailhead sign with our headlamps, we took its picture to mark the moment, the place…the beginning. This was it; the beginning of our one-day trek to hike from the south rim to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. We had 24 miles to hike…and thousands of feet of elevation to lose and gain again.
Suddenly, at the ledge overlooking vast darkness, the unknown of what lay ahead felt heavy. We would descend the Grand Canyon in the darkness…following a marked trail, yes, but steep and dark…no street lamps. We were going into rugged territory with cliffs and sheer drops, and the path we followed would get illuminated in 10 foot patches along the way. We were going into the darkness and into the profound silence deep within the earth.
Worries rattled around in my consciousness. Did we have enough water? Would the Park have the water pipes pressurized today so that we could fill up along the way…yesterday they couldn't promise us it would be done? Would my knees hold up? Would we make it to the North Rim before dark to meet up with our cohorts who planned to do the reverse rim to rim trek tomorrow? They needed us to drive their car to make it all work, would we let them down? Would I run out of energy?” “Would our packs be too heavy?” “Did we have enough food?” I watched these thoughts shoot across the bow of my mind. I could feel the potential abrasiveness of these worries, and then I let them pass away in the next few seconds.
Standing there on the rim of the Grand Canyon, I opened myself to the sublime stillness of the moment. I could not deny the canyon's gravitational pull…a magnetic energy drew me in…onward…forward. Suddenly, infused with elation, I couldn’t resist smiling, and playfully I began to skip down the descending trail for a few yards. David and I laughed and I felt so happy for his company.
Inside me I also knew our task was really very simple in this moment. David and I were prepared…and if something challenged us along the way we would address it when and if it occurred. Why worry about something that did not exist. Everything in this moment was perfect…and I allowed myself to relax. The moment my mind quieted, I could feel the elation growing from my very center! We were ready for this plunge into the darkness! For climbing all day! For physical exertion! For focus! For the canyon’s majestic beauty! But more than that—or maybe because of it—the trek seemed to symbolize the leap that David and I have made to come together and begin our work. The faith in ourselves and the faith in our need to follow a path that is our truest expression of whom we are and the purpose that brought us together. This trek honors the difficulty, the beauty, the intention of our life journey…and new passage.
With gratitude and love, dear reader,
Stacy M. AuCoin, LCSW
Stacy is a licensed counselor, poet, speaker, and facilitator of workshops & seminars about meditation and cultivating practices for well-being, and transformation. She earned her MSW in clinical social work from Smith College School For Social Work, in Northampton, MA. Stacy has practiced in Massachusetts; Washington, D.C.; Jackson, Wyoming; and Bozeman, Montana.