"Oh, where the Grand Canyon is?"
"Ohhhh the Grand Canyon! How beautiful!"
"Do you live near/in/on the Grand Canyon?"
Allow me to save you the trouble of getting on Google Maps yourself by showing you where exactly the Grand Canyon is in relation to the state of Colorado.
Now do you see why it was confusing to me that those were the consistent responses I received? Me too.
Okay, so they weren't familiar with the United States, much less Colorado, and that's fair. I couldn't pick out an Argentine land mark before I went there, nor could I hardly name one. I assume that they assumed that because the Colorado RIVER is what helped form the grand Canyon. So close Argentina but no cigar.
Now to the part where I almost died.
Recently, in the last 5 years or so, my family has decided that family vacations are not about relaxation. They are about physical and mental feats that we all need to accomplish together. This was the first of those endeavors.
Dad decided that we should hike the Grand Canyon the way hardcore people, which we are, do it: rim-to-rim. That means you start at one rim of the Grand Canyon and then hike down into the canyon, across the bottom, and back up the other side.
The beginning of the hike was so fun! Watching the sun come up over those ridges was a truly extraordinary sight. The Grand Canyon walls lit by the sunrise is a sight everyone should see and be able to appreciate in their lifetime.
After that the hiking was going really well. Obviously down is easier than up. It was so fun to hike across the bottom and see how massive and beautiful the Grand Canyon is.
About half way across the bottom it was nearing noon and the temperature was rising. Everyone will tell you that I didn't drink enough water and I also didn't eat enough calories. Well, to that I say, pfft, probably...not...maybe.
I was getting extremely tired. I've been tired like this before. So obviously I was still thinking "I got this." Which should have been my first sign of exhaustion-induced delusion: not using proper grammar.
The night before the hike we had a discussion, while we were carbo-loading, about what happens if you can't make it out of the Grand Canyon. Here's the deal, they can't get ambulances down there to rescue people from their death. They have to fly the helicopter in and airlift you out, or you die.
I add that interjection so that you know exactly what I was thinking about through the second half of the bottom of the canyon. The helicopter. That's what I was thinking about. And thinking it would be worth the thousands dollars I would have to eventually pay for that helicopter. Worth it. Just like those rich people that pay boatloads of money for small conveniences like getting yourself somewhere an hour away by car in less than ten minutes because "ain't nobody got time for that." Except I was thinking "ain't nobody got to feel this pain."
Right about this time was when we started the ascent up the other side of the canyon, the other "rim" if you will. I began trucking upward slowly, stopping frequently. Thankfully, I have the best siblings and the greatest Dad who are beyond patient with me and my antics. I guess this was an antic of mine, being slow, tired and exhausted. My Dad stopped with me every time I stopped and constantly encouraged me and made me feel capable. Much like he has done for my entire life. Thank you, Dad.
My sibs made appropriate jokes about how weak I was and then promptly encouraged me. At some point I was counting steps between stops trying to push myself as hard as I could. I'm sure the highest count was somewhere between 10 and 12. My legs were wobbly, beyond weak and empty. The rest of my body was numb from being in so much pain for such an extended amount of time. I thought several times in the last few hours that I might at the very least pass out and at the more likely actually die in this canyon. And I accepted it. I welcomed the possibility of death or at least unconsciousness just so I wouldn't have to feel the way I was feeling.
The rest of my family pressed on ahead the last half mile--I didn't know at the time it was the last half mile--and I began to stop more frequently, taking about 3 to 4 steps between breaks. Honestly, I wanted to stop altogether and wait for someone to come down and rescue me. I couldn't move anymore. Leaning on a tree, I doubled over.
I mustered what strength I had left just to lift my head and attempt to comprehend the rest of the way to the top of the canyon. And there was my mother coming down the path to rescue me. I started to sob. That was all I could do was break down. I started to whimper thinking she might be able to hear me. Over and over again I told her I was too weak and that I couldn't make it the rest of the way. She kept telling me that we were so close to the top and that I could make it. She held my hand the rest of the way while I sobbed to the top of the canyon rim. She was my helicopter out of there.
I didn't initially want this to be an emotional post but I guess it was more that than comical, like I thought. Mostly, I just wanted you to know that I came extremely close to death or what I think that feels like and that I'm grateful for a family who pushes me and is patient with me at the same time.