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November 16, 2011

The Grand Canyon…Summit Style

The Grand Canyon…Summit Style

At 5:45 I walked out of my room, sleep still in my eyes, backpack on my shoulder with clothes and two books packed, hoping that I had enough warm clothes for our overnight trip to the Grand Canyon. As we loaded up the vans, guys in one, ladies in the other, we realized there wasn't enough room in the guy's van, so I got to ride in the ladies van sitting shotgun. We drove out, and I got to see a beautiful sunrise, the clouds changing colors from a pale grey to a brilliant pink. 


The first leg of the trip ended in Durango for a much-anticipated Starbucks visit. There wasn't much talk in the van; the girls in the back were sleeping and Marcie (the mentor) and I were taking in the beauty that Colorado has to offer with the snow covered mountains and trees. Everything was absolutely beautiful. At Starbucks, we hopped out, stretched our legs, and crowded into the store. Some grabbed coffee, others took their one chance to use internet for the week. 


Getting back into the van was a challenge, as everyone moved from one van to another, trying to find the best person to sit with for the next leg. We didn’t get very far before we had to make other stop, this time a Walmart run for an iPod transmitter so we could have music on the road. Matt S. ran to find the device while the rest of us, noticing that the vans had enough snow for a good snowball fight, took our opportunity. Matt burst out of the store in a full sprint and made it back to the van in six minutes (yes we timed him). Snowball fight was over and we sprinted for the van too; time to hit the road again. 


We made a few more stops for lunch, snacks, drinks, the usual stuff. At each stop there was mass confusion as people again rotated seats and changed vans. There was more sleeping, singing along with music and for a few a minutes, we actually got in some much-needed reading. Our current book was Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult, by our incoming professor, J.P. Moreland. When we finally arrived at the Grand Canyon, we drove to our campground, catching glimpses of the canyon now and then, and wondering if we would be able to hike down into the canyon. There was snow everywhere which we knew would make camping interesting.  When our camp was well up, we set off to admire the Grand Canyon. 


Somewhere along the way. we got very lost. Now, I know what you are thinking. How can you not find the Grand Canyon? Well, it can happen if you are accidently following a road that leads away from it. After an hour of wandering, we finally made it to an overlook of the canyon. Breathtaking. Looking out into this expanse was incredible, seeing the different colors of the rocks in the cliffs and the clouds slowly moving through the canyon while it was snowing. Adventure was to come. Sarah D. dropped one of her gloves over a ledge and it landed about twenty feet below. After we spent several minutes attempting to catch it with a rope, Koert (mentor) dropped down to grab it. He had to tie a rope around himself so that he could get out as a few guys pulled from above. After that little incident we all decided it was best to go back to camp before something (or someone) else went over the edge. 


We made it back to camp just as it was going dark, lit a fire to get warm and ate macaroni salad for dinner. S'mores and hot chocolate followed, with everyone cuddling close to keep warm. Right in the midst of our telling stories, singing, and just laughing, it began to snow. Cold, but it was a great time. The next morning, a group of us left at 5:30 to go hiking in the canyon, another group left a little later to see the sunrise, and the rest stayed in tents to keep warm as we had used up all the wood during the night. At eight it was time to break down camp, pack up, and really explore the landmark we had come to see. 


We drove around in the snow for a while, but we couldn’t see much of the canyon because the clouds were so thick. I talked three other people into going for a canyon hike. Water bottles filled, we started our descent. At first, we were unsure how the condition of the trail was going to be with all the snow from the night before, but as we walked deeper into the canyon, we got below the clouds and our view steadily got better. I can’t put what I saw into words, and a picture can’t capture the beauty. The rock formations were covered with snow and the deeper we got, the less snow there was until there was no snow in the Indian Garden another thousand feet or so below us. We had to turn back so that we could get back to the vans in decent time to leave, but the beauty stayed in our minds. 


When we got back to the trailhead it was snowing, so we headed for the main lodge where the vans were waiting. As we drove off, we described the view to the others, and settled in for a long afternoon of jokes, laughter, and sleep. I made a bed out of backpacks and blankets between the seats and windows and relaxed there for most of the trip home. 


But there was one last challenge waiting for us before we could make it to our beds. When we drove up to Snow Wolf Lodge (home sweet home), the main road was plowed but not the road on the property. We got half way up the drive before the van lost traction and slipped to a stop. The guys jumped out to push the van up the slope, but it was just too steep of a hill. So Nathan, the caretaker of the property, hooked us to his truck and pulled. After one of his tire chains fell off, it took all of us guys pushing to get the van up that hill. Of course, the second van slipped too. Adventures never end. But somehow it seemed appropriate that after our long weekend of adventurous mishaps - getting lost, gloves pushed off the edge, a very snowy night of camping, and no fire in the morning - we would have one more challenge to overcome. In the end, it made us an even closer family here with grand memories of our 16-hour road trip. I would love to do it all over again. 


Erik Jones


Erik is studying toward a degree in business while working with his family’s gravel quarry business. He plans to finish his degree at California Lutheran University, enabling him to assist in his family’s work, or start a business of his own. He has traveled to Mexico on various mission trips, and has a heart to “trust that God is in total control, and follow Him.” He enjoys football, hiking, and water skiing.


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