Friday, 13 November 2015

Three national parks

On Halloween day, Glen arrived to accompany me on part of my journey. After a couple of days in Denver we ventured west towards Phoenix and beyond. As part of our grand road trip we decided to take in three national parks. Each park was amazing,  not just for the natural beauty but for the insights that came from the experiences.

Our first visit was to Arches just outside of Moab in the desert of southeastern Utah. We arrived with only 2 hours before sundown. It was beautiful to see the sculptural forms of Balancing Rock, North and South Windows and the Fiery Furnace in the waning light. The following day we visited Mesa Verde in southwestern Colorado, a park which preserves the cliff dwellings of the Pueblo people. Unfortunately due to safety concerns with the rock face, we couldn't go into Spruce Tree House, but we could see it quite clearly. We also took the Mesa Loop and visited various sites, seeing the evolution of dwellings from pit houses to pueblos to houses built into the cliffs and hiked two miles to see petroglyphs carved into cliff. It was amazing to think how people farmed on top of the mesa and lived along the cliffs, climbing rock walls as if they were sidewalks. The final visit was to the Grand Canyon, an "experience" not just because of the breathtaking grandeur but also because of the weather.

It had been snowing in Flagstaff when we left but there was a fortunate break in the cloud cover when we arrived at the Grand Canyon. Aware of our weather "window" we started with a "short" hike into the canyon. We didn't want to go too far down, aware as well that for every minute you descend it takes you two to climb back out. Glen was a trooper, hiking down the trail for a good 45 minutes. But as we looked down towards Mile and a Half Resthouse and then back up at the long trail back to the rim he'd reached his limit and we slogged our way back out. We followed that up with a hike along the rim. That was spectacular. Each turn brought another extraordinary view. We could also see the storm clouds rolling in. As we sat down to lunch our luck finally gave out. With snow falling around us we looked out to see only cloud and fog. We went to explore the visitor centre but with no cloud breaks decided to go. The snow continued as we left the canyon and by the end of the night the region received a record breaking snowfall.
These days of national park visits were truly amazing. And insightful, about life, church, the universe. Here's what I learned:

1. Always be prepared.
2. Try looking at something from a different perspective.
3. People are incredibly adaptable. We can create life-giving communiities in the most unexpected places.
4. You can't control events and that's OK.
5. Trust your driver.
6. There's more than one way to reach your destination. It may present new challenges (like going down rock stairs more easily gone up) but you'll get there in the end.
7. What you experience won't be what you pictured in your head and that makes it better.
8. Don't only look at the big picture. If you don't watch your step you may step in mule dung.
9. You can only go as fast as the group. There's no point plowing ahead if you're going to end up standing there alone.
10. Listen to the needs of everyone.
11. Always expect the unexpected. You may think there's nothing more to wow you. You'll be wrong.
12. Be open to what unfolds. There's beauty in the storm clouds.

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