Monday, October 19, 2009

Grand Canyon: Day 1, Part 2

If the South Kaibab Trail is a desert, Phantom Ranch is paradise. The Ranch is located in a long valley, shaded by trees and covered in lush grass and cattails. The campsite is kept green by a series of shallow irrigation ditches, and the main channel of the creek is full of small dams and pools for hikers to “swim” in. There is also an impressive array of wildlife for such a small area including a grey fox, mule deer, skunks, rats, scorpions, ravens, and fish.

The strangest thing about hiking the Grand Canyon so far has been the huge amounts of “forced relaxation”. The climate is such that you have to take a long break in the middle of the day, from 10:00 till 4:00, to avoid heat exhaustion. I am used to having more down time when I hike, but 6 hours was downright boring!

I spent much of that time reading in the creek. I got most of the way through Searching For G-d Knows What, a book by Donald Miller that is vaguely about evangelism and the message of scriptures.

If I met Donald Miller in person, I don’t think we would get along. I think that he would strike me as lazy, politically inflammatory, and kinda stupid. On the other hand, I love how Donald Miller writes, and I think that most of his work is very good in that it makes people think and it brings spirituality into real life. Even though I doubt we would get along, I highly recommend all of Miller’s books that I have read, including Blue Like Jazz, Through Painted Deserts, and Searching For G-d Knows What.

When I was not reading that book, I was reading Psalms. I have been working my way through Psalms since I left the JH Ranch, and reviewing my Wilderness First Responder handbook.

Man’s Search for Meaning

I have been wrestling with my future for the entirety of my road trip. Every place I go seems to reveal something new that I want to pursue. It is amazing to me that G-d can give me so many different interests!

Through my experience with the druggie in Vancouver G-d showed me an entire world of poor and homeless people who have no one to listen to them and actually care what they have to say (as incoherent as it often is). I really want to love them.

Reading Donald Miller’s work reminded me of the kinds of missions work that I feel passionate about. I want to help people in areas with severe need, such as the sex slaves of S.E. Asia, the AIDs patients and orphans of Africa and South America, and really any kind of pressing need anywhere.

Passing through Eugene, OR made me realize how much I want to go back to school and get a PhD.

Traveling through the National Parks, and talking to ranger Ed and ranger Mandy have really showed me how much I need to work in nature and have a flexible job. Talking with them has me considering seasonal work with the NPS (National Park Service). There are actually many people who work for the NPS seasonally and draw unemployment in the off season (a practice that I find unethical). I have always been under the impression that it was extremely difficult to get NPS jobs, but talking with Ed and Mandy has me very encouraged. I would love to work for part of the year and do missions work for the remainder.

A Mule and a Shot Block

One thing that you quickly learn while hiking the Grand Canyon is that most people are extremely friendly. For example, the people camping next to me invited me over to hand out and enjoy a drink with them, for no reason other than that I was backpacking alone.

They were really interesting people, if a bit sketchy. They came from all over the U.S. but currently they all live in Flagstaff, AZ. The guy who sat directly next to me is a cab driver, and spent most of the evening drunkenly telling me about hunting, cooking elk meat, and how I should not travel to third world countries because of the land mines.

I was amused to learn that, not only had they brought down a ton of food and alcohol, but they purchased a block of ice at the ranch so that they could make their own shot block, a sort of ice slide for your alcoholic beverage of choice. Even though I am a very moderate drinker and have not been drunk, I still find drunken people to be entertaining, especially when they are located a mile deep in a crack in the earth.

I sat and talked with these guys until 7:30 when a short interpretive program, lead by ranger Mandy, got my attention. It was mostly a question and answer session, which was surprisingly interesting, but the best part was the scorpion hunt at the end. Apparently, all of the scorpions at Phantom Ranch glow green under a black light. It was fun to see all of the little eight legers running around just before I went to sleep on the ground with no tent.

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