Saturday, October 31, 2009

Return to Eden

If you ever visit the Grand Canyon, consider the North Rim as a more beautiful and secluded alternative to the overly touristy South Rim. I feel so much happier when I am in wooded forests. I feel like I can appreciate G-d and hear him better in the wilderness. This is definitely how I felt on the North Rim, as I sat on a rocky out cropping more than 100 feet high beside the North Kaibab Trail. There are few hikers late in the day, and the valley below me is covered in dense firs. It looks like a northern California forest, rather than the Arizona desert of the South Rim.

The L-rd has been speaking to me through the Psalms for a while now. I was reading about kind David, watching his tongue around his enemies. I began to think about watching my own tongue, and how I had failed to watch myself when I was fussing at my drunken friend about the semantics behind her concept of spirituality. In spite of my complete lack of compassion and love in that instant, G-d still touched my friend, and she spoke honestly for the first time about her beliefs.

As I sat on a rock reflecting on this, I felt like the L-rd was telling me that his good works were not at all dependant upon my good works. I have no control over him or power to stop his good works through my own bad deeds. He is to far above me for that.

As if to further manifest his Love for me in spite of my failures, as I drove out of the park that evening, I passed massive herds of mule deer, grazing in the grassy meadows, bounded by firs and yellow leafed aspens. I even had the honor of seeing a doe nursing twin fawns.

I camped in a beautiful clearing that night, surrounded by open forest. My tiny campfire crackled with the mixture of cool burning fir, and hot burning, popping aspen branches. I sat their and smoked my own hand rolled version of a cigar (pipe tobacco and rolling papers), enjoying the solitude of the forest before I finally crawled into my truck for a very cold night’s sleep.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Good Riddance

Honestly, I am not sad to see my Vegas experience end. I will miss my friends and it was really good to hang out with someone that I knew for a little while, but I am just not cut out for the life of debauchery that is best suited for the Sin City. I am not into strip clubs or sex shops, I am not a heavy drinker, I do not enjoy crowds, I am too poor for shows, and I do not understand the appeal of gambling (even though I did come out ahead on the slot machines).

To be honest, I spent a lot of my trip frustrated. My friends are nice, but they have a very different set of beliefs than I do. This is not usually a problem, but when I catch one of them shoplifting and then have to spend an hour and a half trying to reason/argue with her while she is drunk until I finally force her to return the stolen item, suddenly our difference in beliefs becomes a problem. I love these individuals, but I am not about to go to jail for being an accomplice to shoplifting.

Another challenge of Vegas is the hours that people keep. I like to go to sleep by 10 each night and wake up around 8 or 9 in the morning. Vegas likes to keep you up until 4:30 and then get you up 3:30 hours later. This is okay for one day, but then it starts to take its toll, and I become irritable and unpleasant to be around.

All in all, I am glad that I can say that I went to Las Vegas and saw what it is like, but I don’t think I will be going back any time soon. I especially do not want to be anything like the gentle man in the elevator who said that he did not like living in Vegas because half his pay check went to bills, and the other half went to casinos.

PS: One of my friends borrowed my camera

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Road To Vegas

It is hard to believe that I have traveled so many highways in my journey around the U.S. and yet, I am only just now driving on the infamous Route 66. I find it appropriate that I am traveling on Route 66(6) toward Sin City. The funny thing is that I always thought the road to hell would be a little more enticing, but Route 66 is nothing but boring black top and low speed limits, occasionally bordered by abandoned restaurants and auto-body shops.

The Hoover Dam is a marvel of not-so-modern engineering. Containing hundreds of thousands (or is it millions?) of tons of concrete, and holding back what was at the time, the largest man made lake in the world, the Hoover Dam was somehow built ahead of schedule and under budget. In fact, revenue from the Dam has more than paid back the entire cost of construction.

Driving across the dam I am surprised as much by the hundreds of tourists, as I am by the sheer magnitude of what is beneath me. The Dam is huge and beautiful. I would like to tell you more, but it costs $8 just to enter the visitors center, never mind the cost of actually touring the dam.

It is only a short ride from the Hoover Dam to Las Vegas where I have a $9 hotel room awaiting my arrival. I am excited because I have friends traveling up from Tucson to visit for a few days.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Grand Canyon: Day 3

Needless to say, I was relieved when I awoke for the fifteenth time to see that the sun was finally rising and I could see well enough to use the bathroom and start breakfast. While I ate, I saw Carol walking around, and I called her over.

“Why don’t you take some trail mix and water, and leave the bag with me. I will catch up to you in about thirty minutes and we can hike together some more.”

“Andrew, I know how much you wanted to hike fast after talking to those guys yesterday. You don’t have to wait up for me. I don’t want to hold you back.”

“Nahh, its fine. As long as I am out by noon, I will be happy.”

After our short exchange, we set off. It seemed like every person that we passed, including a park ranger, we would stop so that Carol could tell the story and then try to give me credit as though it was hard for me to hike slower and carry an extra eight pounds of gear.

She was irritated that Ed had not been able to make it to Indian Garden because of a shift change, and that ranger Ken had been very unfriendly and unhelpful, but she seemed to be in overall better spirits than the day before.

She was finally able to eat more food, and was encouraged by how far we had come, and as we slowly made our way to the top, I could sense her getting more and more happy. She was also becoming more open, telling me much more of her life story which was fascinating, though sad at times. I have learned over the last few years that there are very few people in life who have not faced some sort of serious trials and hardships in their life, and Carol was not the exception to that rule.

The trail gets very steep, and passes through several short stone archways as you get very near the top. The trail also becomes much more crowded. I began to see many of the people that I had seen at Phantom Ranch passing us by. I saw the group that I met on the bus ride a two days before. I also saw my neighbors from Phantom ranch, when I was within a quarter mile of the top.

My excitement was building and I started to push Carol harder, until finally the end was just one switchback away. My adrenaline was really pumping as I crossed the last couple of feet and was finally surrounded by tired hikers and tourists gawking at the canyon that I had just descended and ascended. I was in a great mood as I said my good byes and headed to my truck.

I felt so good for the rest of the day that I went to the Laundromat in the campground and did all of my laundry, cleaned and completely reorganized my truck, and got a shower which was supposed to last 8 minutes, but due to some blessing from G-d, did not turn off till I eventually got bored, quite a feat when you have not had a shower in a week, and turned it off of my own volition.