After an adventure-filled final day in New Mexico, we decided to drive through the night to make it to a most majestic place in time for sunrise. In addition to the story explained in my last post, an unforgettable trip to the Grand Canyon a year and a half ago was another motivating factor behind this whole roadtrip.

After a work trip to Phoenix in November ’13, my friend Nicole and I decided to stay the weekend to take advantage of the nature in the area and particularly to make a trip up to the Grand Canyon. I was immensely fortunate to have Nicole with me on the trip and her companionship ended up leading to a life changing experience. Nicole is easily the most adventurous and badass person I know and had just gotten back a few weeks prior from successfully climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Whereas I had no idea it could even be cold in Arizona in November, Nicole was more than prepared for the blizzard that awaited us at the Canyon and her trail expertise and extra pair of walking poles saved me on our hike.

When we arrived that day, after gaining 5000 feet of elevation in a few hours, we were met with a heavy snowfall and thick clouds all around. There was zero visibility at the rim, leaving us feeling defeated that perhaps our one day at the Canyon would be a disappointment. Starting our descent on the South Kaibab Trail was an exhilarating experience to say the least, with a wall on one side of the steep narrow path and heavy clouds to the other side completely masking the vastness beyond. I can only describe the hike down as feeling like we were alongside the edge of the Earth with infinite beauty just out of our reach but impossible to see.

We finally reached the appropriately named Ooh Aah Point and were expecting to finally be greeted with some spectacular view. We were initially left disappointed as the shroud of clouds remained, obscuring any view into the Canyon. However, after a brief moment, the wind picked up and the clouds started to move in the distance and reveal the beauty beyond. It was as if Mother Nature had decided to finally peel back the curtain and let us lay eyes on one of her greatest treasures.

 

We continued to hike down into the Canyon and had soon descended below the wintry weather entirely and were greeted with a beautiful brisk day and a clear view all around.

 

Never in my life has a single moment so clearly demonstrated to me the awesome power of Mother Nature and the beautiful unpredictability of life out there. It just so happened that earlier that week in Phoenix, another colleague and the most brilliant and accomplished inventor I’ve ever had the chance of working alongside told me he wished he had taken more risks in his career. The proximity of this transcendent outdoor experience and the revelation from a trusted mentor and friend certainly got some wheels spinning in my head. I left Arizona that weekend knowing I needed to return to the Grand Canyon as soon as possible and contemplating taking some of those risks at this point in my life before other obligations and ties prevented me from doing so. It certainly wasn’t the first time I had pondered taking a big leap of faith in search of new adventure and greater fulfillment, but it was definitely a stepping stone in the process that ultimately led me to where I am today.

 

 

Long story short, my return visit to Arizona was one I had been anticipating for many many months and thus my excitement was sky high early this week as it approached. This desire to return to such a magical place and the adrenaline from getting the car unstuck in Taos, combined with my blessed ability to function on little to no sleep made the overnight drive a breeze and a virtual no-brainer. Also thanks to Mom for the Dunkin gift card that made sure I was fully alert to get our crew to our destination safe and sound. ­čÖé

The sight that greeted us upon our arrival to the Grand Canyon at 6am was almost too good to be true, with the sun just rising above the horizon the moment we arrived to the lookout point. Between getting the car unstuck in Taos, driving 500+ miles, stopping for dinner, stopping for gas and bathroom breaks along the way, we somehow made it to our destination at the perfect moment to enjoy this breathtaking view:

Temperatures were still in the low 30s at sunrise but you’ll see the three of us were bundled up and happy to have arrived.

  

After marveling at the rising sun and a great clear view of the Canyon, we returned to the parking lot to take a quick nap and get some breakfast in before starting a hike. After resting and refueling, we decided to hit the Bright Angel trail for a few hours of hiking on a beautiful sunny day.

It’s hard to describe the Grand Canyon in words, and pictures often look nice but can hardly capture the feeling of being in the presence of such vast and enormous beauty. The sheer scale of everything around you is humbling and inspiring and overpowering and something that really needs to be experienced to be understood. Just seeing how many different layers of Earth are visible in the innumerable rock formations in all directions certainly gives some perspective to our little place in the planet’s history.

It remains the most incredible place I’ve ever been in my life and I look forward to the next trip when I can hopefully hike all the way in and spend some time camping within the Canyon. I was so honored to be there on Nikita’s first ever trip and Jeff’s first hike down into the Canyon.

 

Despite the temptation to sleep in the vicinity of such an amazing site, we decided to save ourselves the equivalent of a few meals or half a tank of gas and opt for free camping elsewhere in Arizona. We ended up settling down for the night inside the Coconino National Forest in Flagstaff. We made it in time to set up camp and watch the sun set through the trees. The picture below hardly does it justice but the purples and oranges in the sky that night were stunning.

We bundled up to deal with the temperatures in the 30s that still came with being at 6000 feet and were able to build our first campfire of the trip. Next time we’ll remember to be prepared with marshmallows in the car at all times….

Waking up surrounded by forest on Wednesday morning after a long night’s rest was an amazing feeling. Being amongst the trees and taking in the sights and sounds around me reminded me of a fantastic TedTalk about listening┬áthat I discovered a few months ago thanks to (same incredible, badass) Nicole.

 

Ever since seeing this talk and especially now as I spend more time in nature on this trip, I have been trying to practice some of the listening exercises suggested in the talk. My favorite is “the mixer”, or trying to focus on all of the noise around you and determine how many different channels of sound you can detect. Being in the woods and trying to simultaneously hear the wind move through the trees and the crackle of a fire and various birds and wildlife in all directions is a great test of listening ability and a soothing experience. I’m hoping to keep practicing this and other exercises going forward and continuously improve my ability to listen in nature, in conversation, to music, and much more. Thank you Nicole for bringing this into my life and for further impacting my Arizona experience and the trip as a whole!

 

 

We left Flagstaff and continued South down the state to meet up with our friends Charlie and Heather in Scottsdale in preparation for the upcoming weekend at Coachella. They were extremely gracious hosts letting us crash at their beautiful apartment on short notice and it was so nice having a warm welcome and some cold beers awaiting us after a few nights of camping. Our buddy Roy also was awaiting us upon our arrival and our crew of three had suddenly grown to 6 with more additions to come in the next few days…

Jeff, Nikita, Roy, and I had a great Thursday morning hike up the Cholla Trail at nearby Camelback Mountain. The trail was pretty steep at some points and had its fair share of scrambling and climbing near the top, making for an adventurous but rewarding ascent.

 

We were lucky to spend Thursday evening with Charlie’s parents who just happened to be stopping in town for the day on their way to a vacation. Just another instance of fortunate timing on this trip which continues to be full of more surprises at each turn. It was a relaxing night with yet another incredible family and has me feeling so very appreciative of a valued friendship I made earlier in life and have been able to maintain. Thank you to Charlie and Heather for the hospitality here in Scottsdale and here’s to a magnificent weekend ahead of us.

I’ll see the rest of ya on the other side..thanks for stopping by.