Out of Range

Rebecca Brown

Rebecca L. Brown

Every year more than five million people visit the Grand

Canyon. Only one percent make it to the bottom. Last week Steve and

I became members of this elusive club.

The view from the edge of the Grand Canyon is breathtaking. To

climb down (and out) on your own two feet is life changing … or

at least a memory for a lifetime. For Steve and me, dressed in our

tell-tale brand spanking new <span class=

“blsp-spelling-error”>REI gear, it was all of the

above.

A trip down the South <span class=

“blsp-spelling-error”>Kaibab trail is measured in

milestones, not miles. Drop a few switchbacks off the edge and the

brisk rim breeze subsides. A few more and the temperature begins to

rise. The 360 view from the famous <span class=

“blsp-spelling-error”>Kaibab Limestone — dubbed the bathtub

ring — can only be explained as <span class=

“blsp-spelling-corrected”>otherworldly. And it nearly is

with geologic exposures in the inner gorge nearly two billion years

old. Skeleton Point provides the first view of the Colorado River

and the utter disbelief that such a humble stream of water could

have created such a majestic sight. The Tip Off Point literally

tips you into the gorge and towards the <span class=

“blsp-spelling-error”>Kaibab Suspension <span class=

“blsp-spelling-corrected”>Bridge <span class=

“blsp-spelling-corrected”>constructed from cables carried

down on the backs of men when the mules could not manage. A pitch

black tunnel leads to the bridge that is the gateway to the famous

Phantom Ranch and our home for 3 days: Bright Angel

Campground.

To say that less is more when it comes to camping in the Grand

Canyon is an understatement. Whatever you carry in, you’re carrying

out and up 5000 feet. (Thankfully our travel companions

from Montreal considered the two bottles <span class=

“blsp-spelling-error”>of white wine a “necessity.”) The best

thing about camping at Bright Angel is the <span class=

“blsp-spelling-corrected”>camaraderie. An instant connection

that everyone has traveled under their own power and for their own

very personal reasons into one of the seven natural wonders of the

world. It’s a place where respecting one’s <span class=

“blsp-spelling-corrected”>neighbors means not hanging dirty

socks in trees to dry or banging the lid to the ammo box that holds

your food in the early morning. Dimming one’s headlamp on a dark

trail is an expected <span class=

“blsp-spelling-corrected”>courtesy. Campground “Quiet Hours”

are from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. And it’s actually quiet but for the sound

of the river and the million twinkling stars in the sky.

Regardless of the hour there are noises that you will

never hear in the canyon. No cars or sirens. No mindless

television. No beeping and blaring video games. And, most

notably, no cell

phones. Or their companion one-side cell phone conversations.

You see, there’s no cell phone coverage in the canyon. Not because

it’s impossible. It is. But because some wise person has thankfully

preserved a spot where

it’s impossible to divide your attention between your

phone and life.

And such was life for us … at least for three days. Undivided

attention for Steve. For me. And for the beautiful place we were

blessed with the good health to climb down into and, eventually,

out of. That alone was worth the miles of hiking and the 5000

vertical feet.

Our guide warned that real life returns quickly once you’ve hiked

to Skeleton Point where spotty coverage returns. Listen closely and

you may even hear the tell tale “You’ve Got Mail.” Steve and I did

not succumb to temptation quite so soon. We held off to the top.

Seated in the El Tovar

Lounge, wine in hand, we hit “Power” and one by one the sea of

emails rushed in along with the overwhelming feeling that we’d

missed something. A deadline at work. Snack for preschool. The

school nurse. A <span class=

“blsp-spelling-corrected”>panicked (babysitting)

grandparent. We were, after all, integral to the spinning of the

world. Right? Well, apparently not. It kept right on spinning. Our

colleagues worked on. The kids survived. And the grandparents

managed. Perhaps the only thing missed was an extra cheap massage

on Groupon … which I

could have used right about then.

So what did I learn? That the world does keeps spinning

even if I am not connected every moment. That if it’s okay to sign

off for three days in the wilderness, then it is certainly okay to

sign off to give all of the things important to me in my life my

undivided attention. Like my husband. And my children. And the joke

that Ben has to tell me, again, on the way home. All of those

precious moments in life that are far more important than whether

I’ve immediately returned a message, mindlessly read <span class=

“blsp-spelling-error”>Facebook status or otherwise used my

phone for some purpose that Alexander Graham Bell surely never

intended.

Last year we vowed to slow down on <span class=

“blsp-spelling-error”>Shabbat. To take it in. And to turn

the rest off. We’ve done a pretty good job in that respect, but

there’s room for improvement the other six days of the week. I’m

ready.

So if you email me and I take a few days to answer, now you know

why.