Even when led by the still small voice of our perfect God, real life messes are unavoidable; we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world.
We knew we were getting close to the location that marks the start of the hike because there was a line of cars parked for miles along the side of the road. Some hikers spend the night in their vehicles, to get an early start without having to drive all morning at the crack of dawn. We hoped to find a parking spot in the lot, so we continued to drive closer to the rim of the canyon. We were successful.
The sun was beginning to rise at this point; it felt surreal that the time had arrived. We unloaded our backpacks, got out our trekking poles, buttoned up our gear, and we headed to the starting point. There was no one around except for a native who was handing out maps. We approached him, and he assured us that if we follow the main path, we could not get lost. He handed us a map and sincerely instructed us to be careful and to drink plenty of water. He and I made eye contact and I saw concern in his eyes. His words struck me. I thought, was he concerned because we were four women hiking alone? Could he tell we’d never backpacked before? Was it our age? Or, did he have this concern for everyone? It seemed like a non-event in the natural but in the spirit, he caught my attention. Once again, for a split second, the notion came over me wondering if we had properly prepared for what we were about to do. I shrugged it off, did not say anything out loud to the group, and marched excitedly to the rim for a peak into the canyon we were about to dive into.
After one last bathroom break, we started down the switchbacks. The first mile of this hike is a 1000-foot descent. The terrain consisted of loose chalky gravel with large boulder rocks mixed in. On the right side of us was the canyon wall and on the left side was the hole. We had plenty of room to avoid getting too close to the edge of the canyon, so that was not a threat. Watching our footing was the most crucial part of the first mile since it was so steep, and the terrain was rough.
The four of us were in our glory. We were laughing, chatty, giddy, and unafraid as if we were hiking in a local park at home. After about fifteen minutes into the descent, I slid on the gravel. My backpack cushioned my fall which was a blessing, but my hand smashed a pile of mule manure. Luckily, I had on a glove but nonetheless, that creepy thought came over me again. Where are we headed?