50. Just a number, right?
It is -until you turn 50 years old and then it feels like much more. 50 means five decades, half of a century, middle aged. Old.
Last month, I turned 50 and to celebrate (or mourn) the event, I planned a 3-day backpacking trip with my partner and 17-yr-old son down into the Grand Canyon. Many people asked me why I wanted to work so hard and why didn’t I choose a week on the beach of Tobago or Hawaii. But I knew that I needed to prove to myself that I could handle a hike like this and that 50 may be defined as half a century, but it DIDN’T mean that I was OLD.
So, on April 20,the three of us flew to Phoenix, rented a car and head to the Grand Canyon. Having never done more than day hiking, I hired a guide from an awesome company, Centerfocus, and along with him came the backpacks and gear, food, medical bag and an emergency phone that connected to the ranger station in case I needed to be airlifted out of the canyon! I mean, come on, there was a sign at the trail head that scared the pants off me. It said: “It is optional to get to the bottom. It is mandatory to get to the top.” Gulp!
Our guide, Zack (pictured above in the bottom left square), turned out to be a “nice Jewish boy” from my hometown of Newton, Mass. and attended my high school (25 years later, of course). He was fantastic-smart, funny and a self proclaimed geology geek who loved explaining to me what every rock was that we picked up along the trail. And he cooked! He also taught us about pacing, keeping hydrated and never letting yourself get HANGRY (hungry and angry). Zack’s food motto: When hiking, lunch should begin just after you finish breakfast and end just before dinner. And in heeding his words, we all did great and had a ball.
With a 30-lb pack to carry, I labored for weeks about how much camera equipment to bring, and settled on just a D300 body (sans drive) and an 18-200 f4.0-5.6 lens. Bingo! With that, I made hundreds of gorgeous photos and never felt like I was carrying any extra weight. Shown below is my favorite heart-shaped prickly-pear cactus. I had chosen a heart as my “symbol” for the journey (something a friend always says to do, to see how many times the universe gives you a wink along the way), and throughout the trip, I stumbled across numerous heart-shaped rocks, cactus, leaves, etc. It really was a trip all about love!
It was a truly incredible, life affirming trip, including seeing some of the most beautiful views we could ever imagine. Pictures simply do not do the Canyon justice. You have to go there to really appreciate its magnitude and extraordinary beauty. One statistic reports that 85% of Grand Canyon visitors don’t venture more than 500 feet from their car or tour bus. What a shame for them. They just don’t know what they are missing!
We hiked Hermit’s Trail to Monument Creek to the Colorado Rapids and then back up. Along the way, we connected with fellow hikers (including three BEE KEEPERS from Tucson actually heading to Vermont this summer for a bee convention!), ate enough GORP to last me a lifetime, saw my first ever Rattlesnake (a little too close to David!), slept under the stars and waded in the Colorado river! Wow.
Most importantly, I made it back up to the top! 4,700 feet elevation river to rim- 20 miles in 3 days. And I never felt better, stronger or happier.
50? Just a number.
Happy birthday to me.
OK, TIME FOR THE SLIDESHOW:
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end” — Ursula K. LeGuin (American writer)
(Quote borrowed from the Centerfocus website)