The sun quietly rested for a moment on the desert horizon, sending a warm glow across the red rock expanse. It was careful and gracious enough to leave space for a cooler nighttime air to soothe the sun scorched land and let my lungs breathe deep and at ease.
Time froze as I peered over into the most miraculous sculpture- a carving deep into the land, rounded to a perfect horseshoe, capturing light in the most intricate and intimate ways, housing the famous Colorado River.
Something like this just doesn’t happen. It is crafted, for it is beautiful, engaging, capturing the spectator in awe. Canyons like this dig into the soul, carving into you the realization that there is beauty that exists beyond what you can imagine, beyond the surface, and this is only a sliver of it. It takes you by surprise and you are stunned.
I think rivers, canyons, mountains, prairies, everything we find in nature is rich in meaning and designed to draw us back to the creator, if we stop and listen. Mountains help us put our lives in perspective. Canyons show us there is so much more below the surface of life. Sometimes these things are just a testament to the beauty and wonder of God.
As I was awestruck by Horseshoe Bend, I also was energized to find the perfect view-spot to capture what I could in pictures. There were many people around, some laying on the ground with their eyes looking over the canyon rim and some seated and poised so majestically with the canyon and sunset before them. Many photographers congregated with their tripods at just the right angle, and mothers scolded their children for getting to close to the edge. And there was me, alone at peace, yet jumping and fluttering inside, excited to take in such an iconic view.
I suppose it all sort of overtook me in three phases: the peaceful awe, the restless excitement, and the deep inspiration.
I looked down at the low-lying peninsula in the canyon with the Colorado rushing around it. What a peculiar place, trapped inside a canyon yet surrounded by immense beauty and a mighty river. What would it be like to be down there, perhaps live down there at where the lands meets the very turning point of the river, to wake up and fall asleep to the rush of the river? These thoughts in this very moment inspired me to the creation of a character who now plays a large role in a novel I am writing. He lives in such a place. At this point the novel was a year in the making at about fifty pages. The entire novel is inspired by my experiences in nature and will be a raw opening into my thoughts and experiences when I am alone in the wild.
As I left Horseshoe Bend after a brief stay, I was certainly assured that it was worth the stop. Although technically a part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, it is not tucked away in a park. Right off the highway there is a large dirt parking lot and a .63 mile hike up a hill and down to the canyon rim.
When I left Horseshoe Bend it was time to restock a bit on food and supplies in Page, Arizona. I was to meet a friend of mine, Dom, at Jacob Lake Campground in Kaibab National Forest, and we were planning to have dinner over a fire. I also needed to think ahead and get food and water for our stay at Bryce Canyon National Park, which would commence the following day. So, good ol’ loyal Wal-Mart once again provided what I needed. Here I also bought a heavier green sleeping bag, having learned it gets cold in the desert at these high altitudes. At the store, I noticed quite a few people I had seen at Horseshoe Bend. They were also restocking for their own adventures. The spirit of natural recreation was in the air.
Fifteen miles removed from Wal-Mart on my way to Jacob Lake, I discovered that I was running out of gas. I was in the middle of nowhere, so regretfully I had to turn around and drive back into Page for gas to avoid getting stranded.
As I was approaching Jacob Lake Campground I was no longer in desert but in a ponderosa pine forest. I had passed around a dozen deer hanging out along the side of the road. I had been in contact with Dom about the campsite. He had arrived before me. When I got there I was excited to see a familiar face that I hadn’t seen for a few years, but I was also quick to get down to business and set up my tent in the dark. I broke out True Blue, because it was cold and I wanted my better insulated tent. I also blew up my air mattress (which I do by the power of my own lungs) because I wanted to get a good night’s sleep.
I built a fire, cooked chicken sausages, and talked with Dom about our adventures thus far. I shared with him my amazement with the Petrified Forest. As we were talking, we heard strange animal yelping sounds in the distance. We speculated if they were coyotes or turkeys- but I don’t think either. It was a group of some wild animals, making the most unusual noise. With the strange sounds in the background, we coordinated a plan for the following day and then went to sleep.
It had been a long and full day. I had begun the day waking up in the Wilderness Area of the Petrified Forest. I hiked back to my car and drove all the way through the Navajo Nation, visiting the Hubell Trading Post National Historic Site, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Monument Valley Navajo National Park, and Horseshoe Bend.
Tomorrow Dom and I would venture into the wonders of Bryce Canyon National Park and altitude and desert heat would get to me.
Check back for my account of Bryce Canyon National Park.
Read the previous entry “The Petrified Forest and the Wilderness Within,” here: https://joshthehodge.wordpress.com/2017/04/24/petrified-forest-and-the-wilderness/