THE NORTH RIM from “Our Bucket List Adventure” by Sherry Campbell Bechtold
When we arrived at Jacob Lake, it was already well into the afternoon and overcast for the first time on our journey. We faced a 40 mile drive to the North Rim and decided to “just go”. We’re practically at the Grand Canyon for heaven’s sake. Why wait another minute?
The road from the Lake to the Canyon is almost straightaway. There are no other vehicles on the road. There are no buildings along the way. We drive – not in a hurry, but with purpose. Dark clouds fill the vast sky and threaten rain – or worse. Pine forests in the deepest green you can imagine frame the gold Aspens, bright as sunlight, opening to sweeping flaxen meadows. It’s easy to imagine mule deer and antelope waiting in the shadows for dusk. Somewhere along that long entrance road, we feel the world fall away behind us. The radio is turned off and even the sounds of the truck engine fade into quiet.
In moments, we are transported into a parking lot not quite full of cars and RVs. When we emerge from the truck, we realize the same magic Hush is outside too. A few people chat imperceptibly and walk their barkless, well behaved dogs. Even though there are no signs, we know where to go – along a charming group of individual log cabins, pine trees and meandering walkways, leading to the beautiful North Rim Lodge. Rustic. Elegant. A proud sentry for the North Rim.
A few steps around the Lodge and we’re on the stone patio overlooking the Canyon – indescribable, patient, bearing witness.
Miles away, on the South Rim and beyond, several rainstorms span the horizon, an occasional lightning strike connecting heaven and earth, distant thunder we can’t hear. It takes some doing to adjust and begin to tune in to those around us.
A tour guide wearing an old cowboy hat easily entertains a few of his groupies with tales of past expeditions. He hasn’t been home in 14 years. Always on the road, a gypsy. To our right, a delightful gentleman is engrossed in discussion of the Western Condor, which he has been hunting with his binoculars all day.
Tiny, fleeting life forms, we. Destined to leave scarcely an echo in our wake. We are blessed to be here. In the face of this miracle, all we really have to offer is our gratitude. Everyone seems to know that. There is a gentle comradery among us, above all there is reverence.
We learn that there is just enough time to drive to Royal Point for sunset, promised to be glorious because of the day long churning clouds. After several miles of twists and turns on another lonely road, we find a small group of parked cars, and realize we need to get out and walk the rest of the way. It’s so close to sunset, I’m worried I won’t get to the Point in time. But the sights of Canyon and sky on both sides of this skywalk peninsula are intoxicating, and I find my feet carrying me in that direction without hesitation. I am entering into a state of Grace as I emerge from the walkway onto a stone platform. Shafts of light cross the eastern Canyon walls, the rim brilliant against a charcoal backdrop, the plummeting depths of inner space, lost in darkness. The western sky is a symphony of colors throwing a party with the setting Libra sun, as he whispers ‘goodnight’ and gathers the blankets around him.
It’s almost dark when we rewind ourselves down the mountain and begin our slow drive over the plateau toward Jacob Lake through misty rain and intermittent fog. A lone Coyote appears in our peripheral light in the meadow, and a little later, a Mule Deer catches sight of us and leaps through the tall grass toward the Aspens. The fog clears, revealing a crystal clear night full of stars and directly in front of us, Big Dipper rests low on the horizon and is so enormous, I fancy myself walking through the meadow and reaching up to touch it. Bliss.
I will live to wish I could return to this day time and time again. And when the angels ask me to recall the thrill of them all, I will tell them I remember the North Rim.