Up is Mandatory | Grand Canyon Travel Photographer

Going down was optional. Really, it was. At any time, one of us could have changed our minds and raced (with a 40-pound pack) back to the top of the South Rim. I'll admit it. I thought about it once or twice. Especially when my toes started aching from being jammed into the bottom of my shoes with each step. And knowing all the while that the farther down we went meant the same growing distance we would eventually have to climb to get out of the canyon. But in case you weren't sure, the signs will certainly remind you.

We split our trip up the Bright Angel Trail into two days, intending to spend the night at Indian Gardens Campground. It was our opportunity to hike only in the coolest part of the day and have time (and energy) for more relaxation and exploring other parts of the canyon. It wasn't an easy hike, by any standards, but after a refreshing nap - on a picnic table, no less - I was ready to battle the crazy squirrels and just take in the surrounding beauty.

Following the suggestion of a fantastic guide book and one incredibly helpful ranger, we decided to take in the sunset at Plateau Point. And it was here that I discovered one of my favorite places yet. Living up to its name, we found ourselves standing right on the edge, mid-canyon, overlooking the Colorado River. With only a metal railing, and in some places nothing at all, separating us from the depths below, I felt a delightful thrill of excitement as we watched the sun move out of sight. Paired with the strong winds, it was truly God's amusement park with no safety net - a perfect demonstration of His majesty.

One last morning in the canyon, each step bringing us closer to the top. As we passed day hikers going in the opposite direction, they moved to the side, cheering us on because we were almost there. We began to calculate how much time it would take us to finish, excited by the promise of a hot shower and fresh clothes. We could see the South Rim getting closer and closer, and finally...we were there.

We did it. Together. All nine of us. Forever changed by our journey in a grand canyon, the Grand Canyon.

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