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We walked on. And then, a mile or so up the trail, the right side just fell away. There was no rocky buffer, no gradual slope with trees that you could grab if you fell. There was the trail, and then there was air. All I had to do was take one step to the right, and down I’d go, into the abyss.
I stopped. My head spun. I could not move. I tried, but I could not make myself lift my foot. I just kept thinking, one misstep, and down I’d plunge. I began to shake.
Doug helped me off the trail. “Vertigo,” he said.
Families continued past us. Elderly women with handbags. A woman with her dog. A little girl ran up the trail. Her dad called to her, “Jenny! Stay on the inside of the path!”
A boy raced past and then turned and shouted, “Mom? Wouldn’t it be a long time before you hit the bottom?”
“Look at your feet,” Doug said to me as I struggled to breathe. “Don’t look at the canyon.”
“Kind of defeats the purpose of being here, doesn’t it?” I grumbled, but I took his advice. Staring at the ground, I was able to shuffle forward. I felt like I was swaying. But I kept moving.
We crested a small hill and stopped. I looked toward the canyon. Crows wheeled and screeched on drafts of air. The flat colors had intensified as the afternoon deepened. It was mammoth, and it was magnificent.
That night, over dinner in Sedona, we lifted glasses of Oak Creek Pale Ale. We had survived the crowds and found beauty. I had survived vertigo and found my equilibrium. We clinked glasses.
Doug gave the toast: “Next time, North Rim.”
Laurie Hertzel • 612-673-7302
For information on visiting the Grand Canyon (north or south rim), go to www.nps.gov/grca.