Flowing With The River

It was a jolt to be swept around Temple Butte into the Grand Canyon. Suddenly whole ranges of mountains lay in front of us. Stratified towers, gigantic beyond comprehension, filled the sky. Ten miles away the South Rim loomed up, then zigzagged off to the west for another hundred miles. The North Rim, another world of soft forests and lakes, was a mile above us.

Flowing with the river, looking out from only a few inches above the water, the very size, the immensity, of the place was astounding. But more overwhelming than its size was its beauty. Terraced mountains mirrored eath other, matching layer for layer across the chasms, sweeping bands of pastel stone piled one on the other to press flat up against a pastel sky.

It all suddenly seemed so preposterous — our being there. Men have an enormous conceit that can usually ignore most realities. John and I had been thousands of feet down in the canyons for a week now, yet had refused to abandon a feeling that we two were the most important thing in the gorge.

Now we felt infinitesimal. Suddenly we were so small that we didn’t matter at all. It was hardly important whether we continued or quit, whether we succeeded or failed, whether we lived or died. We were intruders who meant nothing, and all our thoughts and emotions of the past week were proposterous and presumptuous.

It was a disquieting feeling, contradicting a lifetime of egocentrism. But, strangely, at the same time we felt relieved of the burdens of our petty ambitions and frustrations — free to be just little dabs of protoplasm that would be gone tomorrow. It was a mystic experience in the classic sense, perhaps akin to the instant religious conversions some people experience.

~ Bill Beer, “We Swam the Grand Canyon: The True Story of a Cheap Vacation that Got a Little Out of Hand”