I Hiked the Murphy Loop Trail on my day off—my first “long” hike below the canyon rim. 10.5 miles. 1400 ft. down to the White Rim Road, & 1400 ft. back up to the mesa top. Here are some thoughts.
How do you climb down from an Island in the Sky?
You have to find the right break in the perimeter.
One that’s not so sheer, but falls away a bit more gently, and allows for nimble feet to trace a path through the buttressed wreckage of an ancient stone cascade.
One boulder at a time.
One cairn to another.
Altitude is lost.
And soon the Island looms above—a shadowy fortress so solid and hulking that you wonder how it made its way up into the Sky to begin with.
Once settled onto the firm flat ground below, you might assume that there will be no way back. The only place to go, then, is Forward.
All around you are monuments to other fallen travelers.
Some still reach toward their Skyward origins.
Others settle in to the Earth beneath—bowing down before clouds within which they once stood, and breathed, and danced.
The distance between Sky and Earth continues to grow.
Curious meanders dig ever deeper and reveal new Islands below.
Rooted worlds that yawn and stretch as sunlight reaches further and further into their slumbering depths.
They remember this sun.
In untold ages past it shone down as sand rippled under flowing water.
As it blew into dunes cut through by the ancestral courses of today’s mighty Green and Colorado.
The birth of new worlds buries the memory of what came before. But the young are restless. Eventually they run away to far off shores, leaving their forbearers alone to observe and recollect their previous lives.
And sometimes to build…
…and reach again toward the Sky that called to them in their youth.
There are ways back into that Sky, though the route is often more winding.
The fortress walls stand impenetrable and guard well the secrets of their ascent.
Still you climb.
Bending toward sheer rock as Sun and Wind and blowing Earth conspire to throw you from the path.
Step by step.
Boulder by boulder.
From one cairn to the next.
The distance between Earth and Sky grows shorter.
When again you rest on the lip of this Island in the Sky…
…looking down over distant roads that now bear impressions of your passing…
…consider the journey.
A passage through many transient worlds.
Linger on this, last.
And welcome home.