Grand Canyon Adventure with The Foundation for Blind Children : Part 1

We last left each other with the post Team Marvel Trained and Ready.  It is always so important that I write these posts prior to leaving for these life changing journey’s.  It chronicles the anticipation, the excitement, the space that you are leaving behind, the slight tinge of sadness knowing you are going to say goodbye yet again to the current layer of yourself you have been living comfortably in to allow for new growth.

Those layers for me are shedding quickly and with ease.  It has become as simple as breathing.  Inhaling the present and exhaling the past.  Lovingly tasting and accepting the sweet breath that comes and goes.  The expansion of the lungs leading to the expansion of the soul.  Experiencing this life and all it has to offer in this moment by noticing this flow, this breath.  The simplistic and basic light of life.

 

I began packing the night before our trip.  I was answering the 75th text message question from Taylor the student I guide as she had been preparing and packing for weeks when I remembered the fateful trip that brought me to this very moment.  My trip to Moshi, Tanzania, my time at the Mwerini School for the Blind and a climb to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

I remembered the months of preparation, the checklists, the anxiety, the nervous worry that I would forget something that was essential to my survival, like soap and a hairbrush. I took deep breaths and related to the feeling that Taylor was experiencing.

I smiled and texted her back, sure bring your shampoo, I am SURE you will wash your hair everyday.  She would be letting go of so many things she thought were essential.  It made me feel incredibly grateful that I would be a part of her learning the deeper lessons of how to let go.  That miracle is something I will never grow tired of witnessing.

We all let go of many things that weighed us down on this journey.  This miraculous place is where it all begins.

 

 

FBCleaving

The morning of we were meeting at The Foundation for Blind Children to caravan up to Flagstaff for the night.

We pulled up to an energetic scene with a local news camera filming as an assemblage of gear was dropped, hugs given and goodbyes said.  Nervous anticipation fused with excited energy pulsated like the rays of the hot sun in the Phoenix sky.

A group of 10 kids and young adults with 10 guides were about to embark on something none of them had ever experienced before.  We successfully loaded up our gear and began the drive north, this seemed like the first of many miracles.

 

 

 

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Roman, Andrew and Adam at the Doubletree in Flagstaff

As we sat in the hotel lobby waiting to get our room assignments and keys I felt that tinge of sadness again.  It is similar to a feeling of homesickness.  It’s not that you’ll miss your home, but you’ll miss the person you were at this time, knowing that you will be changing and the people in your daily life aren’t here to experience it with you.  I looked around the lobby and saw these 10 amazing kids with blindness who were away from their families, homes, familiar surroundings and comforts.  I wondered what they were feeling.

I knew one thing for sure, anytime I put myself in this kind of experience I come out of it better, stronger and more in tune with my true self.  In these experiences you are accepted for the person you are at this moment, the current version of you.  The freedom that gives to allow yourself to just BE… it is unlike anything else I have experienced.  I couldn’t fathom what this group was going to morph into as the week continued.

 

 

 

AZRA team meeting at the Doubletree in Flagstaff

AZRA team meeting at the Doubletree in Flagstaff

That  night was full of logistics.  We had a meeting with AZRA to go over all the nitty gritty details with all the different wet bags, dry bags, hotel bags, day packs, night packs and what to put in each of them.  I missed the memo somewhere along the way that we would be hiking out our own packs with our own clothes, personal items, shoes and any other necessity we needed for the week.  The pack I chose to bring was the one I used to train with Taylor.  I wanted her to have the familiar hand hold and pack that she had been used to.  The only problem.. it only holds enough for a 1-2 day trip.  We were going to be there for a week!  With that it took me all of 20 minutes to pack that night.  I hope you all enjoyed the 2 shirts and one pair of shorts I wore!

 

 

 

Breakfast prior to leaving for Lee's Ferry Photo: Lisa Chiles

Breakfast prior to leaving for Lee’s Ferry
Photo: Lisa Chiles

We rose bright and early and were ready in record time in the morning to load the bus that would take us to Lee’s Ferry to our put-in spot.  AZRA seemed to be shocked that we were all packed and had the correct bags all in the right places with plenty of time to spare.  These kids are simply incredible in their ability to learn, listen, understand and take the responsibility they need to when guided.  We loaded up and began our 3 hour drive to Lee’s Ferry.

 

 

 

Spencer & Tanner on the Navajo Bridge.  Spencer is explaining to Tanner what he sees. Photo: Lisa Chiles

Spencer & Tanner on the Navajo Bridge. Spencer is explaining to Tanner what he sees.
Photo: Lisa Chiles

We arrived on the south side of the Navajo and Glen Canyon bridges as the bus dropped us off to walk across it for the first view of the canyon.  Of our team of 10, 3 are completely blind and the other 7 have varying levels of very limited vision.

 

 

 

Taylor and I on the Navajo Bridge.  She loves for us to take selfies so she can go back and see us and the places we go since she can't in the moment.

Taylor and I on the Navajo Bridge. She loves for us to take selfies so she can go back and see us and the places we go with her magnification tools since she can’t in the moment.

When we told them we would be walking across a bridge the terror set in for a few of them.  The bridge had guard rails so they could walk themselves without a guide across it.  We let them roam free! It was a special moment for us all.

 

 

 

 

Learning the trades of the river with our gear line loading the boats.

Learning the trades of the river with our gear line loading the boats.

Lee’s Ferry welcomed us to our fleet with gray grumbling skies promising feisty adventure.  We were finally there, about to embark upon 80 miles of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon with 26 people and 6 boats.  We handled the last of the logistics as the boats were packed up and we met our river guides.

 

 

 

Adam and Lauren enjoying the storm and lunch.  Adam has very limited vision and Lauren is completely blind.  Adam has a twin sister that is also blind and he treated Lauren like his own sister always looking after her.

Adam and Lauren enjoying the storm and lunch. Adam has very limited vision and Lauren is completely blind. Adam has a twin sister that is also blind and he treated Lauren like his own sister always looking after her.

They began to prepare lunch as those luminous skies delivered what they were promising, rain, hail, thunder and lighting.  It was dumping buckets as we all took shelter. The kids were so brave and rather excited about all the weather. Some stepped out into it to feel the hail and rain.  It was a hint of what was to come on this incredible river.

 

 

 

 

Alex and this grateful moment of beauty as we depart Lee's Ferry Photo: Lisa Chiles

Alex and this grateful moment of beauty as we depart Lee’s Ferry
Photo: Lisa Chiles

Eventually we had to get on those boats and go, rain or shine.  We began under tempestuous skies. It was sensory overload for us all with the damp warm air, cool raindrops and the chilly waters below washing us away. Departing with the raindrops gently dropping on our expedition felt incredibly peaceful.  It was how every river trip should begin to lend an example of being fluid and open to whatever adventure awaits ahead.

 

 

 

Lisa, Aria and an unnamed photo bomber as we depart Lee's Ferry

Lisa, Aria and an unnamed photo bomber as we depart Lee’s Ferry. Photo: Lisa Chiles

 

The smile that graces Lisa’s face says it all.  We are on our way to evolve and change lives.  Let the dirt and water in, it will become part of who we are.  Because we can.

 

See you soon on the Colorado River for part II…

 

The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.
– John Wesley Powell

 

 

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