The Grand Canyon. We finally completed the circle and came back to a point where much of our adventure had started during the northern hemisphere summer. The national forest outside of Grand Canyon National Park sits at roughly 8000 ft. We climbed from our tent at first light. As the sun rose, it reached long arms of light between the limbs of the trees towards us, cascading softly across the snowy ground and making it shimmer. Tufts of grass were weighed under by the snow, and shadows and shapes changed in the light as the sun crept away from the horizon.
We hiked from the rim towards Phantom Ranch, not quite all the way, but close. We paused on a balcony of sandstone looking down on the ranch. It was hard to imagine we had stopped there just some months previously. We had pulled up the boats there, ran up the beach to the well and collected water. I remember the feel of the rapids after we pulled away from the ranch. And now, here we were on the rim, looking down at our past selves, months and experiences older. I listened for our voices on the breeze.
It was a different canyon this time. Snow had frozen into ice on the layers of sandstone where the sun could not reach. Time had settled into the cracks and crevices. But tourists still came, some better prepared than others. Some walking surely to their deaths in the cold, desolate and dry canyon. Perhaps that will become substance for a future post. We came out of the canyon after dark, with the stars sparkling overhead and the frozen path crunching dangerously beneath our feet.
Driving back to our little camp in the national forest, we knew the night was cold, but it didn’t concern us. We had become hardened by this point. Used to the cold. Used to setting up camp in the dark in new and alien locations. Used to waking up to new wonders. And in the comfort of what had become home, it suddenly became time to say goodbye, shake up our new comforts, and move on.
We came like this back to California. Attune to the rising and setting sun. Attune to living life out of our vehicle. Comfortable in the familiar routines we carried daily through unfamiliar and changing landscapes. We came back to California, visited friends and family, and came to our last night in the tent.
It was a Saturday and welcome rains were just easing in northern California. We hiked into Point Reyes, down to the coast, and set up our little home there. We carried a drink to the cliffs above the beach, and sat with each other in the grass, staring out at the sand and sky and sea, hues of green and blue under a lifting fog, watching rays of sun peak through cloud over the distant ocean horizon. We had been on this journey across land and had seen such stunning sculptured landscapes, but, I realised then, my heart was always, always coming home to the ocean. This ocean. The great Pacific Ocean.
Somewhere out there was Japan, where we had been in the first few days of our traveling, and where we had walked on the rocky beach and looked across this ocean towards the adventures yet to come. That was the past, when I looked into the future. Now, I sat there above the surging singing water looking out from the present back to the past, in a small way longing for it, and in another, greater way, looking for another future. For somewhere out there, if I cast my eyes away from where Japan should be and deep into that southern horizon, somewhere out there was New Zealand too. And the ocean curled in welcome and crashed down onto the beach below us, beckoning us, enticing us home.