This summer my family and I went on a 14-day Grand Canyon river trip. Not to be too cliched, but it really was the trip of a lifetime. Here’s the thing, though: “trip of a lifetime” could either mean the best experience of your life, or the worst. And that’s exactly how my daughter, Clementine, approached the whole idea of this trip.
As most of you probably know there is a lot of planning that goes into a river trip—even if you go on a commercial trip like we did (official shout out to AzRA: they are the BEST). This meant that even though our trip was in July we needed to start collecting the necessary gear for the trip months ahead of time. Which also meant that Clementine started to try her best to get out of going on the trip months ahead of time as well.
To give her credit, she was clever about it. She didn’t attempt to wear me down through whining (at long last THAT lesson has sunk in), but instead by casually mentioning, when I would least expect it, how much she really didn’t want to go on this trip, and how much better off I would be if instead I took someone who might actually enjoy it. She pointed out how much she dislikes camping, and hiking, and being away from her lap top and espresso. I, in turn, pointed out that the whole point of a family vacation is to spend it with your family. And so she went. Reluctantly, begrudgingly, and not too happily, but she went.
Now, in any other piece of writing I am sure this is the point where I would write about how the Canyon transformed Clementine: how she learned to fall in love with all the hard lines of rock and soft curls of sand, how the cascading notes of the Canyon Wren trickling down the Canyon walls every afternoon became her favorite sound in the whole world, and how at the end of the trip all she could do was speak wistfully about how she couldn’t wait to come back. In any other piece of writing, maybe, but in this one I’m going to write about how happy she was to see the bus that was waiting to pick us up at the take out, and how, as that bus finally began the long ascent that would take us up to Peach Springs, and then home, Clementine stood in the back of that bus and flipped off the Grand Canyon.
With both hands.
Not the most storybook of endings. Although, as far as break ups go, it was pretty epic. And, yeah, even after we got home and she had the chance to shower two weeks’ worth of Colorado River mud out of her hair, they’re still broken up. Which, actually, is okay with me. Sure, it would have been nice if Clementine had fallen in love with the Canyon, but that was never one of my requirements of her for our trip. In fact, the only requirement I ever had was that she not spew her hatred and misery on the other people on our trip, (both the guides and the other passengers), and she met this requirement admirably. She was pleasant, she was helpful, and, on occasion, she was an absolute joy. But she didn’t change her mind about not liking camping, or hiking, or being away from the internet.
She did, however, jump off a few waterfalls, learn the words to a few new songs, and find out that while it may not be optimal, it is possible to step out of your comfort zone every now and again without dire consequences. And while she probably won’t ever admit it, I think she still ended up kind of liking the Canyon.
Just a little bit.