Make a short list of words that describe largeness: grand huge vast biggest humongous
List of words that describe smallness: tiny itsy little slight minute
Randomly pair the lists: tiny-grand huge-slight
What would you write?
The Grand Canyon spread out before me, and I just stood staring out at the vastness. Layer upon layer of sandstone painted the vista with vivid reds, oranges and yellows. I wanted so to take in the wholeness of it, but felt inadequate before the space.
The others had all opted for the guided burro rides down the canyon face to the river below. I for some reason decided to stay and play the solitary wanderer. I looked over at the trail crawling down the side. The riders had disappeared around a corner already. I walked back to the car, reached in for a couple of bottles of water and my pack, and moved over to the opposite side of the parking lot. I stepped over the chain that blocked another, narrower path and headed down alone. The air was dry and cool, and it looked like I was going to have a nice solitary hike. I kept the canyon wall to my right, and kept my head down to keep the light of the bright sun out of my eyes. The view might have been insanely scenic, but I saw only dry trail and the thin Colorado River below.
Fifteen minutes into my jaunt, the trail seemed to get a bit narrower. I noticed that my right shoulder was getting a bit dusty from rubbing up against the wall of rock. I didn’t realize till then that the trail just kept on going into the distance, but with the odd narrow spot here and there, as though a rock fall from above had taken out a bit of the path and left a one-person-wide cornice over the canyon below. I slowed and examined the path as far ahead as I could see, and it still looked passable, though narrow. I looked back then, and saw that with my focus on the path, I had walked through three of the narrows already. Rather than let the deteriorating trail turn me back, I decided to be the adventurous type and forge on. I had gotten this far. how bad could it be?
I walked on, drinking sporadically and stopping to view the canyon. Leaning back against the red rock wall, I looked out at millions of years of geologic history off in the distance. The striations on the rock walls reminded me that the sediment was laid along a vast shore over thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of years. In my speck of a trail, I felt like an ant under a microscope with the Grand Canyon looming over me, wondering at my minuteness.
It felt like forever, but was actually only ninety minutes when I came around a small outcrop on the trail and encountered a full stop. There before me was sheer cliff face. The trail had been wiped clean, and there was no more forward in my day. A rock slide had taken out fifty feet of cliff face, and I could see the bare virgin rock untouched by the weather.
I rested for a while, and took in the whole scenic immenseness that was the Grand Canyon. With a sigh and gratitude at having seen the scar on the cliff face, I turned back to trek up the canyon wall again to rejoin the group. I figured that I would be back before they knew I was gone.
At the first narrowing of the trail, knowing that I had come through on the way down, I passed right along the path, left shoulder hugging rock. The pebbles falling away into the void didn’t scare me. At the second narrows, I hesitated, rested a b it, and finished off the second bottle of water. I will admit to a bit of fear, but I walked slowly along the trail, my back to the rocks and my whole self presented to the canyon. When I got back to the wider part of the trail, I looked behind me and wondered how I ever made it through there on the way down. I must have been so focused on keeping the sun out of my eyes that it never occurred to me to turn back to safety.
I plugged on, heading steadily up toward the rim. The sun had shifted across the canyon walls, and I felt bathed in red-orange light. I came up to the last narrow spot, and froze. There was no way that I had come through there. I would have had to jump over one gap, and the trail on either side of it was eighteen inches wide at most. What had I done? A sheen of sweat broke out all over my body, chilling me in the shadows of the canyon wall. I had no choice.
I began by moving up to the edge of the slight lip, and swung the pack off my back. With a long backhand, I tossed it forward, out and away, and saw it fall onto the narrow trail eight feet in front of me. With my hand on the rocks, I backed up ten paces, took a few deep breaths, and jogged forward, my eyes focused on the backpack. At the edge of the gap, I pushed off, seeing only the pack, and thudded into the trail. I skidded a bit, and my right foot was off the rock and into air, but I rolled left and hit the wall. I was safe.