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Reflections from the River: Learning of the Journey

"Then one day, when you least expect it, the great adventure finds you." - Ewan Mcgregor

“The only question in life is whether or not you are going to answer a hearty ‘YES!’ to your adventure.” – Joseph Campbell

On January 4, 2019, I received a call that would change my year and I would say even my life. It was on this day that a relatively new acquaintance called me about a trip in April that he was planning. A little background about my friend and how we came to know one another. My wife is an avid internet searcher and the source of most of my adventure in the last 10 years. In October of 2018, she came across the Facebook page of a local non-profit that was doing working that she thought was of great importance. This happens with some regularity, but this organization was really calling us and was gearing up for a new fund raising campaign. We read over their history and objectives and decided immediately we needed to meet with them in person. For so many reasons, we are so thankful that we reached out. Everyone in this organization is so passionate about their mission and willing to share their knowledge and experience with us. We immediately knew we had to join them in their efforts. This in turn, lead to a chance for me to spend some quality time with one of their employees. We spent an afternoon hiking around a local landmark, Kessler Moutain sharing some conversation about our lives and how we came to be in our current setting. It was a gift to learn so much about our local history, geography and geology and if that afternoon would have been the extent of our time together, it would have felt like enough.... but it was only the beginning.

Back to January 4..... The trip in April turned out to be a chance to paddle through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River with a private group with experienced oarsman. Now to be honest, seeing the Grand Canyon from the rim was certainly a bucket list item for me, but never in my wildest dreams would I have envisioned actually going down the river. I am an outdoorsman that loves to chase waterfalls here in Arkansas and any other place I can find one. I am also an avid hiker who explores many trails in the Ozarks. I am not a boater. My last float trip was in my mid 20's. While I might have stumbled a cross some of the commercial trips available, the cost and planning would have discouraged me from ever taking such a trip. So when my friend invited me to be a part of the group that would be spending 20 days on the Colorado River.... I replied with my hearty "YES"!! Immediately, I thought, "Why me?". I even posed this question to my friend. His honest and simple reply was that from my sharing of my trip to the Trappist monasteries, he thought I would truly appreciate the silence, beauty and spiritual nature of the river and the canyon. Immediately my mind went to my time at St. Joseph's Abbey in Snowmass, CO and the millions of stars that I was immersed in on my first visit there and tried to imagine what a night sky from the river might look like. It was going to be really hard to wait to make the trip in April.

How special was this invitation?? Well, 2019 just happens to be the year of my 50th trip around the sun. My wife (remember my source of adventure) had been trying to get me to agree to some trip to celebrate my 50th birthday for the past 18 months prior to January 2019. She had offered up any place I had ever mentioned (several places I was sure she had no real interest in going). Nothing felt right and somehow seemed contrived. I did not want to make a trip just because I was turning 50. If we were going to do something, I wanted it to be organic and if we did nothing, that was just fine with me. Celebrating birthdays is not one of my specialties and she had finally given up knowing that I was quite content with being in Fayetteville preparing for our new puppy.

This leads to one of the first lessons that I have been given as part of this journey through the canyon and that is: Be authentic and pay attention to that which is truly calling you. We are constantly bombarded with great marketing campaigns that convince us we should be doing more, seeing great things, living our best life. This begins to feel overwhelming and often we venture off on trips that do not lead to any new knowledge or personal growth, we go because we feel we must. Certainly, we have enjoyed trips were we just got away from daily life and relaxed for a few days; but the most memorable trips were when we explored new places and learned some history, or immersed in the local culture. Turning down what might have been some good trips created the opportunity for this "once in a lifetime opportunity".

I do not believe I am indulging in hyperbole when I say once in a lifetime opportunity. For me, it truly was such an event. Of the 6,000,000 people that visit the Grand Canyon each year, only about 29,000 see it from the river (a staggering .48%). As I mentioned, I am not a boater nor do I know any boaters. So even if I filled out an application for a private trip, I would not begin to know how to coordinate with the local outfitters or find oarsman that could get me down safely. So to be included in this trip was really something of an anomaly and I believe is attributed to my disbelief, even to this day, that I actually made the trip. Thank goodness for cameras and GoPro's!!

So now I am invited to go on a trip of a lifetime. What goes into the planning?? For me, not to much, just a lot of gear to learn about and purchase, but for the trip coordinator, there is much planning that needs to take place. Join me next week to learn some of what goes into putting such a trip together.

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