By: Tanya Ward Goodman
Last weekend, I took my first ride on a mule, got my first look at the very bottom of the Grand Canyon, and suffered my first scorpion sting. It was quite a weekend.
The trip was the brainchild of my stepmother Carla (I call her “La”) who is one of the bravest most adventurous people I know. I credit her influence for my attempts at many things that started out scary and ended up thrilling.
Along with La, my sister-in-law with whom I share a fear of heights and a need to test our own boundaries accompanied me. The last time the three of us took on an adventure, we bought an advertising agency. It took two years and a mediation expert to get us out of that one. I hoped the Grand Canyon trip would be less complicated.
Prior to the trip, to suppress my anxiety, I went shopping. I trolled REI and Sports Chalet, where I stocked up on “wicking” layers, waterproof pants, and extra warm socks. I tied strings to my hat, camera, and sunglasses. I kissed my kids and my husband and got on the plane for Phoenix. I was as ready as I would ever be.
Our ride began at 8 in the morning. The temperature at the rim was just under 20 degrees. I wore two Capilene shirts, a fleece jacket, and a down jacket plus fleece long johns, stretchy, windproof pants, two pairs of socks, two pairs of gloves, a scarf, and a wool cap. I was warm-ish. A cowboy with two missing fingers and a waxed mustache told us that we were about to embark on a grueling ride. He told us we would be riding on the edge of winding, narrow trails. He told us that if we were afraid of heights we should know there would be great heights. He could guarantee drops of at least 3000 feet. He did everything in his power to freak us out and then he asked us to saddle up. And we did. And suddenly, we were on the trail, our mules slipping and stepping down packed snow and ice, the canyon spreading out and opening up all around us. With the first sunlight of the new day illuminating the red rock, the wonderment in my brain squeezed out all the fear. It was amazing. It was all I could do not to break into huge gulping sobs of happiness.
I told this story to my kids. I told them how afraid I was and how amazing the experience was and how if I hadn’t gotten on that mule I would have missed out on a chance to see myself and my world in a different way. I told them about the scorpion and how it hurt and how eventually it stopped hurting and I realized that a scorpion sting is a lot like a bee sting. It’s bad, but if you’re not allergic, it passes and now I have a little less fear of scorpions. And a little less fear of heights. And deep trust for a good mule.