> jumping into life.

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Coming out of the Canyon, the seasons spin backwards. We spent two nights in the quasi-backcountry of Phantom Ranch; one more stave in the corset suffocating the Colorado. Phantom Ranch has a restaraunt, a store, and a capacity of 180, tucked into a slot canyon under the expansive shade of old cottonwoods. They were bursting into seed as we hiked out, swirling around us on the river breeze.

I had just started pumping my older-than-god campstove when a truck pulled up to my campsite. Two boys want to share a site, split the cost. I shrug my acquiescence; the site isn't cheap, and my creep-o-meter utters not a chirp. Over dinner we discover that we get along, and also they have three nights on a backcountry permit that they're pretty sure they could get me onto: would I like to go?

I would.

Thus do I find myself waking to the trill of a canyon wren at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. At the bottom, elevation 2,560, it is spring. The brittlebush is blooming, and did I mention? The cottonwoods are seeding. I spend the layover day in an esctacy of Latin with a borrowed copy of Plants of Arizona. After dinner, we drink cider and rum and read Márquez stories out loud. The river sings us to sleep. We hike out mid-morning with our eyes on the Tonto Plateau, cottonwood cotton in our hair.

Camp is at Horn Creek, a dusty mile and a half past Plateau Point, which we agree would be the place to jump if ever this weary world grew too heavy. The cottonwoods in our little canyon are bare. Rain comes and wakes me in the dark night, swells the tiny creek. A herd of mule deer watch me watch the sunrise. We hike out to the Point for breakfast, where a raven circles and circles us, flying snap-winged acrobatics over the aching air below.

It takes about three days of walking for my body to remember that this is what it was designed for. And thus it is that I find myself halfway up the Bright Angel trail, happier with the pack on than without it, leaning into tired legs. At Indian Gardens, the squawbush is leafing and a light rain feels good on steaming skin. We walk into the clouds: by the three-mile resthouse the North Rim has disappeared into mist. Rain turns to snow. We cannot see the top until we are upon it, buildings suddenly apparating to startle our careful plodding. As we pass El Tovar, a man in a full-length down coat glares at the sky and tells us, "Well, I'm glad you're the ones out there and not me."

Yup, I say. Me too.