> jumping into life.

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I wonder what it must have been like for the explorers, who came upon it unawares. I imagine them slogging through the heat, watching their feet for rattlers, then looking up, sudden. Rumor has it the Spaniards walked away unimpressed and estimated the river below at some eight feet. Perhaps they were unimpressed; if they lost no horses to the big hole, why should it be worth noting? Nonetheless, this is what it was for me:

Mather Point is crawling with tourists. There is something about the horizon that tells me the end is nigh. I try not to look before I am at the edge, and then I look. My heart stops. I forget my name. I want to throw up: my eyes tumble down and heave back up, down and up, impossibly deep and far. I almost throw up. I almost close my eyes and step into the deep.

And then I want to know which species of juniper is in front of me.

I decide to eat lunch and then pick a trail. The info at the visitors' center suggests that South Kaibab, and after I finish my greasy veggie burger I grab the shuttle to the trailhead. I am immediately and repeatedly glad for my crampons, as the trail is icy and as steep as it looks. The ice turns soon to mush, then mud as I descend. I stop at Cedar Ridge, which is covered in junipers, and watch kids feed peanuts to the squirrels. I walk a ways farther, but clouds are coming in fast and the sun starting to dip.

On the way back, a herd of teenaged boys passes me, and I turn off my competitive urges with an almost audible click. I am here for myself. I stop at the insipidly-named Ooh Aah Point and dangle my feet of the edge of a boulder. There comes a sound that I hear in my chest more than my ears: I look, and a raven has landed but three feet from me, and sits peering. I bow my head, and he bobs back at me before taking off in a rush of wind and wings.