by Rhonda Baumann
The Baumann Family adventure trip to the Grand Canyon exceeded our wildest dreams and was over and above our expectations! Nothing could have prepared us for the emotions that touched our senses, the wonder that flooded our minds and the breath-taking beauty that permeated our very souls. We walked, hobbled and rolled the Grand Canyon trails together as a family that filled us with immeasurable joy and renewed our appreciation of life, faith and love.
You will see the life, love and joy in our amazing pictures, but I want to be completely transparent in this blog and don’t want to hide the uneasiness behind our smiles. We escaped to the Grand Canyon not even considering all the worries, fears and anxieties about my recent ALS diagnosis we were carrying with us. We also had the added dilemma of our daughter’s recent season-ending sports injury (torn achilles). That being said, I’d like to begin this blog by introducing its main characters and describe the healing we experienced during our time together in the Grand Canyon.
This picture was taken during the descent of Toll Trail, the last trail we hiked that particular day. It involved about a dozen flights of stairs similar to the ones in the picture except some of them did not have handrails, the steps were irregular in size and there was snow and ice to navigate around from a previous snowstorm.
We were tired, but determined to get to the lookout at the bottom of the stairs. The one person missing in the picture is my husband, Kirk. That is because he took the picture. He’s always the one behind the scene carrying all our stuff, planning, surprising and thinking of ways to make my life easier!
In fact, Kirk is the person behind the whole Grand Canyon Adventure and reaching out to Team Gleason! I love him dearly, but he is the classic “caretaker” who sacrifices his own needs for ours. Our youngest daughter Saige, who hobbled down the stairs with her crutches, never uttering a complaint which is typical of her personality, but she was definitely carrying a hefty burden on her shoulders and stuffing her true feelings.
Our older daughter, Galena, whose arm I am clutching on for dear life, is also a caretaker like her father and a very motivated controller. She becomes anxious with life events that she cannot manage or control so it was particularly hard for her as she processes my ALS diagnosis. And then there’s me, struggling to keep up in a fast-paced world that won’t slow down, but always smiling and presumably happy. And I am naturally happy and positive most of the time, but I admit to using my smile and humor as a tool to assure everyone that I am okay even though sometimes I’m not.
So, we got to the lookout at the base of all the stairs carrying with us all our baggage of burdens, hurts, fears and anxiety. As we gazed at the awesomeness of the Grand Canyon from yet another viewpoint, our eyes focused on the hiking trails far, far below us. We had to really focus our eyes on the distant maze of trails and sure enough, there were people on the trails and they looked as tiny as ants! Secretly, I was jealous of the tiny people on the trail because they were able to hike those trails and surely they didn’t have any problems like ours. But from my perspective, I couldn’t see their problems! That’s when I was reminded that there is a much greater perspective than my own. A perspective that is greater than the Grand Canyon!
That’s when I got a tiny glimpse of God’s perspective. For the Creator of the world, all our problems are small; not insignificant, just small. Our perspectives are so small, narrow and subjective to our own experiences and circumstances. I shared my thoughts with my daughters and my husband and we were all humbly reminded that there is a power much greater than ourselves. It didn’t happen immediately, but throughout our week at the Grand Canyon we were all able to see our short sighted perspectives and become aware that there is a much greater perspective and purpose for all of us. As we slowly loosened our grip on fear, control, burdens and anxieties our faith began to grow, our hope was renewed and our love flourished.
One can’t go on a trip to the Grand Canyon with the people they love most in this world and not be affected on multiple levels. A person can never be the same after experiencing the ever-changing colors on the canyon walls, the breathtaking depth of the canyon floor and the dazzling sunsets that cast a mixture of shadow and light in slow motion fashion before darkness falls and the stars shine so vividly in the sky. Our Grand Canyon Adventure was so much more than a “get away” to a beautiful place. It was an invitation for us to do some much needed healing and a reason to say,
“NO WHITE FLAGS!!”
After we landed at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, our first stop was to see Kaleigh B. at the AZ ALS Chapter who arranged a transport chair for our trip. Thank you Kaleigh!
Next, we were off to The Grand Hotel in Tusayan which is located at the entrance of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was a very long travel day for all of us, but we made it to our destination at about 8:00 p.m. Thank you Team Gleason for wonderful accommodations!!
The next day we were off to the Grand Canyon Scenic Airlines for a bird’s eye view of the Grand Canyon. During our 45 minute plane ride, we saw incredible aerial views of the stone gorges of the South Rim and the Colorado River winding between the ancient walls. Captain Jack was our pilot and he was wonderful!
Later the same day, we went on a Buck Wild sunset tour in a Hummer! Our tour guide/driver was Alice and her energy and enthusiasm was outstanding. As the sun moves over the Grand Canyon, the colors change throughout the day, and you can see the most beautiful colors at sunset. Our family agrees that there is no better time to witness the canyon’s beauty than at sunset.
Our next day was spent exploring the Grand Canyon Village. We went to the Ver Kamp’s Visitors Center, the amazing Hopi House and had dinner at the historic El Tovar Hotel Restaurant.
Then, we spent a day touring every trail and lookout point on Hermit Road. We even, quite literally ran into 4 Elk that were licking the salt off the sidewalk we were walking on to get back to the rental car! Fortunately, they decided to let us use the sidewalk again after about a 20 minute wait.
Our last tour was with Canyon Ministries which took us over to the far East side of the rim where we visited Mary Colter’s Desert View Watchtower. Our tour guide, Eddie, included one last amazing sunset for us to witness.
We had to say goodbye to the Grand Canyon on Christmas Morning, but took with us treasured memories and a new perspective on life! A life with healing hearts and the hope of many beautiful tomorrows! Thank you Grand Canyon! We headed down to Scottsdale by way of Sedona and soaked up the sunny and warm weather.
We spent the final two days of our trip in Scottsdale at the Hilton Vacation Club. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and tropical by our standards! We took in the sights and sounds of Old Scottsdale, toured the shops and enjoyed delicious food!
Team Gleason, Thank you for making the Grand Canyon Adventure a reality for our family. It truly was a life changing experience that came at the perfect time in our lives. Words cannot express the gratitude we carry with us in our hearts for the gift you have given our family on Christmas 2022!
It is true that ALS definitely changes your life and the lives of those you love, but it can NEVER take away your freedom to choose to persevere despite the circumstances. Diversity of any type, has the strange potential to grow character to unimaginable heights; it all comes down to a choice! This family chooses “NO WHITE FLAGS EVER!”
The Baumann Family