Operation Canyon Rising 2018 was an opportunity for four disabled veterans and two gold star family members to meet, talk and hike the Grand Canyon together from rim to rim.
The participants flew from various cities across America and gathered in Scottsdale Arizona on Sept 8th. We were graciously hosted at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort and left the morning of the 9th to drive up to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. With our guides from Arizona Outback Adventures leading the way we settled into our cabins just before dinner. That evening we gathered to share our stories; who we are, what happened to us, and what we have accomplished in our lives. It was an amazing opportunity for each of us to get to know one other and bond as a team before we began our rigorous hike down the canyon.
The next morning we put on our packs and started the 14-mile hike down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It took us 11 hours to descend 5700 ft., but everyone finished in good spirits. That afternoon we settled into the cabins at Phantom Ranch where we would spend the next two nights.
The morning of Sept 10th, while at the bottom of the canyon, we gathered to discuss the lows in our lives. Because we had bonded as a team, everyone felt comfortable in opening up about losing a limb or a loved one. Through each other’s shared experiences and grief, common feelings were noticed and the team was able to help heal each other. By recognizing our personal lows we were able to leave those feelings at the bottom of the canyon. After that we shifted gears and hiked to the Colorado River where we all enjoyed a refreshing dunk in the cool water.
On Sept 11thwe started our 10-mile hike out of the canyon to the South Rim. It was a very challenging 11-hour journey, as we had to gain 4300 feet of elevation. As we reached the south rim a large group of Air Force veterans, friends, family members and park patrons cheered for us as we rose up out of the canyon. After a quick shower and change of clothing, we then went out for dinner and drinks with the team members and those who gathered to cheer us on. It was a great celebration and the participants were very appreciative of those who cared so much for the team that they would travel to the Grand Canyon just to be there for us as we completed our journey.
The next morning we gathered for a closing at the south rim and discussed what we gained from this experience and how we want to Rise Up and move forward in our lives. We then drove back to the Scottsdale where the Fairmont Resort hosted us again. That evening we had one last team dinner and the next morning we all flew home.
Operation Canyon Rising was a great success! By talking about some of our struggles we realized we had some shared experiences that others could relate to and a lot of healing was accomplished. It was a very physically demanding journey, but through the adversity and struggles of the hike, we became friends and helped lift each other up. In the end we left some baggage at the bottom of the canyon and vowed to Rise Up to overcome some of the challenges that have come our way.