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James R. Stout

Happy Trails

            There have been times in my life that I haven’t exactly made the smartest decisions. Fortunately, I have thus far survived despite some of those errant decisions. I even managed to come out of a few of those situations with something special to show for it. I was in Arizona checking out some of the incredible natural sights to see in that wonderful state. I spent two days at the Grand Canyon and my main goal was to get as many photos as possible of the different views of the canyon in the short time that I was going to be there. It was my second trip to the canyon, and I had done the Clark Griswold thing on the first trip. You know what I mean? Drive to the different lookouts, pile out of the car, go to the railings, ooh and ahh a lot, and take way too many pictures. But not this trip.

            I didn’t have the time to do the hike down to the canyon floor nor the desire to ride a mule. But I did search for some vantage points that would provide a few unique shots beyond the norm. I had parked at one of the lookouts but decided that I would follow what appeared to be a game trail. At first, I thought it was going to be a bust because the trail wound around in the woods and seemed as though it was veering away from the canyon. I kept going and I realized that I was heading back towards the rim of the canyon, but the brush and undergrowth were getting thicker and thicker and I was barely able to make out glimpses of the canyon. I came to a low spot in the trail and I had to stoop down and almost waddle through the brush. I doubt that I could do that trick today. My knees just wouldn’t cooperate. But it was worth the discomfort that day. I suddenly was in the clear and standing very close to the edge of the rim. Too close. Way to close.

            But my trusty camera was quickly employed in taking pictures of a stunning view. To be honest, being that close to the edge was stupid. It was very dangerous and to slip and fall would mean to slip and fall a long way. I couldn’t help myself though. I took the photos that I wanted to, including the one I’ve attached to this entry in my blog. Take note of the snow still on the rock ledge in the foreground. The camera that I had at the time did not have the ability to take wide landscape photos. I wish that it had because what you can’t see is just as beautiful as what you can see. After I took my fill of pictures, I took off my lightweight jacket and sat down about 2 feet from the edge. It was warmer than you might think despite the snow still found in the shaded areas. I just soaked up the beauty of that vista. I found myself thanking God for the gift of that view, the ability to see it, and for life in general.

            I spent about 30 minutes sitting there and then it was time to move on. I freely admit that I scooted backwards on my rump for a couple of feet before standing up. I wanted room to lose my balance without losing my life! As I stated at the beginning of this entry, I have made some dumb decisions along the way, but sometimes they work out. One truth that I have found about life is that as you get older you tend to be more cautious. I have learned from making my own mistakes, but I have also learned from witnessing other people make mistakes. I doubt very seriously that I would try to go back to that spot on the canyon rim today. Like Dirty Harry said, “A man has got to know his limitations.” I guess on that day several years ago I was either very lucky or perhaps I knew that I could do what I did and therefore I did it. I’m thankful for that opportunity. Another truth about life is that sometimes you have to take a chance. Never taking a chance makes life stagnant. I’m reminded of a song by Seals and Crofts from 1973, “We May Never Pass This Way Again”. I’m pretty darned sure that I will never stand at that viewpoint again. It’s just not going to happen. For one thing, there’s too many things that I haven’t seen yet that I want to see rather than going back and attempting to repeat a moment in time now gone. But you know what? I have those pictures. I can look at a picture and I’m able to relive that moment.

            So, my friends I urge you to go out there and take a few chances. Be careful though and take lots of pictures. You’ll likely never experience those special moments more than once, but when you one day can’t do what you can do now, you’ll have those photos to look back on and remember. Happy trails!


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