The Darkroom: Hiking the Grand Canyon

Hannah Green’s thoughts on hiking the Grand Canyon.

By on May 12, 2022 | Leave a reply

[Editor’s Note: Congratulations to iRunFar columnist Hannah Green who spent roughly 41 days in March and April of this year backpacking the length of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, beginning at Lees Ferry and finishing at Pearce Ferry. In her March article, she shared her thoughts from right before starting this expedition. In this article, she reflects on the experience, which is now a few weeks in the rearview mirror.]

She slides open the door and I scurry inside. The door rotates shut and we’re encased in total darkness. The metal of the door scrapes as my mom pushes it and eventually opens to an orange glow in a small room. The ethereal light is just enough to see the objects in the room.

Normally I’m pretty afraid of the dark, but not with her here. Water runs in the large sink almost like a spring bubbling out of a small crack in the rock. I’m too short to look through the enlarger to see what she’s doing. After moving some knobs, it eventually makes a click.

She finds a small stool so I can stand and watch. Slowly dipping the paper in the liquid, she gently rocks the tray back and forth. Eventually, as if by magic, an image appears. She makes a couple more photos, and then we step back into the darkness of the rotating door. Darkness envelops us again until it opens on the bright and harsh world outside of the darkroom.

A photo of a leaf, processed in the darkroom.

A photo of a leaf, processed in the darkroom. All photos: Hannah Green

I lay in the back of my truck on the edge of the canyon. I was hit by an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu. A few weeks prior, I was camped in this same spot the day before I started hiking the length of the Grand Canyon. And here I was again, feeling like I had simply turned a revolving door and was back above the rim. The track of the sun, my sore knees, and the scrapes and scratches on my legs being the only indicators that time had passed, that I had been somewhere, done something.

Hannah Green's tent at the edge of Grand Canyon

Hannah’s tent in the Grand Canyon, in the peaceful shadow of dusk.

Despite the terrain being difficult and demanding, I’ve never felt such a sense of contentment in a place and in myself. Retaining that peace back in the glaring world of everyday life is a different question. I’ve learned over the years that I’m kind of a scattered person. I like to do things quickly and often all at once. As a result, I find myself getting paralyzed by all the things I “should” be doing, to the point where I don’t get any of them done.

While paring down and focusing on something damn near as important to me as my friends and family, I found that my mind felt clear. And while the extreme simplicity of hiking from point A and point B is not a reality for most of life, it’s worth noting that prioritizing and setting goals is so important to keeping a calm mind. Trying to do and be everything all of the time is, well, impossible.

The sun is setting and the shadows of the mountains cover the town. I’m piddling around in my house but hear something outside my window. I open it a few inches and the loud, solitary call of a robin streams in. I take a deep breath. My mind remembers the calm evenings camped along the banks of the Colorado River, deep in the canyon.

From My Journal — Day 8

Definitely feel like this is where I’ve needed to be. Yes sad, negative thoughts flow through, but they aren’t stifling — at least not at this moment, here, now, in the sun, the sound of the river lapping at the shore, in one of the grandest places I’ll ever get to wander.

Yes, I’ve got a long way to go still. It can feel overwhelming at times, but I’m just trying to take it one day at a time.

I keep wanting to form some grand philosophical ideas out here, but there are just too many life analogies.

Safe to say, my mind is in a better state when I devote my energy to things that make me feel whole.

What is life but a series of inspired follies? Mmmm. Great question.

The river lulls us. Placates our fears. Tells us to stay calm. Be present. Listen. Feel. See.

The water is a glassy sliver. Rippled reflections glowing in the shadows of the canyon walls. So close, but so far from anything.

Call for Comments

How does your mind deal with the intersection of regular life and the recreation you do in the outdoors?

The Colorado River

The Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

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Hannah Green

wanders long distances by foot and takes photos along the way. When not outside, you can likely find her at the nearby coffee shop. Find more on Instagram and at Hannah Green Art.