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For my third grade year my family decided to travel the U.S. We sold our house, packed up all of our things, and loaded them on to a trailer... and just like like that, I was pulled out of school and dragged across the U.S. for six months. I don't really know why my parents did it, but I did know that we were not going on the typical family vacation. No. Not at all. We were going on a life-changing adventure.
It turned out that hiking down the Grand Canyon had always been my parents' dream. It was not mine. I was so wrapped up in all of our other adventures, that I didn't even bother to think twice about it, until about a week before we were going to hike it. My little five year old brother was excited, and my younger sister? Well, she didn’t really care what we were going to do. She is more of the 'go-with-the-flow' type of girl. I, on the other hand, well, I was not thrilled at all. The truth was I was secretly terrified. I wasn't sure I'd be able to do it.
I felt silly for feeling afraid about a hike. I mean how bad could it be? I had taken many hikes in my nine years, but it wasn't just any hike in my eyes. It was the Grand Canyon- the ultimate challenge; and I was not a big fan of challenges.
When we arrived at Grand Canyon National Park, I was enchanted by its beauty. I almost felt like I was looking at a picture. The rocks themselves were mesmerizing. The flaming yellows, apricots, and oranges. The sky was crystal clear and turquoise blue. Being in the presence of the beautiful canyon made me forget about having to actually hike it. Of course, my little brother Ian's persistent ringing voice just had to remind me, “When are we going to hike it, Papa? I just can’t wait! How about you, Kat?!” I just rolled my eyes and walked away.
I had two days until I actually had to hike it. A fidgety awareness was creeping up on me. I couldn't sleep; it felt like there was a heavy rock on my chest and I didn't have the strength to push it off. I didn’t have the guts to confess that to my family. They were so happy; I didn’t want them to worry about me.
Before the real trip, my parents decided to do a practice run. Now like any five year old, my brother had a lot of energy. All during the practice hike, he kept charging straight ahead, tripping over rocks and almost nose-diving off the side of the canyon. This insane behavior scared us all half to death. For one fleeting moment I hoped that because he was so wild, we wouldn’t be able to do the hike. I was wrong.
Then the day before our big hiking trip I had an accident. My sister and I were walking on the curb of the road in the campground, and I fell really hard on my knee. There was a fairly large gash. I was secretly happy to have an injury, because again I thought that it would prevent me from going on the hike. I should have known better. A little wound wasn't going to stop my parents from taking me on that awful trek down the canyon.
Finally, the dreaded day arrived, and I wasn’t the least bit ready. On the outside I seemed like the perfect little girl who wanted to hike the Grand Canyon, but on the inside I was a wreck. Butterflies were swarming in my stomach to the point where I thought I was might heave. The heavy rock on my chest felt ten times bigger.
Surprisingly, when we started heading down I felt better than I expected. It wasn't so hard. I could do it. I smiled and let out a little laugh. I can do it! I can do it! I thought over and over again.
Unfortunately, as you descend it gets hotter. I started to feel sick and weak, and my legs felt like they were going to fall off. This could not be happening! I was having fun! I thought I could do it. Why am I always wrong? Why me? The heavy rock on my chest was back.
I knew that I was was dehydrated and so was my dad. This is not good, I thought. We needed to find a shady spot to take a rest, but that is almost impossible in the canyon. My mom ran up ahead to find one. I learned something new about my mom on that trip...she is like a camel! She drank less than a whole bottle of water on the whole hike down and she didn't feel sick at all. Maybe that's why she ended up passing by about five shady spots before we finally stopped to rest.
After about eight hours, we made it down to the bottom. I dumped all of my stuff down at our camp site. I was so tired that any feeling of accomplishment was drained from me. I had made it down to the bottom. Why did I still feel like I had failed?
After three days and two nights of camping and swimming in the Colorado River, we finally returned to the top. It was even harder climbing to the top than going down, but I was the first one to reach it, and everyone cheered. I had done it! I, Katharina Hallowell, had hiked the Grand Canyon.
After we took pictures and everyone cheered for us, I started to cry. I was silent, but tears were flowing down my face. I cried and cried and cried. No one could figure out why I was so upset, but I knew. I felt like I had just accomplished the hardest thing in the world. The rock on my chest was nothing but a pebble then. I had proven to myself that nothing was impossible. If I could hike the Grand Canyon, then I could do anything.