Walking with an Angel on a Bright Trail
Updated: May 1
With summer approaching, it’s a great time to take advantage of the natural beauty that surrounds us. You don’t even need to take a flight to reach some of the most breathtaking … and life-changing … natural locations on the planet. In fact, some of the best hiking trails on earth are where you might not expect them: practically right in your own backyard.
Setting out on a hiking journey can be invigorating, challenging and inspirational. Even if it’s a path you’ve taken before, you’re sure to see something you’ve never encountered. And there are countless amazing hikes to take this summer.
Bright Angel Trail: Twists and Turns and Mindful Moments
Recently, I had the pleasure of hiking Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon National Park. I’ve been an avid hiker for years and it’s something my wife, my daughters and I all enjoy sharing. But no matter how experienced you are, there’s always an opportunity to learn something. Sometimes it’s not about where you’re going. It’s about how you get there and who is walking by your side, which makes each journey unique.
Bright Angel Trail descends 3,080 feet into the Plateau Point of the Grand Canyon. The descent is roughly the equivalent of two Willis Towers (the Willis Tower is 1,450 feet without the antenna) stacked on top of each other. The trek was a total of 12 miles roundtrip. This trip can take nine to 12 hours, but I finished in under eight hours, having set out at 8:35 a.m. and having returned at 4:12pm.
When I awoke to set out on Bright Angel Trail on a brisk April morning, the temperature was just above freezing, so I bundled up with layers of Under Armour, a winter hat and gloves. To be honest, I kind of dreaded tackling the first 1.5 miles of the trail, which required hikers to shuffle down a 2.5-foot wide series of switchbacks that were slick with ice. Since I’d hiked this trail before, I knew I had to be prepared for whatever the journey might bring. What I couldn't prepare for, however, was an encounter unlike any I’ve had during my long history as a hiker.
There were many challenging moments during the first part of my hike. As other hikers crossed my path, passing me on the narrow pathway, I found myself slipping on the icy surface. On the return journey, I traded those freezing temps for sometimes uncomfortably warm temps when I made my way back up the trail.
Just like in life, when you’re on a hike, you might start with a certain set of expectations only to find yourself in a better spot than you anticipated when you set out. I was pleasantly surprised as I hiked further down into the canyon, to feel the temperature rise to a pleasant 70 degrees. All those layers of clothing were no longer needed, so I changed into a T-shirt, thin sweatpants and a light baseball cap. Less encumbered, I trekked on.
Along the way, my spirit was bolstered by the people I met from around the world. Folks from Boston, Philadelphia, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, California, China and Connecticut had all come to Arizona and hit this trail to take in its beautiful surroundings. I even met a hiker from Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.
No matter where our paths had started out or taken us in life before this day, we were all converging on Bright Angel Trail, each with our own histories and personal struggles, to let go of all that and be in the moment amid this breathtaking natural setting.
Walking (whether on a far-off hike or on a busy sidewalk in the city) naturally makes it easier to be mindful. In addition to the great people I met on my Bright Angel Trail hike, I also saw some beautiful moments unfold as my senses awakened.
I felt wind tickle the hairs on my neck as a condor zoomed through the air roughly five feet over my head, creating a shadow against the sun with its massive wingspan. I heard water flow through the canyon in a small stream as ice melted with the changing elevation and temperature. With each footstep, I felt my hiking boots mush down into the slushy snow, struggle to grip the icy surface and skirt around stones that crunched beneath the soles of my shoes.
I also unexpectedly pushed myself further than I ever had on a hike, this time with the motivation of a little angel named Bea from West Connecticut.
By the end of this hike, I had clocked my fastest time ever. I’ve made this journey over the years, increasing the distance I trek each time. First, I hiked six miles, then nine miles and this time I made it 12 miles. With each trek, my average time improved and my continued experience has helped me be aware of challenges on the hike, in addition to the challenges faced by other hikers.
Stumbling Upon An Angel
That said, I never thought I’d learn the things I did when I encountered Bea, the West Connecticut 7th grader I literally bumped into on mile four of the Bright Angel Trail hike. Bea collided into me from out of nowhere as she dashed down the craggy trail as effortlessly as an angel floating on air.
I wasn’t wearing my glasses at the time, and I have to tell you, at first glance, Bea didn’t even appear to be real. I thought to myself, what human being would actually be running down the rocky terrain along this stretch of the trail?
Bea wore a floppy white hat and a flowing long-sleeved white top with black shorts and a knee brace. She was extremely energetic and talkative, but she had lots of substance. Bea was also athletic, extremely polite and appeared to be rather tall for a 7th grader. After we introduced ourselves and began hiking together, Bea told me a lot about her family.
She said her mother was a medical doctor and her dad a financial investor. She had two older brothers from her Dad’s previous marriage and a younger sister, she said.
Bea regaled me with tales of her previous travels to Africa and Machu Picchu and her hikes through parts of Tanzania and in the mountains of Peru. She attributed her strength and love of hiking to being on the cross country skiing team at her school.
Step by step, Bea shared her educational and career goals. I’ve never met a youth who spoke with so much confidence. Apart from my own two intelligent, athletic, beautiful, bilingual daughters, I have never beheld such a firecracker of energy as Bea! We hiked together for approximately four challenging miles.
I would’ve had a hard time believing some of Bea's travel stories, if I hadn’t seen my own daughter travel to such places before they were 14 years old too! In my opinion Bea was way before her time!!!
The fact that her parents had allowed her to go so much further on the trail by herself was astonishing to me. Luckily, there were brief moments of cellphone reception, but those were few and far between.
As we neared at a steep resting site on the way back to the top of the trail, somewhere around mile seven, Bea and I parted ways. What I found even more otherworldly, was that as we said our goodbyes, we heard Bea's father bellowing her name through the canyon. He called, “Beeeeeaaaa!”
Watching Bea speed away and hike further up the trail, I chuckled to myself in amazement. I couldn’t help but wonder if her father’s voice was some type of God of the Bright Angel Trail calling his own trail angel back to him.
Walk-N-Talk™ Therapy: Why We Walk Together
Bea was angelic to me because she reinforced what I already know about my longtime passion and practice of Walk-N-Talk™ Therapy. During the rough moments of your life, when you feel like you can’t take another step, when you become overwhelmed with the journey and don’t know if you’re going to make it, having a partner who can walk shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow, and to talk you through it…to lift your spirits, to focus your thoughts...can make all the difference during a long journey.
My belief is that each of us have a mission in all aspects of our life! Everyone that I met on my hike of Bright Angel Trail was so giving and thoughtful! I believe everyone has the capacity to be an angel for someone else, to carry them on their way or guide them with their own radiant words, smiles or stories.
This is why I am loving what I do as your Walk-N-Talk™ Therapist. Don’t miss this experience!
About Walk-N-Talk™ Therapy
Walking can be therapeutic, but walking with a trained therapist can be life-changing.
I founded Walk-N-Talk™Therapy in 2003 as an innovative way to keep my high school students engaged in their counseling sessions. After seeing how well it worked, I incorporated the Walk-N-Talk™Therapy modality into my private practice as an effective approach that was welcomed by clients. Since then, the initiative and similar movements have grown to be embraced around the world, offering a promising new way for people to traverse the twists and turns of their mental wellness journey.
Authentically Human; Not AI-Generated
To learn more about Walk-N-Talk™ Therapy and how it can work for you, call me at 773-512-8813 or send me an email at [email protected].