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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

Jason and Paul's Grand Canyon Wedding

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 4/19/2024
Posted: 6/16/2011
Page Views: 7638
Topics: #Jason #GayMarriage #MarriageEquality #GrandCanyon #Arizona
Blog Entry posted June 16, 2011, in which Jason and I marry at the Grand Canyon.

Today was the day that Jason and I eloped and got married.

We had planned on having a wedding ceremony with a few guests on November 11, 2011; and we still do. However, we had sent away for the rings we wanted, and there they were, sitting in cute little gift boxes on our counter, begging to be worn.

Our rings came in gift boxes.

Of course we tried them on. And they fit perfectly. (We had gone to Wal-Mart to get our rings sized by the jewelry-counter girl before mail-ordering them.) For the record: I wear a 12.5 ring; Jason a 9.5.

But then, we realized, we couldn't really wait to wear them "officially", or at least, as officially as current laws allow. So we decided to go camping this weekend and say our vows to each other, privately, in a secluded yet beautiful spot.

We initially chose Sedona. However, at the last possible moment, we decided on Grand Canyon, a place where Jason, despite having been born in Phoenix and having lived here all his life, had never been.

Plus, I had planned to take Jason there in January, and had rented a cabin for the two of us and everything, that we never used (and never got reimbursed for) because I was in the hospital with necrotizing fasciitis that very weekend (and many additional weekends after).

We picked up our camping gear, which my son had for some reason left with friends instead of bringing it back to me, crammed the crate into the truck of the Toyota, and headed north yesterday evening; arriving at Grand Canyon National Park South Rim shortly before midnight. The entry kiosk was closed and, following the posted rules, we drove on into the Park.

We headed straight for Mather Point, so that Jason could catch his first glimpse of the Canyon by the light of the full moon.

From Mather Point by moonlight. Kangaroo mouse.

Jason's attention was drawn to some scrabbling noises a little bit below us. "What is that?" Jason asked, as a small movement scurried under a rock.

"Kangaroo mice," I explained. "They live in the crevices of the canyon walls. Called that because they hop when they move."

We saw some lights in the canyon, undoubtedly from Phantom Ranch down at the Colorado River, that I tried to photograph. It wasn't until reviewing the pictures tonight that we realized the camera had also picked up a couple of fires burning at North Rim, some 8 miles away.

Fires burning on North Rim.

So, having seen the Canyon by moonlight, we then headed for Mather Campground. I had been unable to score a reservation yesterday afternoon but, according to the web site, there was availability for Saturday, Sunday, and the rest of the week. However, by midnight, first-come, first-served drive-in campers had filled all the campgrounds in the Park.

Not only that, but when Jason and I doubled-checked the camping crate, we suddenly realized that it contained no sheets, pillows or blankets. Those were in another crate left at home. So, we couldn't camp anyway; we would have to find room at a lodge or hotel.

And all the Park lodges were full. We had to leave the park for the nearby cluster of hotels called Tusayan and hope one of them had a vacancy.

A ring-tailed cat.

As we drove past the park entrance, Jason was overjoyed at the animal life in evidence. We saw a number of jackrabbits, a ring-tailed cat (a relative of the raccoon, and not a cat at all) looking like a ghost in the darkness, and many elk.

An elk just outside Grand Canyon National Park.

Alas, there were no rooms available in Tusayan, either. We decided to return to Flagstaff, an hour-and-a-half away, where we hoped we would find something.

Along the road, while Jason skillfully dodged more elk, I tried calling various motels listed in the GPS. We had planned only to camp so our budget was severely limited. I finally found one for $69 a night and told the woman who answered we were on our way.

However, when we got there the No Vacancy sign was up and there was no answer at the door or over the phone. So we tried another place that had, the man had said, a room for $79. However, no one answered the door or phone there, either. (In their defense, I will point out that it was now about 2:30 AM.) We finally found a night clerk who answered his phone, and told us the room rate was $45. We were there within two minutes.

The place was definitely not the Ritz. But we collapsed on the bed—Jason had now been awake for 23 hours—and fell asleep.

The check-out time was 10:00 am! So Jason's phone alarm went off at 9, and we took a shower. Not even that was without incident, as the shower faucet was broken or weird or something and we had to dodge scalding water—hot enough to make tea—before figuring out how to reduce the temperature to something near bearable.

We exited the room at exactly 10, gave the manager the key—he was coming up to get it!—and were just getting into the car when we heard a woman's voice calling, "Sir! Sir!!" I turned and saw a woman at the door to one of the rooms, standing there with a walker. I figured she needed help getting down the step to the sidewalk, so I approached her and asked if I could be of assistance.

"Thank God!" she said, her carefully-dyed honey-blonde hair cascading down to her shoulders. "You're the first white gentleman I've seen in days." That took me aback, but she continued, "I'm 72 and I have cancer and need surgery. I've been here 6 weeks and that punk 17-year old foreigner at the desk told me I was a bitch for wanting fresh towels!"

"Ma'am," I said, "I'm afraid I don't work here."

"Oh, I know," she said. "I need someone to help me across the street to get breakfast, because a cab will take forever to get here and I can't walk."

"I'd be happy to walk you across," I told her.

"Well, I have to take my shower, first," she replied. "And I can't do that until I get fresh towels. But if your son and you would be willing to wait an hour or so…"

I frowned. "Ma'am, I can walk you there now if you want to go. But check-out time is 10, it's 10 and we've checked out. Also, that's not my son; it's my fiancé and we are actually heading to our wedding right now. If you can't leave for an hour, why not call a cab now for a specified time? I used to drive a cab, and they do that kind of thing all the time."

The woman frowned at me as if I had imposed on her dreadfully. But I observed her recently- and professionally-dyed hair, her beautiful silk pajamas, and the expensive suit laid out on her bed, and realized she wasn't a poor person in need, but rather a well-off person who expected everyone else, including strangers, to wait on her hand-and-foot. "In any case," I added, "we can't wait in the car for an hour while you shower; we have a wedding we can't be late for! Sorry!"

So we jumped in the Toyota and heading northwest on US Highway 180, the "back road" to Grand Canyon from Flagstaff, far more scenic and peaceful than taking I-40 to Williams. Along the way, we saw what I took to be a good omen: A ring-shaped cloud!

A ring-shaped cloud seen from US 180.

We also spotted an elk that was, apparently, on the "day shift".

An elk on the day shift.

We parked at the Mather Point parking lot, which has been greatly built up and improved since my last visit, and hurried to the Point itself so Jason could see in daylight what we'd seen by moonlight twelve hours earlier.

Jason and Paul at Mather Point.

The air was so clear that I was able to point out to Jason places deep in the Canyon, such as the green spot that marked Indian Gardens, 5 miles below on Bright Angel Trail, and even the Colorado River, itself.

Indian Gardens and the Colorado River, from Mather Point.

Despite that fact we hadn't brought water, hats, or sunscreen, we decided to stroll along the Rim Trail to find a spot that "spoke to us" to be the place we would say our vows. The Rim Trail is three miles from Mather Point to the cluster of lodges where Bright Angel Trail starts, but I had never walked that entire stretch before. There were any number of scenic lookouts along the way, and Jason and I stopped at most of them. I loved seeing Grand Canyon through Jason's beautiful eyes.

Jason beholds Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon.

We found several relatively secluded spots, especially as we got further and further from Mather Point.

Me and Jason overlooking Grand Canyon.

We also found a really cool outcropping that Jason climbed to ahead of me so I could get a shot of him sitting 'way out on it!

Jason sitting on an outcropping in Grand Canyon.

I then joined him, my still-healing leg not preventing me from making that short climb, so he could get a shot of me.

Me on the outcropping in Grand Canyon.

But as beautiful as that spot was, we still hadn't come upon just the right place that appealed to us both. And we tried several! There was a place that was a possibility, where I took what has become my new, favorite photo of my handsome husband, but not even that location had quite the energy we were looking for.

Jason on the rocks.

We visited Yavapai Point and Geologic Museum and then continued on the trail. In several places, our attention was drawn to the cliffs on which we were walking rather than the expanse of the Canyon beyond.

A sheer cliff west of Yavapai Point.

At another spot, we could see the Kaibab Suspension Bridge, a foot bridge linking Phantom Ranch, at the north bank of the Colorado, with South Kaibab Trail, which I hiked some 15 or so years ago.

Kaibab Suspension Bridge.

But then we found it…our spot. Jason pointed it out, but I knew instantly that was the place.

Jason and Paul about to share wedding vows.

We had written our own vows, and Jason wanted to read his first, warning that he might cry. He took out a folded sheet of paper and read,

From the day I met you, I knew you were special. I constantly looked forward to our next time together. Every time I saw you, I realized more and more how much you meant to me. Quickly, I fell in love. I fall in love with you more and more every day. You are the most important thing in my life. I look forward to every day of the rest of my life with you. You are my universe, my life, my everything. I honor, worship, love and cherish you. I will always love and be faithful to you. I will be your husband through the good and the bad. I will be yours forever. I love you, Paul, my husband.

Of course, by the time he was done we were both crying. But I dried my eyes and took out the card on which I'd read my vows to Jason.

Today, I choose you, Jason, to be my husband forever. I promise my fidelity and monogamy. I promise to sleep at your side, to be the joy of your heart, the food of your spirit and the very best person I can be for you. I promise to laugh with you when times are good, and to suffer with you when times are bad. I promise to wash away your tears with my kisses and to hold you sweetly and gladly until our days on Earth are over…and forever after that. I love you, Jason, my husband!

We then placed our hematite rings on each other, kissed, and pronounced ourselves married in the eyes of Earth and the Universe.

Our rings. Me and Jason after the ceremony.

Now we were married in the only court that counts: Our own. My personal opinion about Marriage Equality is that everyone who wants to should be able to marry…and that the government has no freaking business in a marriage, no matter who the couple is.

We were still nearly a mile from the lodges, though, where we knew food and water awaited us. So, hand-in-hand, we kept walking westward, taking only the occasional break.

Jason taking a break on the way to the Grand Canyon lodges.

Now, I realize that all the photos I've shared show Jason and me on outcroppings or rocky platforms. But actually, Rim Trail is beautifully and recently paved and is even wheelchair accessible.

Rim Trail.

But then, there are those amazing views all along the way, making this surely the most beautiful and romantic stroll in the world…especially when one is walking it with someone as wonderful and handsome as Jason.

Grand Canyon from Rim Trail.

So, obviously, we did make it to the lodges, where we drank fresh water and got an ice cream snack from the "Fountain" and visited the art exhibit ay Kolb Studio, just at the trail head of Bright Angel Trail.

I had hoped to take Jason a short way into the Canyon on Bright Angel Trail; but by now we were tired, sunburned, and the hour was getting late. So we decided to do that on our next visit—certain there will be one!—and took one last look at Grand Canyon, as husbands to each other, before heading home.

Grand Canyon panorama.