Extreme Zig Zags

June 5th, 2012 by Rich Christiansen

Thunk. ZZZZZZZZZ. Screech, go the tires. I look over to Matt who is desperately wrenching on the wheel and veering across both lanes of traffic. His 2001 Ford Excursion is in a full-out skid, doing 75 mph down a mountain pass, dropping into Kingmen, Arizona. I look in the backseat to see the looks of fear and panic on the faces of the six young men in our vehicle. We are on our way to hike Lake Havasupi Falls in the Grand Canyon.

By a freak of nature Matt is able to take his SUV from sliding to the extreme left zag along a cliff edge, to a right zag, and the safety of the shoulder as he pulls the Ford Expedition to a complete stop. I immediately remove the kids from the vehicle and have them stand along the hillside to ensure their safety.

We are very lucky that we were able to get the car stopped. Indeed, later the mechanic told us in most of these situations the car rolls. Apparently, the individual who last worked on the brake calibers, had failed to properly secure the bolts. The calibers on the front left wheel had completely seized up and caused the slide.

This week in the Grand Canyon I replayed this near miss and the zig zagging on that road multiple times.  I thought a lot about what do we do when zig zags are imposed on us—especially since sometimes the path is an extreme zig zag.


Once we got to Lake Havasupi there was a very difficult switchback trail down. At one point the path drops into what is called Mooney Falls. It requires extreme zig zagging and often requires holding onto chains and ropes and carefully working ones way down the face of the 200-foot cliff.

Today as I sit here in the shade of this beautiful environment remembering the events of this entire week, I shudder as I contemplate what could have happened had we actually rolled that Expedition with eight passengers. I also start to understand that sometimes we are forced to zigzag physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. Events cause us to react in drastic ways because everything is not always perfectly methodical and thought through. We have to take detours, and give ourselves time to recover.

Today we are preparing to hike out of Havasupi. We have 1600 feet of elevation gain and 10 miles of trail on this hot day. It’s going to be extremely difficult to zig zag back out of this canyon. But I finally landed on a thoughtful conclusion. We saw a group with t-shirts that read, “Come what may and love it.” I’ve decided that is the attitude that we need to apply to life.

Each day is indeed a precious gift.
-    We have to cut ourselves, and those around us, a little slack.
-    We have to add the attitude of “Come what may and love it.”
-    In the end we must embrace every zig and every zag.

Sometimes we have to act extremely, and wrench that wheel back into alignment. But even when life requires extreme zig zagging–it is a good life.

A final thought: Tomorrow we leave for Guatemala with a group of young people ready to provide humanitarian service. They are great young people. From the smiles on their faces we see they embrace the attitude of “Come what may and love it.”

Look for updates from our trip.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment