Tommy Penick Photo

Commercial and Outdoor Adventure Photographer

Grand (Canyon) Life

Gaps between writing posts hardly ever come from a lack of exciting news or new images that make me happy, but more so the writing to go along with it. I can never be satisfied with simply throwing up some images, saying I got a new contract and moved (again) across the country, because I feel an obligation to try my best to match it with at least partially eloquent words.

While cruising the web this morning, I ran across this blog, which I've read a good bit in the past, and it always gets me stoked, makes me laugh, and makes me think a bit. Today's post, "Your Best Vacation is Someone's Worst Nightmare" struck a chord with me, initially because I did just have my best "vacation" on the Grand Canyon with Pyranha Kayaks, yet telling the details to those who don't share the same mentality draws looks of confusion.

Brendan Leonard cites that these painful, horrific experiences, that bring us such joy are a break from our daily lives behind computers and desks with awkward business clothing on. That lifestyle is such a departure from the essence of our being as resilient humans, capable of amazing adaptation. The quote at the end sums up the experience for me: "It lets you know you're alive!"

On January 8th, along with 12 other kayakers, I put on the Colorado River at Lee's Ferry in Arizona. 280 miles and 14 days later, we took out with a revived spirit. The nature of the expedition differed from many people's Grand Canyon adventures. We self-supported, meaning everything you need for two weeks has to be crammed in your kayak, rather than having a raft tag along and a bunch of junk that you really don't need. The trip down the Grand Canyon was spectacular in so many ways. It's taken me a little while to decompress from the trip and think about what I've taken away from it. Obviously, the scenery and whitewater was amazing, but that's not what I remember the most fondly. Mainly, the simplicity of life matched with being fully engaged in the people and place around you stick out in my head. Behind us at the put in, we left our phones, Facebook accounts, businesses, blogs...the list goes on. Without all of those distractions, I was able to connect with the people and the place in a better way. Yes, it was the coldest temperatures ever recorded on the rim at -20˚, and I planned on 20 degree nights, but the only memory of those shivering nights is now just humor--and partially was at the time, too. We'd wake up only to find things more frozen than the day before, and at least for some of us, it was funnier every time.

At one point someone looked over at me while we were paddling around mid-day into a strong headwind. Who knows how cold it was--it didn't really matter. It was cold. He said, "Hey man, is your drysuit icing up?" I laughed and said "no" before looking down and realizing that there was a half inch of ice covering everything I was wearing, and a nice thick ice-beard forming as well. I laughed harder after that.

Coming back into the world after such an awesome experience is totally wild, especially when the river ends in the City of Excess: Las Vegas, NV. After being totally psyched on eating Pasta Sides and bagged chicken every night, we were surrounded by all-you-can-eat steak buffets, buildings that are seemingly annually destroyed to be replaced, and a general feeling of excess. These experiences really do help me realize how capable to adaptation we are, and how comfortable you can get with total physical discomfort. This juxtaposition of simplicity, discomfort, and disconnection, compared to the excess of Vegas made it obvious to me which way I'd rather live.

Although I mentioned that I find bland news updates frankly annoying, I feel like I should probably fill people in on what has been happening. Previous to putting on the Grand Canyon, I finally graduated from Appalachian State and sealed that chapter of my life, excited to move forward with life and my career. After getting off the Grand, I promptly moved back to the Tahoe region and have situated myself in beautiful Truckee, California, near the infamous Squaw Valley USA, which I am very thrilled to say I will be shooting for this season through a contract with Novus Select! Things are coming together more and more each and every day, and I'll do my best to keep all of you up to date. Check out my Facebook page for timely updates!