What Backpacking the Grand Canyon Taught Me about Love

Adventure.

Most of us, in some fashion, crave adventure. For us women, we long to be swooped up and carried on a wonderful adventure with the man of our dreams. For men, they long to: lead, protect, and serve the women who join them on their adventure.

Women want to be captivating.

Men want to be captivated.

What is all the adventure for? Does it actual exist? How can we find OUR adventure?

“I may not be there yet, but I am closer than I was yesterday.”


I want to tell you a story of this one time when I backpacked the Grand Canyon….

I was asked to go with Tim and his family to hike the Grand Canyon, and although I was nervous, I said ‘yes’. As the months flew by and March was approaching, my excitement grew. I finally understood the excitement of Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit when he yells, “I’M GOING ON AN ADVENTURE.”

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What made this more exciting? I was going on it with the man of my dreams.

The thing is? Adventure is great but we just don’t realize how much suffering we may have to endure along the way. If any of you have seen or read The Hobbit, this is definitely true for Bilbo.

The same was also true for me… I wasn’t prepared for the pain I would feel from carrying a backpack and hiking down 8 miles. I wasn’t prepared for the pain in my legs as each day exhausted every muscle in my body.

We always think we’re ready! Right? We think that “our plan is best”, “we know everything”, “we have it all worked out”. Yet, when we make our plans… God laughs.

The first day of the big adventure was amazing! I did much better than I thought! After making it down to the bottom and celebrating by washing our hot and sweaty feet in the cool creek by our campsite, Tim and I shared a victory beer and stayed up late to see the sky glittering with thousands of stars. It was like a dream!

The dream slowly fizzled when the pain of the ascent began. I was hurting in every muscle of my body, no joke.

The climax of this pain came on the very last day, on the steepest part of the canyon, and filled with over 40 switchbacks. I stared in fear at the distance we had to travel and could feel in my legs a soreness from my pack. My silence was piercing and I could tell that Tim was stressed to see me in pain. Tim would look behind to check if I was OK, I would give him a little nod and continue praying my rosary. Hoping that no one would notice how much pain I was in.

Unfortunately, Tim knows me better than that. He kept asking and asking; “how are you doing? Do you want to take a break soon? How does your pack feel?”… I was embarrassed and frustrated so I would just give him the “I don’t want to talk about it” look and continue on very slowly.

It seemed like forever until we could see what remotely looked like the top of the canyon! I hurried as quickly as my slow feet would go and hiked up the remainder of the canyon, with Tim following shortly behind me.

WHAT A RELIEF. I wanted to cry, but I was way too exhausted.

The ride to the airport was filled with quiet music and heavy breathing. Tim’s sister was asleep in the back seat and Tim could sense I was still agitated from the last few miles up the canyon.

My insecurities have always led me to believe that I’m not “enough”. In the silence of the car ride I was telling myself, “you are so weak. He probably would rather be with someone stronger. You aren’t adventuresome enough for him.”

To break the silence, Tim said: “Hey, thanks for coming! I feel really lucky that you would do this with us. I know it wasn’t easy.”

He continued….

“Don’t worry… I’ll always be there to lift your pack and give you a lighter load.”

Immediately I broke down into tears. I was confronting head on the selfishness of my actions. See, we hadn’t talked about it but while we were hiking up the last 4 miles I would occasionally feel a weight lifted off of my legs… during those brief minutes I would feel such amazing relief and couldn’t pin down exactly what it was until we had almost made it to the top.

While behind me, Tim was lifting my pack so that it wasn’t as heavy and I could lift my legs more easily.

I felt SO guilty! While I was consumed in my own pain, Tim was fixated on me.


This is where it gets real….

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

I learned while backpacking the Grand Canyon the true authentic depth of love. I learned that to love another person isn’t just simply the butterflies you feel around them. To love someone is to suffer for them and the ultimate love is to die for them. Christ shows us the depth of His love on Calvary and Tim shows me the depth of his love in both the little sufferings of the Grand Canyon and the big sufferings when he dies to himself in chastity.

I started out as Bilbo Baggins anxious for my adventure, I ended as Frodo being carried by Sam up Mount Doom.  We all take turns in the different roles.

I am not strong enough…. neither is Tim. We need each other to get to Heaven. 

Throughout the past year I have witnessed couples thrive, barely survive, and fizzle out completely. The couples who thrived, always had their sights set on Christ. The couples who fizzled out were relying on the perfection of each other to get through life. Hate to break it to you people- we aren’t perfect and we never will be. 

Christ is perfect.

As I reflected on my plane ride home from the Grand Canyon I came to a major realization…

Only one man other than Tim has ever selflessly lifted my baggage up a mountain… This man cried for me, was whipped because of me, carried a heavy piece of wood stained with my sin, and died upon that same stained piece of wood- for me. 

I understood, finally, that if I am “enough” for the God of the universe to die a painful death for… I am enough for Tim, even in my brokenness and embarrassment.

“Finally, I realized that love includes every vocation, that love is all things, that love is eternal, reaching down through the ages and stretching to the utmost limits of the earth.” Saint Therese of Lisieux


On August 15th, the feast day of the Assumption, Tim got down on one knee and asked me the most important question of my life, “Kileen Ann Willis, I love you. Will you marry me?”

It was truly the best day of my life (so far) and I gladly accepted his request!

Before he asked me this pivotal question he wrote me a series of 3 letters and on the second one he included these words in big bold letters.

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My sisters in Christ,

Please don’t settle. Ask the Lord who will bring the best out in you and wait for His response. When you grow tired of waiting, rely on Our Lady. Please PLEASE don’t give up! I desire this for each and every single one of you! To grow old with someone who seeks to bring out CHRIST in you is the greatest adventure of all.

It is WELL worth the wait.

“And so it was that she, after having waited long and endured patiently, realized and obtained what God had promised.” Hebrews 6:15

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