My step sister is planning to take her family to the Grand Canyon for the first time this October. Knowing that I went a few years ago, she asked if I had any suggestions. I was combing my memory, which we all know is spotty, for specifics, so I went through some of my photos and thought you might enjoy seeing a few.
1. Below is the Colorado River snaking through the canyon. It really is that green. The rocks at the rim were formed about 270 million years ago, and the ones at the river bed about 1.7 billion years ago.
2. The Grand Canyon is one of those places that you feel like you already know. You’ve seen thousands of images of its deep crevasses, winding river and reddish brown strata. It’s ingrained in your memory even if you’ve never been there. It was quite a shock to realize that none of those images do it justice. There is no one angle or season or time of day that accurately captures it. In fact, it was hard even picking the photos you see here because none of them match the real splendor and magnificence.
Along the same lines, probably thousands of words have been written describing the Grand Canyon, many of them by some of the world’s greatest authors – Mark Twain, Willa Cather, Wallace Stegner, Edward Abbey. I’m sure I couldn’t improve on their prose. Besides that, it feels like the canyon defies description.
Each man sees himself in the Grand Canyon – Carl Sandburg.
3. The South Rim is 6,860 feet above sea level. Temperatures can easily rise 20 – 30F from the rim to the canyon floor. That, coupled with the fact that the harder part of the trek is at the end (unlike in mountain hiking), when your strength is flagging, means that about 250 people have to be rescued from the canyon each year.
4. Aside from hiking, mules are the only other option to get from the rim to the river. Mules are still indispensable for bringing gear and food to the lodge on the canyon floor. We decided to let mules be our escorts into the canyon. If it was good enough for Teddy Roosevelt, it was good enough for me. “Nose to tail, that’s the way we walk the trail,” was the mantra drilled into us by our guides. Apparently gaps in the single-file line give the mules the opportunity to get distracted. You don’t want your mule to get distracted. When your mule realizes he’s lagging behind, he will run to catch up. Oh, he will run. On a rocky ledge. About four-feet wide. Looking over a sheer drop to the canyon floor.
A gentleman in our group was having a hard time keeping his mule close. He complained for a good bit about the mule being stubborn. Of course it is. Mules are hybrids whose mother is a horse and father is a donkey. (There is a great joke in there somewhere about men, stubbornness and asses. I’ll leave you to insert your own punch line.)
5. For the Havasupai Indians, or People of the Blue-Green Water, the Grand Canyon has always been a sacred place. The Havasupai are descendants of the anasazi, or ancient ones, and hunter-gatherers known as Cerbats, who came to the area in the mid-1300s. We have the scientific explanation of how the canyon was created by the river and the wind, but the Havasupai have their own account. It goes like this:
The Havasupai have two gods, Tochopa and Hokomata, who quarreled. Hokomota threatened to drown the world. So Tochopa built a boat for his daughter, Pukeheh, in the event of a flood. Soon mighty waters the size of 1000 rivers roared across the land. But inside her log boat, Pukeheh was safe. As the waters receded they rushed like a tide back toward the sea, carving a great chasm in the earth. It was here that her boat came to rest. All of the people had been swept away. Then she noticed the rising sun in the east which brought her hope. The sun and the waterfall brought her children which is how the People of the Blue-Green Water came to live at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon? What was your fondest memory?
Have a great weekend everyone!