NPS Centennial: The Grand Canyon, an Ethereal Visit



Zephyr-roughened and patinaed cliffs began to narrow all around.  I watched for the indications of our journey’s end, read where we were in the encyclopedic rocks in my enfeebled way.  Past the friable Tapeats Sandstone, fascinating Vishnu Schist was yards First time reactions differ.  The Grand Canyon.  One of the World’s Wonders.  Stillness pervades my whole self.

The colors of the uneven mesas and the weathered cliffs range from desert umbers and burnt siennas, apricots, cadmiums, coppers, Mediterranean blues, turquoises, slates, conifer greens, amethysts, magentas, vermilions, pinks, garnets, sepias, saffrons, milks, French grays.  Composite hues that exhilarate the imagination.

GC-4.jpgIt is a vast, broken land. “What God has put asunder, let no man join”. This is a deep landscape with so much visual information the mind rebels, becomes suspicious and soon tires.

Early to bed.  Tomorrow is THE DAY.

It was a pale dawnzerly glow that welcomed us at the South Kaibab trailhead.  Just light enough to see_ a little.  The Canyon yawned and stretched a greeting.  Long-time friend Nansi Lee, my son Matt and I accompanied by Nansi’s brother and park employee, David strove to be down at Ooo- Ahh Point at sunrise.  The Kaibab trail is seven miles of steps of varying height.  Stark landscape rounded off by harshness encompassed us.

From the Ooo-Ahh elevation on down though, birdsong, intriguing plants, flowers and evidence of turbulent history revealed the affluence of the Canyon.  Matt said he did not expect so much life.  Rich.

GC-2.jpgTemperatures were moderate for a desert.  Fathoms below the Colorado voiced its sanguine chant.  The trail went down through layers and colors of rock: laminated layers and heathered colorsand yards of stone glowing black.  Zoraster Granite was our destination; the Floor.  Where is that Floor?

Steps quickened as the 440 foot in length, black metal, Kaibab Bridge swung in to view.  Cross the Colorado.  Hurry.  There is a tide of mules coming (mule trains have the right-of-way).  They come with a rush, too.

Almost to camp, now. We said adios to Dave.

We set up camp on the leaf-shadows of cottonwood trees by the bank of Bright Angel Creek.  I stuck my feet in the 47 degree water.  Bright Angel was a several yards wide, mighty, raucous raceway.  Loud!

We saw tunnels of grasses which smelled of desert thyme, crushed coriander and…Arabia; saw cactus and scorpions, too. Delicious family-style supper and conversation with other hikers at Phantom Ranch kitchen; then I waved East to you all.  Goodnight.

Pack at 4am; breakfast at 5am; hit the trail.  Bad choice of words.  Two miles up (out of the nine total) at Pipe Creek_ trauma.  I stepped into the water.  My foot slipped on a rock.  Tilt to the left.  Clatter, confusion, trekking poles, pack, ground (rushing up).  Crack!  Broken nose.  Get up.  Cross creek.  Sit on rock. Blood dripped and fused to the Canyon dirt   Let Eagle Scout son render first aid.  An inch back and the rock would have contacted my temple instead.  It’s just a nose.  Not a life. Up.

GC-3.jpgSeven more miles to go, now. Canyon miles are not the same as normal miles.  Switchbacks and stairs, straight-a-ways and steeps.  As the two experienced hikers, my son and I stuck Nansi Lee in the middle, switched leads often, set landmark goals, measured breaks, maintained cheerful conversation, tried to regulate breaths, pushed with the trekking poles…CLIMB.

Breathe this rare air. Gaze.  Eavesdrop on the wilderness. Record it in memory’s ledger...  You won’t soon return.  Seven hours down to the floor.  Fourteen hours up to the rim. 

We returned to Charlotte, said our faretheewells to our friends and headed for home. 

I told my pets all about the trip.  Things I haven’t told you.  How we saw Condors, flowers that bloom when the moon beams, free-roaming elk, Joshua trees, bobcat tracks, 5”of desert snow in May, lava fields, Saturn’s rings and a rattlesnake.  But this much I’ll tell you all:

I’m waving again, like I did our first night on the floor of the Canyon, waving wistfully to the West.  Could a Canyon remember?  Only if it’s Grand enough.

– Jeanie, Mast Store Home Office

For more of our Mast Family National Park Service adventures and recommendations, click HERE

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