The Grand Canyon of the Mind

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

(Part 5 of an ongoing series … Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

Ever since I was a kid I wanted to live to be 103 years old, because I’ve always wanted to see what will be going on in 2050. As a result, I had to figure out a way to divide up the years of my life. I finally came up with the following.

0-25 years … Childhood

25-50 years … Youth

50-75 years … Middle Youth

75-103 years … Late Youth

When I was a youth, I once had the good fortune to be the first mate on a sailboat that stopped in Hong Kong. I met a lovely young woman there named Lai Fan, and we had lots of good times. But of course, sooner or later the ship had to sail. And amidst our goodbyes, I told her what I truly believed, that I would be back in a year or so, no question.

And again when I was a youth, I once went to the Grand Canyon, and spent about a week there. We weren’t planning to spend a week, but our car broke down in a parking lot right by the rim of the canyon. If you ever want a great place to do some what we used to call “shade-tree” mechanic work, that was the location. We’d work on the car for a while, then stand and stare over the canyon rim, then work on the car some more. And when I left, I knew that I would be back again in the future, no question.

Now, in my middle youth, I find myself once again traveling the roads of America. We finally made it to the Grand Canyon, and while I’m a different man these days, curiously the Grand Canyon hasn’t changed much at all …

I took pictures, but there’s no way that a camera can encompass the whole. When you stand out at a point on the canyon rim, you are looking at a view that extends from horizon to horizon, and from the sky down a mile into the bowels of the earth.

gc canyon 1See those tiny dots on top of the rock in the middle distance … those are people. Here’s the problem

Spread your arms out side to side, and see how much space they encompass … then hold up your cell phone at arm’s length, and consider how much of that immensity your camera can capture. So my pictures are only the faint echo of the reality.

gc canyon 2We rented bikes, and rode along the Rim Trail. The rental bikes all have stickers on them saying “DO NOT RIDE ON THE RIM TRAIL”, but all the other bikers were riding rental bikes there, so I figured it was forbidden for that most American of reasons … to avoid legal liability when some idjit takes his rental bike for that final plunge. And it’s a loooong ways down, a mile (1.6 km) vertically from the rim down to the Colorado River at the bottom …

gc canyon 4The scale is hard to grasp, but those are people standing on the nearby rock, and a tiny glimpse of the brown-colored Colorado River far below …

It is surreal to ride along the Rim Trail, because it winds in and out of the low brushy trees that grow along the rim. We’d be riding along with nothing but trees in view, then maybe looking off to the right side for a bit. And when I looked back to the left, suddenly there was a magical symphony in ochres and reds falling away forever into the depths … stunning.

gc canyon 3There is wildlife along the rim, including some very tame and blasé elk who wander around the visitors center like they were just some tourists from a different planet enjoying the views. Here’s a bull elk with horns that scratch the sky …

gc elkAnd a cow elk grazing in the forest along the rim.

gc elk 2And of course you need the small guys to keep the big guys company …

gc ravenThe raven sits around the visitors’ center hurling abuse at all the tourists at the top of its lungs. And along the rim there’re lot’s of ground squirrels and chipmunks:

gc squirrelThey warn you against touching the squirrels and small rodents because they often carry the Black Death, bubonic plague … yikes! And the Black Death is no joke. In my youth I saw a case of it not far from the Grand Canyon. A friend’s kids had found a dead mouse and played with it, and one of them took sick, bad sick. Luckily the mother had seen a case before, she tossed him in the pickup truck and shot off to the hospital at about two-thirds of the speed of light. The boy was fine, gotta love the wonders of modern medicine, but I’ve never been totally relaxed around small rodents ever since …

But soon, all too soon, our five hours of bike hire were up, and it was time to go.

So I did what I do these days when I leave such a spot. I faced each of the four directions in turn, and I spread my arms as wide as they would go, and I breathed in all of the sights and sounds and smells of that wonderful place. And in the sure and certain knowledge that I might never see it again, I inhaled it all as completely and fully as I know how …

Because to this day, I’ve never made it back to Hong Kong. And if I have learned anything in my middle youth, it is that death is always behind my left shoulder, watching, patiently biding his time. And while someday I may get back to either Hong Kong or to the Grand Canyon, I’d be a fool to live as if that were guaranteed.

So I do my best to remember that there are hidden trap doors everywhere that open up unexpectedly to swallow people whole, and that one day I’ll put my foot on the wrong spot and I’ll be gone … ah, dear friends, all I can say is, spread your arms wide and drink in this marvelous life and this wondrous planet while you can. The day is far too short, the night is long, and the darkness is an unknown distance ahead.

My best wishes to everyone, and my thanks to you all,

w.

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78 thoughts on “The Grand Canyon of the Mind

    • Some folks I know in New Jersey once had a travel agent plan their first trip “out west” in the 1970s. They were to explore the SW by rental car. On the map the travel agent provided for the Grand Canyon portion, the red highlighting denoting their route went from the North Rim right across to the south side! The Jersey travel agent blithely assumed there was a bridge across it. I kid you not.

    • Tomorrow is promised to no man and death lurking over your shoulder is so true. While Willis was in The Canyon, we were at Zion. On Monday the 14th, my birthday no less, we were hiking in the Narrows around 2:30 pm, when I didn’t like the feel of the weather. I convinced our party to leave early.
      No sooner than we reached the Visitors Center, the storm hit with all it’s fury. 7 people in Keyhole Canyon weren’t so lucky and lost their lives. 13 people in nearby Hilldale and 2 people near Hurricane also lost their lives. 22 lives gone too soon. Enjoy each day as if it were your last.

  1. Many years ago (1963) I rode a train from PA to Chicago. Caught
    the San Francisco Chief of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway and took a side trip by bus from Flagstaff up to the Canyon. I don’t remember any bikes. I was walking along, taking photos, and talking to folks. I asked a man to take a photo of me on the edge. He said I should see the view from another place and offered to drive me there. We hopped in his car and started off. His young daughter had to run after the car and one of us saw her in the mirror. Wow. The scale of the Grand Canyon messes with you mind.
    About 3 weeks later I was in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Hitched and walked in, around, and out of that. Fascinating place. Don’t remember losing touch with reality in Lassen.

    • Bikes are a relatively new addition to the Canyon as is the asphalt trail that parallels West Rim Drive. The other big change spanning a couple of decades is that a majority of the visitors are now from other countries. If you want to camp there do not expect to make reservations a month before you go during the summer. If you want to stay at the historic hotels you may have to book the year before you go. I expect it’s the same story at Yellowstone.

      • A number of the most popular parks are so popular that planning and reserving places to stay is necessary for a smooth trip.
        However, because so many people reserve and forget, there is an excellent chance that while visiting a park one can add oneself to a ‘wait’ list; i.e. a list of people willing to take advantage of cancelled or missed reservations.
        Be prepared to take advantage of whatever accommodation arises. While visiting Yellowstone we took so much time enjoying the Park that our schedule to camp far to the south was unlikely. Visiting the office, we requested wait spaces on both camping and indoor accommodations. The wait list for campers was incredibly long while the other accommodation list was not. We happily stayed in a cabin near Yellowstone Lake and enjoyed a terrific sunrise.
        On a visit to Sequoia and King’s Canyon parks, I planned a camping trip (tent) starting over a year in advance. Even at that early date, preferred camp site locations were booked.
        I reserved a lesser site and then began a weekly visit to the reservation map checking for cancellations. Twice I was able to upgrade our location.
        During that same cross country camping trip, I reserved a tent camping site on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but was unable to reserve a site near the Canyon rim. Checking camp site reservations regularly I had the opportunity to switch tent site locations in the same campground, but I was unable to catch a cancellation in campgrounds nearer the canyon’s rim.

      • The U.S. becoming the World’s theme park would seem appropriate. While in Zion this past week, I think tourists from Europe outnumbered those from the U.S. I was surprised that most I spent time with spoke very good English.
        I brought local craft beer with me and shared it with a couple from Munich Germany and a gentleman that flew his motorcycle here from Zurich Switzerland. I hung out with two young ladies from Denmark who were visiting the National Parks in the West, their only previous trip being to New York City. We also had lunch at The Lodge one day with two couples from Belgium.

  2. Thanks Willis, you bring back great memories. The view from the top of the canyon is as you describe. Imagining the forces that formed that immensity, mind-blowing. My favorite was taking a nine day raft trip through the canyon, truly a journey back in time, through the incised up-heaved rock. I know you love being on the water, it was one of the best things I’ve done in my life.

  3. I’m holding out for 140 myself. No particular reason, but I do want to see the global warming hoax comprehensively exposed. I’m younger than you, but not by a whole lot.

    • Then you will be disappointed, the warmists will declare victory when the 2 degree target has been achieved, and then the public will gratefully finance fighting the next scare.
      So let us do as Willis and enjoy what is enjoyable, like the Grand Canyon, and hold out, the next scare will, in a positive or negative way, be entertaining to.

  4. Well, Willis, the communication devil still is at work, telephone doesn´t connect, Wifi only sporadically, seems that we were both following the rim today – we were walking, you were biking…
    Now we are at Lake Powell, quite crowded here in the camping…
    Anyway enjoy your trip, as long as you can. My wife and I both have had our warnings already that life can be short, so we enjoy from every minute that we still have on this earth…

    • Thanks, Ferdinand. I’m sorry we weren’t able to make contact, but if you come to Northern California, we’re about an hour north of San Francisco, so give us a shout.
      Best to you and yours,
      w.

    • I actually had a good connection at the campground with Verizon two years ago. Then I realized where I was and put the iPad away. It suddenly seemed like a desecration of a spiritual place.

  5. Lived there in 1953-54 and never have gotten over the experience. From there to Sedona for the next three years, hard to describe the effect this has on one’s life.

  6. Willis,
    Your writing prose is good but your ego is always getting in the way. That Anthony would accept your travel meandering writings as valuable to the climate discussion is beyond me.
    I am done with you and WUWT.
    Mods-I dare you to post this.

    • Brad,
      While Willis didn’t mention it here, I have always thought that the Grand Canyon is one of the better visuals of Climate Change You Can Believe In.
      Just looking at all the color bands tells any person with a modicum of sense that climate has changed dramatically many times. And often. relatively fast.
      And it gives a humbling, anti-anthropocentric perspective when one considers that all of human existence comprises only a few feet at the top of this rather large color-metric scale of climate.
      I would venture that this might be why geologist not on the Gubment dole are not so rabid about Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change.

    • About Watts Up With That? News and commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology, and recent news by Anthony Watts

    • Brad:
      I believe you’ve made that same threat previously, under other persona.
      So one persona vanishes, another persona arises to make claim to other falsehoods.
      Why else would any reader pretend to read an article then post nonsensical emotes about how disgusted that reader is? Pretend to read, pretend to be offended, pretend to post. Waste of space, waste of time, waste of effort, total waste of intelligence.
      Read or don’t read!
      Surely that is an easy enough choice for any sentient?

    • Brad, he writes about his experiences with earth and nature, which we all care about; not cars or electronics or politics or sports. I look forward to Willis’ insightful stories and travelogues. I have been fortunate enough to have seen many of the world’s wondrous and unique sights, and for me, the Grand Canyon is at the top of the list. As Willis did, I have gone back to the GC three times, including a 6-day rafting trip, the best outdoor eperience ever.
      Willis, take heart, you will go back!

    • Brad September 16, 2015 at 9:57 pm

      Willis,
      Your writing prose is good but your ego is always getting in the way. That Anthony would accept your travel meandering writings as valuable to the climate discussion is beyond me.
      I am done with you and WUWT.
      Mods-I dare you to post this.

      I find it hilarious when some random anonymous internet popup, whose existence I’ve never noticed, proudly announces that they are leaving in high dudgeon … as if anyone cares. Anonymous folks come and go here all the time, Brad, but only those with egos large enough to have their own postal codes announce their leaving with thunder and trumpets as if it were important to anyone but them.
      Heck, you think your opinion is so gosh-darned powerful that the mods might censor it … in your dreams.
      However, in this case you’ve done Ouroborous proud, by claiming your egotistical departure announcement is because of my ego … recursive much?
      Anyhow, have a good life, just follow the “EXIT” signs, I trust you can find your way out …
      w.

      • To which I had to retreat to Google and learn more about “dudgeon” and “Ouroborous” which made me a little more knowledgeable and enhanced my day. That’s how WUWT works, Brad.

      • Willis, I know I feel miffed when subjected to that sort of irrational insult. I even feel affronted on YOUR behalf, and was inclined to respond with the sort of post the mods WOULD have to censor. I admire your cool.
        You enjoy your work, Anthony enjoys your work, I enjoy your work, so that’s enough for you to keep going. Hell, just the first phrase of that sentence is reason enough to keep going.
        To some extent, we tend to judge ourselves on the basis of feedback we receive from others. You might find yourself wondering “Am I blindly egotistical as accused?I did mention myself and my travels. I wouldn’t know it if I were.” Resist the temptation to do that in this case.
        There’s a fair amount of similarity between Public Speeches and short written articles like yours. I have decades of training and experience in assessing public speaking objectively. I assure you your work is perfectly acceptable, and the accusation is unfounded.
        I hadn’t noticed Brad in the comments previously. But I hope we can rely on him to keep his commitment.
        Please keep up the good work.

  7. Hell’s Canyon in Idaho is 2,000 ft. deeper than the Grand Canyon, but Hell’s Canyon is not nearly as long as the Grand Canyon, and not nearly as picturesque.

    • Hell’s Canyon is indeed deeper and much narrower, more of a classic gorge. And with all due respect to the Colorado River, the Snake River through Hell’s Canyon offers the better whitewater thrills, and clearer, cooler water most of the time. Plus, another world class river, the Salmon (“The River Of No Return”), branches off just below Hell’s Canyon proper. Take your pick, or do both!

  8. Thanks Willis for your journal, but as usual ANY pictures of sights like the Grand Canyon that you showed, give me the willies, (I am petrified of heights and no pun intended)

  9. My mother now in her mid to late eighties used to say when she and my dad were in their seventies that they were in late middle age, My dad now 93 only gave up his last allotment 3 years ago, he still has the garden at their home 180 x 50 ft which he looks after. My mum has decided this is her last year driving which means many and various people will now have to find other means of getting to doc’s, hospital and shops.
    There are only a few places I can think of which can be called breath taking and your photos do give that impression thank you.
    James Bull

  10. Just a note that if humanity wipes itself out in a nuclear catastrophe, all that will remain within a few million years is a thin layer of radioactive dust, probably about an inch wide (with the occasional bit of plastic garbage in it), observable on the walls of such a canyon by any passing aliens in years to come.

  11. Somewhat similar to the way our ladies divide up enquiries regarding their age:
    30: “30”
    31 – 38: “Early 30’s'”
    39: “Mid 30’s”
    40: “40”
    Stunning place, the Canyon. Lucky enough to do the helicopter tour a few yeaqrs ago. You approach the rim with “down” being about 200ft. Then, almost instantly, it’s 5000.

  12. Whilst you are there, consider the ground around the top of the Canyon. The ground is directly heated by the sun, CO2 concentration and water vapour concentration essentially the same as the bottom of the Canyon. At the very bottom of the Canyon the valley is much narrower. Sheer walls shade the ground and river from direct sunlight for large parts of the morning and evening. The temperature at the top of the Canyon is about 10C cooler than the bottom of the Canyon. The only difference between the top of the Canyon with bottom, apart from the bottom receiving less sunlight, is the air is “thicker” at the bottom. It has more molecules of air per equal volume than the top. It has a higher atmospheric pressure.
    Now try and explain this in terms of a Greenhouse Effect. You will find that the scientists who choose a pressure based explanation have a much easier job!

    • It’s just dry adiabatic compression. Take a handful of air at the south rim, carefully carry it to the bottom, and it will warm up approximately 1 F° per 200 feet (1 C° per 100m). The Greenhouse Effect has nothing to do with it, that shows up in other effects.
      Our rule of thumb in New England is to take the temperature atop Mt Washington (6600′), and add 30 F° to that. The result is often close to the high temperature for the day in the populated areas. The mountaintop temperature is little impacted by ground heating, so isn’t impacted by the temperature inversion that develops in the valleys on many nights.

  13. Wow, the slopes in the far distance are so green. When I visited the Grand canyon about 10 years ago, the slopes were generally red and ochre. The aerial views were amazing, so much more than the vistas on ground level.

  14. I love the Grand Canyon, the first time we went my travelling companion was so awestruck all she could say was ‘Look at that !”
    I preferred the North Rim which is much less crowded and commercialized.

  15. The soft rocks and no rainfall in the area makes the canyon so breathtaking.
    70 million Years has it taken to sink Colerado river in its way to the Pacific.
    Water always find a way!
    Have a nice trip.

  16. I made it to the Grand Canyon in late 1972. I knew I would never be able to come back so I stored away the memories, including those of a Canyon full of clouds. Luckily the following morning I was up early and watched the sun fill the void, what a sight.

  17. Willis,
    You old goat! You were born the same year as I was! Start taking a nap after lunch. It does wonders for me.
    Jim G1

  18. Sir, just wanted to point out that you have given nearly enough information for a clever and insightful person to deduce roughly the year of your birth.

  19. Terrible case of erosion. How can we let things like this happen?
    Somebody should do something.
    Must be caused by Global Warming.
    Or more likely, Climate Change.

  20. When I went to the Grand Canyon for the second time, a family reunion trip arranged by my geologist brother, I had to leave a day early to catch a plane to Phoenix. The transition from runway surrounded by trees and buildings to suddenly seeing most of the view out the window fill with canyon is tough to keep up with.
    I imagine helicopter pilots liked treating their customers to that transition in a fraction of a second.

  21. Wonderful place. My dad first visited the Grand Canyon in his childhood, at which point he asked his dad if they could hike down to the river. His dad’s reply was that the canyon was a mile straight down and therefore it was impossible for a human to walk all the way down and back up again. A few years ago, my dad (now in his middle youth) successfully challenged that impossibility. It was such an incredible experience for him that he’s been now regularly–once a year or so–repeating the feat with whoever he can convince to join him. Last June, I took him up on his offer. There were 4 of us total as my dad’s brother and his wife joined us. We camped near the rim and set off at sunrise. A few hours later we reached the bottom, sat in the shade, and enjoyed the beers I had packed in. Then it was the long, slow trod back up to the rim, which we reached a little after sunset. I have about 300 pictures from the trip, none of which really captured the views we experience, but all of which are happy reminders of that day. It was a very awesome way to not just see, but to experience the majesty of that place.
    If anybody else is interested in doing this hike, please make sure you are well-prepared. There are signs all around the visitor’s center and the trail heads that say you shouldn’t even attempt the hike, and those signs are justified in trying to discourage it. Consider this: the world’s highest observation deck is on the 148th floor of the Burj Khalifa, at a height of over 1800 ft. You could visit that observation deck twice in one day, take the stairs both times, and you still will have only climbed the equivalent of 3/4 of the distance from the Colorado River to the Grand Canyon rim. Add in the heat (it reached 103 the day we did it) and the lack of water sources, and it’s no wonder that people die trying to complete it. But if you’re prepared, in reasonably good shape, and carrying sufficient water, I highly recommend you try it.

    • It’s some pretty good elevation gain, normally only seen when mountaineering. The heat provides the challenge that thin air does not in this case.

  22. Get back me after you, and natural processes, have rounded off those steep drop-offs. Perhaps when we’ve both had a century or two to mature a bit.

  23. Willis, you need to chuck the calendar-based age metrics and get with the program. The answer is metabolic age. I’m not promoting this site, just the two ingredients they are combining. You can get the ingredients at many other sites and combine them yourself. The research behind the ingredients is also interesting to follow over time.
    http://www.elysiumhealth.com/blog/the-key-components-of-basis-what-do-they-do-and-how-in-the-world-do-you-pronounce-them

  24. Years ago as a senior Geology student in college, a group of four of us hiked down the New Hance trail to the Hance rapids on the Colorado, and then along the Tonto Platform to the Kaibab Trail, which we followed down to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Canyon. We spent one night in the camp ground, and enjoyed a beer at the Ranch. During the night the Bright Angel Creek became a raging torrent in which we could hear large boulders crashing against each other. Luckily it didn’t overflow its banks. It was a wonderful experience, and I learned the complete section from the bottom up.
    On another note the Grand Canyon is cut in the Paleozoic section, with the exception of the very bottom being in the Pre-Cambrian section. It represents almost six hundred million years of deposition. Present theory of the canyon formation says that it has been cut in the last million years. For additional Geology the Mesozoic section is displayed in Zion National Park, and the Cenozoic section can be found in Bryce Canyon National Park.

  25. Rode up there once from Phoenix on my motorcycle. So hot that day in Phoenix and nearly froze to death up at the rim. Sedona was just right. Except for all the old hippie artists. Serious glacial melts over the many glaciations carved a real wonder.

    • With all due respect, I do hope your motorcycle employed a muffler. Nothing would be more unwelcome than an ear-splitting thumper at a peaceful citadel like the Grand Canyon.

  26. Willis:
    Thank you again for bringing us a wonderful dollop of beauty and wonder.
    If you haven’t already visited, consider adding ‘Black Canyon Of The Gunnison’ to your list of trips. With a primarily hard rock geology, Black Canyon is a much narrower less deep canyon yet still stunning.
    That said, any National Park is worth a visit for the sheer wonder they evince.
    For more obsessive (OCD) travelers or those who enjoy tracking their National Park visits there is the National Park Passport Stamps program. Any National Park office and many Park stations can stamp Park Passports (not for international travel kind) capturing location and date of visit.
    Enjoy!

  27. I went in a snowy January 03, and to this day I still can’t adequately describe the visual scale, how it changes with the light or how quiet it was to other people due to my brain still being unable to process it.
    Willis, I love how you refer to a bird that easily comes to above the knees as a ‘small guy’! I gave the Ravens a wide berth, it probably wasn’t too smart to get that close to one after having been attacked by a Emperor Penguin in a zoo when I was four years old.

  28. “ah, dear friends, all I can say is, spread your arms wide and drink in this marvelous life and this wondrous planet while you can.”
    Carpe Diem. Tomorrow may be two degrees warmer 😉
    As Robert Landreth and johnanother have mentioned above, it’s also the time factor that makes humans small and insignificant in the universe. Think of all those little animals that died over eons to make up the ground you are standing on. And when night falls, think of all those other stars and the earth is not even a drop in the bucket. The Earth abides. Enjoy.

  29. What struck me from the pictures is how green the canyon is. Having last visited 3yrs ago in October it was very brown on the canyon floor. This years monsoonal flow has really greened it up.

  30. Thanks for the story, Willis. 50 years ago a friend and I hopped in a VW and traveled the country. The experience sobered me beyond description and brought a profound sense of admiration and wonder to my life. Most people visit the south side of the canyon, but we hiked the north rim to the bottom. Spent three days exploring the canyon trails near the roaring Colorado. An outfitter talked us into buying a canvas water bag, which due to its evaporative power, gave us cool water all day long. We were the envy of the trail!
    BTW, we didn’t run into anyone like Brad there…😜

  31. Spent a wonderful couple of days changing generator brushes in a 67 VW at the Grand Canyon camping area… well don’t actually know if it was supposed to be camping… Gen light came on about dusk and about 1/2 hour to camp, but a few back to town, so continued to camp. The joy of the old VW was the you could darn near overhaul it with a couple of screw drivers, and 10 mm & 13 mm wrenches. Plus spark plug wrench. Brushes cost somewhere around 85 ¢ IIRC.
    Canyon was wonderful… got back to it in about 1992 or so in a 86 Honda with a spouse and 2 kids… who didn’t care nearly so much being about 3 & 4 years old…

  32. Jimmy, I too hiked the canyon rim to river and back again in a day last year in May at the age of 74. Started at 5:30 a.m. and got back at 6:30 p.m. I trained for 3 months on an inclined treadmill. Great experience but probably not one I would repeat. Taxed the quads to the limit.
    Tried for 2 years to get a campsite at the bottom so to make a 2 day trip out of it but they always booked up too fast.
    Another great Grand Canyon experience years ago was renting a jet boat at Meadville near Lake Mead and driving up the canyon to the first rapids. A whole different perspective from the bottom.

  33. Willis,
    On your rebound trip to Death Valley, might I suggest you take a trip through Titus Canyon. This is a dirt road excursion so an SUV would be helpful but a regular car with good clearance can make it. The road is one way starting a couple miles west of Rhyolite on 374 out of Beatty (watch your speed going through town). A small sign at the start can be seen going west but I don’t think there is one for going east on 374. The road ends on Scotty’s Castle Road in the valley. The first part is on the flat so it is dull but the finish is worth it. Start with a full tank as the next gas is at the Stovepipe Wells.

  34. Willis, enjoyed your take on the Grand Canyon very much. Most people don’t get as much from the experience. As stated above, I had the great experience of actually living there from June 1953 to January 1954. Among other experiences, I and my younger sister, then four, go lost on an “arrowhead hunt” on July 17, eventually finding our own way out at Hermit’s Rest. We lived at Rowe’s Well, a thirties motel on the dirt road along the old railroad track from Williams. At that time, there was no direct road to Flagstaff; all traffic came from Williams and most all visitors came via railroad. In Summer 1953, the World Scout Jamboree was held at the canyon and I remember many, many trains full of scouts passing our location on the tracks. So busy was the hoopla that even old steam engines were placed in service to deliver the scouts.
    At the time, only Rowe’s Well and Kachina Lodge on the South Rim, about two or three miles west of the village were the only remaining privately owned properties within the Grand Canyon National Park, and the Park Service was aggressively working to eliminate them. Kachina’s owner and his brother, a talented architect, had great plans for a hotel spilling over the rim for about ten stories, but at almost the same time uranium was discovered in an old mine about 500′ below the rim, and all plans for a super hotel were off.
    My father, a 1928 immigrant from Germany, was intended to superintend the construction of the hotel described above. I well remember exploring the old drift, mostly caved in, mines (copper) around Rowe’s Well and burning the unused dynamite we found in them. Sticks of black powder burn like Roman candles without the fireballs typical of the genre. A lot of what we found looked like sticks of sawdust, which didn’t burn at all. After a time, my dad discovered what we had been doing and called in experts to clear all the mines in our area; they told us that the sawdust sticks were more modern nitroglycerin dynamite and we were very fortunate that they were in areas exposed to the weather, or they would have exploded upon being moved.
    Once the park service got control, they bulldozed the inn and twenty or so cabins that were the motel’s source of income, so today it takes a keen eye to discern that the place actually existed. There was a large dance floor with a great jukebox, an adjacent generator building that had two DC generators that had to be started up each evening to provide light, but no heating other than a huge fireplace that I (at eight) could stand up in under the mantle.
    Rode to school every day in the back of dad’s ’49 Studebaker truck, picking up a couple of Havasupai kids on the way, wearing every fur-lined garment the folks could afford.
    On 1 January, we moved to Sedona; my mother couldn’t survive the cold at the Canyon. I can remember it to this day. Bright, sunny day and on the wall next to the driveway was an old fashioned, mercury thermometer that said 0 degrees F.
    The Grand Canyon is much more complicated for people who have actually lived there. I’m not dissing, in any way, Willis’ impression of the place, merely suggesting that the casual visitor has no real idea of what the place is like as a place to live.

  35. Willis,
    One of the great privileges of my life was a self-guided three-week raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 1979. I was the oarsman on a pretty small raft, a Northwest River Supply Sprite. I think it was 8 feet long and had 11 1/2 inch tubes. This was way before the introduction of today’s fancy-dan self-bailing rafts. I made it the entire way without flipping the boat. Bragging aside . . .
    There’s nothing like being at the bottom of that magnificent canyon and feeling the smooth Vishnu Schist in the walls of the Granite Gorge. Quite the thing to visit a mostly inaccessible rock that’s about 1.75 billion years old.
    I suggest you take the trip!

  36. Great prose. You remind me a little of the commencement address of Steve Jobs at Yale (I think), maybe 2005. You can look it up on YouTube. The sentiments are the same – we are all naked before death, so don’t wait to do anything, because you never know when it will be over. But you are more eloquent. Thank you.
    PS I have exactly the same photo as you. Have been there 3 times myself, and hope to do so again – but of course no guarantees.

  37. I worked for a small electronics firm in Los Angeles in the early 1960s that built a system to control the pumps to take water from the North Rim, down in pipes, cross the River, then pump it up to the South Rim. No wires were allowed so we developed a radio control system. While doing the installation, I got an opportunity to fly to the bottom of the Canyon in a helicopter. You can’t imagine the size of that hole until you are headed down into it at 60 mph.
    One other note: ALL the human beings on earth, if stacked like cord wood, would fill only 20% of the Grand Canyon.

  38. The Grand Canyon is one of the few places in the world where photographs fail. The size and the beauty are so overwhelming that photographs simply fail. You have to see it in person.

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