Archive for September 21st, 2008

September 21, 2008

Damn Grand; or, Cowboy Fact #22

by cowboylands

The Grand Canyon has been ruined by T-shirts, mugs, and calendars. It’s easy to dismiss the vast chasm if your eyes have been tricked by two-dimensional snapshots. But even the best photographer can’t capture that scariness that is the presence of the West. It’s big, and if you stir from the confines of the concrete parking lot, there is a chance that the Grand Canyon will kill you

That being said, it’s one of the most sublime places on earth.  Widforss Trail © One Eye Photo 2007

The canyon drops below you, one mile deep in places, which seems like nothing until you either gaze into its depths to feel your eyes refocus and refocus to unfamiliar scale and distance, or hike to the bottom and have to go back up, inching your way past urinating burros and day-hikers in agony from inappropriate shoes. 

We went down from the South Rim, yes, chock-a-block full of gawping tourists, but they soon fell away as the South Kaibab trail* dropped below the edge and began its descent through the rock layers to the ancient basalt at the river bed. Although the backpacking stove was still in the back seat of the car, about one mile above, but our best meal ever, ever, ever was halfway up the Bright Angel trail: handfuls of noodles and freeze-dried cheese powder. I think it qualifies as a cowboy moment, because only a cowboy would enjoy such dreck and boast about it after. Cowboy Fact #22: The best meals are cooked in a dented pot over a too-hot fire, or eaten cold when there is a full moon and the sound of coyotes, or any time circumstances are so wrong that they are right. 

Some people, like Picksburg Kid, travel to the North Rim. Less populated and even more beautiful (see pic above). The place to go if RVs the size of tandem semis are not for you.**

Hiking into the Grand Canyon is like visiting many places in the wide expanse that is the West; it is exhilarating and humbling. A book we enjoyed, which brought it all into perspective is called Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon. In vivid prose it describes all known fatal mishaps*** in this most famous of the World’s Seven Wonders. It also reads as an instruction manual, with the following basic rule. 


Take Mother Nature Seriously.****

And take plenty of water.


Happy trails to you!


*The South Kaibab is a rather deadly trail–no water and beastly hot in the afternoon. Plenty of people have passed away on this path. 

** I wish I came up with this comparison, but I have to admit I didn’t. Picksburg Kid did. Dagnabbit. 

***falls from the edge, flash floods, drowning, lightning strikes, rock falls, venomous creatures, suicides, dehydration, and murder

**** No pretending that you are falling off the edge of the Grand Canyon. Or backing up to get into the picture frame more. Honest to Pete, guys, where do you think you are, Disneyland?