"A Grand Canyon Odyssey" Grand Canyon National Park by Segolily
Grand Canyon National Park Travel Guide: 550 reviews and 1,377 photos
A year ago I sat on Bright Angel landing on the North Rim watching the rising sun slowly fill the chasm, light creeping up the side of the walls and knew I needed to know this place better. I needed to go down to the river and meet it on a more intimate scale. The planning, the reading, the preparatory hikes, the execution of the plan is over, it is accomplished and is more satisfying than I could have hoped.
Geology at the Grand Canyon is impossible to avoid. It surrounds you, it shouts, it whispers. It is so obvious it is hard to ignore. The canyon is a grand teacher of what geology is all about- the laying down of sediment, the metamorphing of the sediment into rock, the moving of rock, the impact of earthquakes, mountain building, volcanic activity, and on an immense, stunning, awesome scale the effects of erosion.
The feel of the too-heavy pack on my back, the heat of the sun on my face, the occasional breeze cooling the sweat on my back, the continual downhill pressure, the color of the rock at each footstep changing at intervals from the white of Kaibab limestone, to the deep red of the Supai group, to the rust red of the Redwall. Switchbacks down in the white Mauv limestone, the cheery green Bright Angel Shale, the serenity of the Tonto Platform, the dawning understanding of how long a time the river spent on that level, creating a wide flood plain. The god-send of needle and thread to patch a loose strap, the switch backs down the Red Super group, shiny green mica, the tantalizingly close but impossibly legcramping far muddy Colorado, and the warm green oasis of Bright Angel Creek. One son coming to rescue me, another son throwing sticks off the bridge into the brown rippling water below.
The experience of traveling down through time was a slow seeping into the soul of the processes of the earth. And at the core? The water; the flowing, brown Colorado, the gurgling clear Bright Angel Creek. Life-giving water at the heart of the creation of this naked rock exposure, both streams roiling placidly on, seemingly unmindful of the overall impact.
People - all aware of the sharing of this special time together. We knew we were different from those others on the rim. We were sharing the quiet of the rocks, the whisper of the trees, the heat of the night, the spice of the stew, the elusiveness of the cougar, the watch for the scorpion, the spritz of water, or offering of trail mix, regardless, we were in this wilderness together. The inner gorge, lower gorge camaraderie.
I was dripping sweat before we'd crossed the river. It was 120 degrees fahrenheit they said. Even the shade and cool of Pipe Creek was not enough to loosen the grip of heat exhaustion, sapping energy and resolve. My pack was too heavy, my legs still shaky from coming down. I didn't notice the views that day, I shuffled into Indian Creek camp exhausted and hurting.
I slept the afternoon away. Two sons went out to Plateau Point. Later, I sat in the main area watching people come and go. The ranger was taking care of a middle aged couple who had clearly bitten off more than they could chew. We sat in the quiet of early evening. The birds at Indian Garden were varied and many. Two men rushed up the trail, cooling off with water, perhaps going rim to rim. An old man came down in shorts with only a water bottle, setting his watch to time his return to the rim.
The night was clear and cooler, the stars bright and far away. It could have been any forest campsite until you looked out to see the sun's last light on the Kaibab limestone of the North rim. The angular shapes of long ago-forged cliffs stood in stark statement: This is the inner gorge of the Grand Canyon.
The last day was pure exhaltation. A growing crescendo of joy, a wave-like beating on the consciousness, I've done it! I've been privileged to let this incredible place become a part of me. In the early morning light one could see the south wall with lights blinking welcome 3000 feet above. The lightened pack still felt too much to bear at first. My legs still shaky. It took an hour for the rhythm of the hike to establish itself and the ibuprofen to kick in. Meanwhile I adored the view. It was a glorious morning. The light subtle, the air fresh, deer grazed peacefully, birds sang, my family waited ahead for me. I called greetings to others as we leap frogged up the trail.
The path led through thickets of green acacia, willow, hackberry, leading to a wall of rock. How were we going to get up that wall? But it became three dimensional when you got right up to it. Suddenly the rock didn't go just straight up, but inward as well. Stopping frequently to take in the view, to catch my breath, exhilaration filling me up. Finally the 3-mile resthouse, and the crowds began - day-trippers, families, older people, lots of people and then the mule trains. The time and path went easily. After 1 1/2 mile resthouse there was just the top, just a long gradual switchback around the last horseshoe, an archway through the rock, and there were the rest, waving and taking my picture. I shouted at the top in joy and ecstasy. An accomplishment of wonderful satisfaction.
The landscape looked different afterwards. I noticed the uplifted rock, the layers of navaho sandstone pushing down on Moenkopi clay, angles and colors. A gloriously quiet Western sunset: blue sky, orange sun, soft yellow and rose afterglow against bare cliffs. I love the land, I love the desert - its stark reality and naked openness.
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