Monday, July 03, 2023

The Grand Canyon (June 7; a guest post by Benjamin)

The drive out to the grand canyon was pretty bleak for the last half of the drive the first half we were driving on this mountain road with trees all around us then about an hour on that road we started to descend and suddenly we were in a beautiful mountain meadow with only a couple houses scattered about. (we were on the Indian reservation) and I just thought “this is so peaceful.” With some cows in the distance grazing it was a sight to behold. Then a few moments later we smelled smoke and thought, “What!? Smoke!” Then we realized that it was probably prescribed burning to protect from even bigger fires. 

When we got to the canyon we could not go to the visitors center because it was closed so we had to go to this bookstore that was open to get our junior ranger books. 

[Mom edit: The parking lot was packed and we were worried we wouldn’t be able to find a spot to park, but then we found two spots right next to each other! So we said, as Andrew’s parents have been known to (jokingly) say when hitting a string of green lights or stumbling upon the perfect parking spot, “Must be living right!”]

After getting the books we went to this overlook and it was so cool. I get why they call it the grand canyon. That thing was huge!

Here we are working on our Junior Ranger booklets:

After finishing the booklet we went back to the bookstore and got the badge. I think that one was my 12th badge, which is a lot of badges (by the end of the trip I had 19 badges; I still need to get to 485 of them though). By the way, we went over to a stamping station in the bookstore and all of us picked up our badges. After stamping them we went back outside to talk a bit when Zoë realized that she did not have her badge, so Mom and Zoë rushed back in and got the badge back. No sweat.

Remember that overlook we went to? Well, on that overlook we saw people in the distance on a overlook with no railings! 

After we saw that overlook Grandpa, Rachel, and Miriam left the main group to do their own thing, but then I saw them walking towards that overlook. My dad then said, “Everyone, let’s go and find the girls and Grandpa!” So we did and they were on the higher (and the safer part). Then Dad took a picture of me, Rachel, and Miriam with the canyon behind us. 

Here's Rachel and Grandpa with the canyon behind them:

[Mom edit: I brought Zoë down to join everyone after Grandpa came back up to sit with Alexander and Phoebe, who I wanted to keep an extra safe distance away from any ledges.]

[Mom edit: And with good reason! There were so many placed to just slip off on a mile-long fall thank you to that!]

Here we all are on the ledge together:

After that Dad said, “Ben, follow me.”  

So I did and we went down to the lower, more dangerous part of the overlook and the view was just grand (did you get my joke?). 

[Mom edit: That joke was about as good as all the jokes we made about Carlsbad Caverns being more like Carlsgood Caverns.]

Here's me and Dad descending down the canyon on our adventure!

After like a couple minutes on the overlook Dad took a picture of me and we started heading back.

On the way back I slipped and a couple rocks fell down to the bottom of the canyon and it was terrifying. My life almost flashed before my eyes and then…I stabilized myself and we went the rest of the way up with no problem at all. So all in all that was a remarkable experience that I will remember for probably the rest of my days. 

[Mom edit: Here's Benjamin emerging from the trail looking pleased with his adventure:]

After finishing the booklet we went back to the bookstore and got the badge. 

I think that one was my 12 badge which is a lot of badges (by the end of the trip i had 19 badges i still need to get to 485 of them thought) well the badge that i got looked so cool it had a wood carved picture of the Grand Canyon with a California condor in the skies above and on the top it proclaimed:

Grand Canyon
South rim

Let me tell you a bit about the Grand Canyon. It has two rims the north and the south. The south rim is probably the most full of tourists with hiking trails all around. The north rim is very isolated; it is more for the danger and adventure type of people. It still has a visitors center so that you could get two Grand Canyon badges, but they look a bit different. 

You can also get a Grand Canyon explorer patch that has a glow in the dark scorpion on it! [Mom edit: But you have to do an overnight backcountry stay to earn that one and...we just didn't have time for that. But here's Alexander showing off all his badges!]

The widest part of the canyon is 18 miles wide and two hundred and seventy seven miles long. The park does not even include all of the canyon although the park is a whopping 1904 square miles. The river that created it all was the Colorado River. It flows through seven states. The canyon begins at the Lees Ferry, AZ, and ends at Grand Wash Point, AZ, but the Colorado River is of course way longer. It is 1450 miles long and begins at the Great Rocky Colorado Mountains and ends in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I have never seen it in real life but probably the most mesmerizing place in the grand canyon would be Horseshoe Bend. I have seen it in pictures and in the pictures it just looks beautiful. The bend is on the east rim and I literally have no idea how to get to it but if you do then good for you.  One more thing when you reach this park do as I did and leave with a mesmerizing feeling of joy and awe in your hearts and I promise that you will never forget the first time you came to the Grand Canyon National Park.


Mom's addenda

We quite enjoyed reading Where is the Grand Canyon? together. Our favourite story was of John Wesley Powell (the namesake of Lake Powell), who was navigating the Green and Colorado Rivers when he decided to get out of his boat to do some rock climbing...even though he'd lost an arm in the Civil War. He got stuck and—because he only had one arm—couldn't reach for another handhold, so his companion climbed onto a ledge above him, stripped down, and lowered his pants (or underwear) for Powell to grab ahold of as a rope. This meant that Powell had to let go of the ledge and grab onto the clothing in one deft move. 

Our book said that the rescuer (Bradley) stripped off his long underwear, but the NPS website said he merely took off his pants (and thus we can assume that he left his underwear on). I'm not sure which account is more accurate. 

Where is the Grand Canyon? states that "Bradley...stripped off his clothes and dangled the long underwear down to Powell" and is certainly illustrated in the buff (p. 47–48). The NPS says, "Bradley realized that Powell was in trouble and climbed above Powell, using his pants as a rope to help Powell climb the rest of the way up the cliff."

But our book also refers to Bradley's diary, which says, "Climbed the mountain this morning. Found it very hard to ascend but we succeeded at last. In one place Major [Powell] having but one arm couldn't get up so I took off my drawers and they made an excellent substitute for rope and with that assistance he got up safe" (Where is the Grand Canyon? p. 48–49). Drawers typically refers to underwear, to my knowledge, so I'm going to go with the book being more accurate than the website in this instance (this hasn't always been the case; there are other discrepancies we've looked up only to find that the author of whichever Who was...? book had misinterpreted a news article (for example, the section on Opal Lee in the Juneteenth book was very confused about the distances she walked to bring attention to the need for a national holiday)). 

Anyway, the Grand Canyon was unfathomably large. That was another thing from the book that really rang true to me—how early Spanish explorers thought the Colorado River at the bottom was only 6 feet wide (in reality it is 300 feet wide) and how lumps they thought were mere "rocks" ended up being boulders 200 feet high. It's totally true. My brain was completely boggled by the vastness of the landscape.

This picture was taken by a sweet lady, who saw me attempting to take a picture of Rachel and Miriam together. 

The rest of our party had moved on to another lookout point. The lady said, "Do you want me to take a picture of all of you together?" And I said, "Uhh...sure!" And she took the camera and set up to take the picture, telling me, "These are the things that we do for each other."

And I appreciated her saying that so much. It's the small things we do to take care of each other—friends and strangers—that really matter.

Here are a few more pictures of our people:

Here is a prickly pear that was spectacularly prickly:

Here is a cicada that was...the most pathetic little thing...

Rather than the deafening cacophony of screeching, buzzing, clicking, and clacking that our cicadas produce down in The South, these desert cicadas only murmured to each other, producing a sound like someone chewing or smacking their lips. I suppose in that in the silence of the barren landscape, even their murmur could sound loud so they don't have to yell.

It would have been lovely to stay longer, but we still had hours of driving ahead of us. As it was, we didn't pull in at Aunt Dorothy's cabin until 8:45 PM (technically 8:46 PM) and we still had to fix dinner (hot dogs roasted on an open fire) and hammocks and things, so our time was, unfortunately, limited. It would be amazing to go back, but—in the words of an author I admire—we'll "never forget the first time [we] came to the Grand Canyon National Park."

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