Stupendously GrandPosted on November 21st, 2007 after 15600 miles by Dean Croshere.
The deep rumbling of the headlights shook my car.
A large engine was idling at the campground before mine.
I hadn’t paid.
I was in my sleeping bag. My car was off. My shoes were in the…in the… they were somewhere that wasn’t on my feet.
The sky was beginning to brighten on the horizon off to the east.
The noise grew slowly louder. As headlights approached, the truck began to take shape. It coasted slowly towards my site. I readied my explanation for why I was there without any kind of permit.
As it came by, I looked at its side panels for the park ranger logo.
There wasn’t one.
He drove on without any incident. I was awake for the second time that morning.
It was time to go explore the Grand Canyon.
I left the campground before I realized I had no idea where the Grand Canyon actually was. I knew I had passed a couple of scenic views on the way in, but I didn’t know what was further down the road. I turned around 3 total times before I finally settled on which way to go.
I eventually found myself at a parking lot with an arrow that said Grand Canyon views, that way.
Only a short hike later I found myself at this point.
If someone held a gun to my head and asked me to describe the Grand Canyon in one word, I would probably stutter out “Grand,” simply out of confusion for why someone was committing such a crime for such a stupid point.
Other words that now come to mind are “stupendous,” “enormous,” and “amazing.” I’ve also got “gregarious” stuck in my head, but I don’t think that’s a good description of the Canyon.
“It’s a remarkable view, eh?” He pronounced “eh” as the letter “a” is pronounced. As a Canadian might stereotypically end every sentence, though this didn’t occur to me until later.
“It sure is. It’s breathtaking.” I replied. He, a gentleman in what I would guess would be his 60’s, and I were both standing out at the point taking pictures. Behind us was a young couple about my age sitting there just watching the sun rise over the canyon.
This canyon can cure any amount of rock fatigue. It is so immensely stupendous, so stunningly enormous, so deeply amazing, so … grand that it will impress any viewer. Period.
Shortly after the sun peeked over the far reaches of the canyon, the eldest of our group headed back up the trail. With a “have a good day, eh?” he parted.
As the sun continued to rise, I struck up a conversation with the couple seated on a little rock outcropping above me. We began by comparing notes as to which canyons and sights we had been to.
I mentioned how disappointed I was with the Glen canyon and they thanked me, as they had been planning to go up that way. I recommended Arches and the camping spot I went to near the Canyonlands.
They had just come from Zion national park and highly recommended it to me. They mentioned the best trail, said it was great even though her fear of heights almost made them turn back.
“But you’re sitting up on a rock outcropping on an overlook with no fence between you and the Grand Canyon,” I protested.
“This isn’t bad,” she said.
I now had a really strong desire to go do this hike she mentioned.
“Zion is most expensive place we’ve been” she warned, “Not like here, where camping is free.”
I felt a little silly at that. I guess I didn’t need to worry about being caught at all.
“The National Park pass has really helped us out though,” he continued for her. National Park pass. That would have been a good idea. I had thought about it before. It’s an $80 pass that gets you into nearly every national park for free. Usually I just passed it off as being for the sort of person who was going around the country visiting national parks.
The fact that I was doing just that hadn’t occurred to me until he mentioned it.
I told them I was from Oregon, 15000 miles into a road trip. They mentioned they were from the eastern border Canada. They were spending a few weeks visiting a friend in Portland and were driving around to see all of the sights on the western seaboard.
Before I headed to Zion, I wanted to hike down into the canyon. I remember when I was really young, my dad had mentioned that you could hike down inside it. At the time I had begged him to take me to the canyon so we could hike it, but he brushed me off saying, “After 20 steps you would be begging me, ‘Daddy will you carry me?’”
After a brief breakfast of a few random things (I found one cup o soup, one packet of oatmeal, and one spicy Thai noodle thing floating around in my trunk), I headed towards the first trail I found. The sign warned harshly against hiking alone and said you should always tell someone about your plans.
I tried to send a text to someone, but nothing went through, so I headed down the trail with just my usual 2 liters of water.
Hiking in the Grand Canyon sure is amazing. Or was it stupendous?
As soon as I realized I was going to be hiking down into that forest with the light shining through it, I picked up the pace. I wanted to snap some pictures of the crepuscular rays before the mist all burned off.
I didn’t really make it. This little bit of mist was the best I could do.
The trail I was on was 11 miles long, or a 22 mile round trip down to the Colorado River and back. I’m sure I could have made it if I were prepared.
I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t even have any water purification methods with me. I couldn't do the whole trip. It really shouldn't be done alone anyway.
Of all the places I’ve been on this trip, there is no place I’d rather come back to than the north rim of the canyon to do this hike properly.
When I decided to turn back, it wasn’t the distance that I had hiked that worried me. After all, I was only 2 or 3 miles in. It was the distance down that I had traveled, the distance back up that I still had to go.
I had started on the rim of this canyon. That white peak jutting out there in the middle is where I had taken the canyon overview picture earlier.
Some of the switchbacks on the canyon are steep enough that most other trails would make switchbacks out of them, if that makes any sense.
There is a tunnel in the trail. I’m not sure whether or not it is natural, but it does act like a perfect frame.
It was kind of fun looking back down on the way up. The mist had burned off, so the view was considerably greater. You can see the bridge down in the valley, shortly before I had turned around. You can see the tree out on the ledge that looks like it is high up on a bluff in the picture from below, but now looks like it is just a little toy.
Hiking in the Grand Canyon is perhaps the most amazing because of how the rocks change with the depth. Each time the rocks change, there is a sign explaining what era this particular layer of limestone, sandstone, or shale is from. Each erodes at a different speed, so any quick drop-offs, like the one where the mist became thick, are different layers. I believe that drop-off is where Redwall Limestone begins. The next layer is shale, and that’s where the springs begin. See, the water trickles down through sandstone and limestone, but can’t through shale, so it slowly seeps along the top of the shale until it comes out in a spring.
I made it (some of the way) down and all the way back out again and I never asked my daddy to carry me, however nice it might have been.
When I got to the top, there was an older gentleman there. He asked about the hike and I showed him pictures. We discussed the difficulties of the full 22 mile round trip, and whether or not it was a 2-day or a 1-day hike. I was strongly in favor of considering it as a 2-day even though 1-day might be possible. Although he began by arguing the contrary, he agreed with my points that it would be better to relax by the Colorado at the campsite down there for a night and enjoy the hike back up than push too hard and not see as much.
We also discussed our trips. He had just come down Canada through Bryce Canyon. He highly recommended it because the colors were so beautiful there.
He went back to his car to prepare for taking the hike the next day and I went back to get some noontime pictures at the overlook.
As I hiked down to it, another elderly gentleman mentioned in passing, “mumble, mumble, south rim, eh?” he pronounced eh in the stereotypical Canadian fashion like the other gentleman had.
I pressed him to repeat what he had said.
“It’s better than the south rim today, eh?”
“Why is that?” I asked, “I haven’t been over there.”
“It’s so crowded you can barely see the canyon. Completely full up.”
It was interesting. The south rim was almost entirely full of tourists while the north rim, here, appeared to only be populated by a few Canadians. The view was clearer, if nothing else. The center canyon, pictured running towards the upper right hand corner, points almost exactly at the north rim viewing area. I don’t think they have THAT much better of a view. I’ll stick with my Canadians.
Well, I would, if I was staying in the park. I wasn’t. I was headed towards Zion.
I got to Zion in a much better mood than I had been in the past few days. I had one more night to stay in the woods, then I would be in Las Vegas with some frat brothers.
I must admit, I was stunned when I came into Zion. I didn’t really know what to expect. Unlike the names of every other park, Mesa Verde, Arches, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, the name Zion is entirely non-descriptive. Therefore I propose that the name of Zion be changed to “Awesome Canyon.” It’s a much better self-descriptive name.
I didn’t really stop to take any pictures. Many of these things are tough to take pictures of. There are just sheer colorful rock cliffs everywhere about.
I arrived at the park in the evening and picked out a camping spot. I even paid a couple of extra bucks to get one that had power, so I could entertain myself all evening.
It was about 45 minutes until sunset, so I headed towards a 1-mile hike towards the “hidden canyon.”
It excited me because it warned that people afraid of heights should avoid the trail. They weren’t kidding.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of the “hidden canyon” that were of any quality. Apparently there is an arch at the end of it, but it was starting to get dark and the hike wasn’t one to try without plenty of light.
It was a good day.