My daughter works and lives at a place called Desert View, a tourist site on the South
Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, 60 miles north of Williams. It has campgrounds, a market, a 60 ft. tall watchtower for viewing
the Canyon, and a gas station. Before she moved there, the Grand Canyon to me was just a name for a "big hole in the ground", which
it is, but .... since that time, after reading historical books and visiting there, I can't get the place out of my mind. The Grand
Canyon has been called one of the Earth's most glorious and dramatic landscapes, and it truly is, and it has been named one of the
7 wonders of the world.
The overall statistics and facts of the Canyon are staggering,
including its length, 277 miles. Consider that Desert View is 7000 ft. in elevation, even though there aren't any mountains around,
and snow is on the ground much of the time. And from the rim one mile straight down to the bottom of the Canyon is the mighty Colorado
River, which lies 2500 feet above sea level which varies from 40 to 80 feet deep and three hundred feet wide at places.
Living in the Canyon are 70 species of mammals, hundreds of species of birds, 60 or so kinds of reptiles and amphibians, and 18 different
kinds of fish. in the river. These numbers include mountain lions, coyotes, beavers, bighorn sheep, squirrels, turkeys, and mule deer.
Also rattlesnakes, scorpions, mice , lizards, condors, black widow spiders and other critters abound inside the Canyon.
Rooms, or rather cabins, can be rented from the indigenous Hopi or Havasupai Indians at the bottom of the Canyon at a place called
Phantom Ranch, for those who want to wait a year or so for reservations. There's a store, toilets, and, best of all, plenty of fresh
Rangers supervise educational hikes along the rim of the canyon, or you can take the walk
of a lifetime to the bottom of the canyon down one of the many trails, that range in difficulty, if you're up to it. Or you can ride
mules down, if you are of a trusting sort, as the trails can be very narrow, and looking over the edge of the trail thousands of feet
down, from the back of a swaying mule, can be a life changing experience. You can descend by helicopter with any lottery winnings
you may have left over, which is, needless to say, the quickest way down, and also out, in an emergency situation. But it's expensive.
Pampered campers can ride on river boats and spend several nights out on sandy beaches along the shore of the Colorado, with river
guides seeing to many of the comforts of home along the route. They cook, clean, and see to your safety, as much as possible, with
life vests and all during the boat trips through the rapids.
Hikers beware, as the trails
down the Canyon walls can be steep, narrow, and blazing hot, as temperatures rise to 100 degrees or higher sometimes. Only the experienced
hikers in good physical shape dare go below the rim. The number one problem when hiking below the rim is being able to carry enough
water to sustain the thirst generated by the extreme physical exertion expended to get to the bottom and then return to the top. Many
a hiker has died in the Canyon due to lack of the precious liquid.
There are only a few water
stops provided in the canyon, some in small streams, some in pot holes in rocks, or you can dip into the Colorado if you have the
right purifying tablets in your backpack. Naturally, that's often muddy waters. There are lots of cases where sightseers have fallen
off the rim into the canyon. Most often they were posing, some taking photo selfies, while backing up too close to the rim using the
magnificent panoramic view of the Canyon as a backdrop. Don't expect guardrails around the entire rim.
Naturally, there is some disagreement on how the Canyon came to be as you see it now. Scientists say a process of rain, wind, erosion,
and Colorado River flooding caused it. And they throw out numbers like millions of years as the length of time it took to gouge out
the great wonder. That's a project and length of time that's hard to fathom for most people. There are geological clues, from that
point of view, in the sides of the Canyon, where the remains of prehistoric life-forms have left their skeletal remains, as though
a mighty sea once flowed there. On the other hand, religious people who believe that the Bible is a good history book, believe that
God was the architect of the Canyon. Either way, there it is in all its grandeur, and some would say, "Does it really matter?
One travelogue announces that the Grand Canyon "is an exciting and overwhelming spectacle, offering the promise of quiet and solitude."
And if you hike, "you must pay the price of sweat and toil, to be rewarded at the end with a feeling of an unparalleled sense of accomplishment."
Simply, just standing along a rail at the Watchtower and gazing out over that great depression, the entry fee to the Canyon may be
the best $30 you'll ever spend.