Thursday, June 19, 2014

Have you hiked the Grand Canyon?

An email from a friend who wants to hike the Canyon has momentarily distracted me from my yard sale preparations.

I lived in "Flag" (Flagstaff) for two years around 1960 in a house across the street from Arizona State College. (Now Northern Arizona University.) The college had a sightseeing caravan for newcomers to acquaint them with local attractions: the San Francisco Peaks, scenic backdrop of the town; Oak Creek Canyon, with walls of evergreens and a road that leads to the red rock formations at Sedona; and Wupatki Indian ruins. But the highlight was the Grand Canyon.
     The view is splendid, truly awesome. Its immensity is breathtaking, the stark beauty beyond description. I had an irresistible desire to know the Canyon.
     I took some courses at the college and became acquainted with Roma Butchart and her husband, Dr. Harvey Butchart, chairman of the math department. It was well known that Harvey spent a lot of time in the Canyon, but that meant little to me aside from its being his "hobby."
     Not until many years later did I learn that Harvey's "hobby" had made him the recognized authority on the Canyon. The Park Service asked him to write the book on the Canyon. His detailed journals were the basis. "Butchart methods" now aid novices as well as veteran hikers.
     When Roma heard that I would move to California at the end of the school year, she offered to hike the Canyon with me, but she had one stipulation: "We must go before the end of April." She had "done" the Canyon six times already. Those who know never go to the bottom from May to October. Why? Because the temperature at the river is the same as that of Phoenix!
     Saturday would be the day. We'd go down the steeper Kaibab Trail and up Bright Angel, a gentler grade with covered rest stops and water fountains. The plan had to be reversed, however, because wild horses were being brought up Kaibab that morning. We descended Bright Angel, trekked along the muddy, swift flowing river, crossed the bridge that spans the river and headed for the Phantom Ranch. Roma figured a swim in the pool at the ranch would be refreshing before our ascent. Another change of plans. The pool had been drained for maintenance. So, after a short rest, we crossed the bridge again and headed for the Kaibab Trail.
     When we reached the rim, it was dark but the moon lighted the trail. Were we tired? Twenty miles in a day? Of course we were, but fatigue was a small payment for my treasured memories. What a simple means of gaining this rare experience--just agree on a date and go.

Now to my friend's email that inspire this reminscence. About a year ago, I read that the Canyon has become an international attraction drawing an unbelievable number of visitors. The Park Service had plans to review the matter. Here is my friend's message:

 I haven't hiked the G C yet....and I want to....but it's complicated! must have a reservation, and you must make it a year in advance...just a pipe dream at the moment.

I didn't realize how privileged I'd been. The world has changed.

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