A chat about hiking with a local college student brought back thoughts of the Canyon.
We moved from Chicago to Flagstaff. My husband taught math at the college there. (Now it is Northern Arizona University!) Before the school year began the college did a car caravan to acquaint the newly-arrived faculty with local points of interest. I'd seen pictures of the Grand Canyon, of course, but I was not prepared for seeing it "live" in front of me. Magnificent. Enthralling. Enticing. I peered down into it, and knew I wouldn't be content until I had looked up at the rim from the heart of the canyon.
Someone said,"See the mules heading back up?" Only with concentration on the grassy plateau and the thin tracery, that I learned was the trail, could I even make out any movement. And that, I was told, was the approach to the final descent to the bottom of the canyon, to the river--the Colorado River. It had carved out the canyon.
We were in Flag for two years. I often mentioned wanting to hike the canyon. Harvey Butchart, the name most associated with the canyon, was my husband's chairman. Harvey's wife, Roma, was my friend. When Roma heard we were leaving the campus, she called to say she would hike with me if we went before the end of April. The rule, among those who know the canyon, is hike in the off season--between November 1 and May 1. Why? Because the temperature at the bottom of the canyon is the temperature of Phoenix! And during the tourist season, you will be hiking the trails also used by the mules transporting tourists. No need to go into details about conditions on the trail.
My husband, who was an amputee, stayed home with the kids. Roma and I hiked down Bright Angel and up Kaibab. She would have preferred Kaibab for the descent, but, she was informed, they (?) were running wild horses up Kaibab that day.
The experience was all that I could want. The trail is clear and well kept. You realize that you are walking where few have gone before. Passing from the end of Bright Angel to connect to Kaibab you walk along the river. It is churning, muddy and swift. Signs warn hikers not to enter the river. Unfortunately, some ignore the warning--and are carried away by the current. We arrived at the top after dark. A Forest Service friend had moved Roma's car from the head of Bright Angel to the head of Kaibab. It's good to have friends in the right places. We returned to Flagstaff worn out but exhilarated.
I was delighted a few years later, when the children were ten and older. I had the opportunity to hike the canyon again, this time with the children. Dad stayed at the top waiting for our return.
I came to a realization a number of years ago, when I was recalling my adventures in the canyon. Nothing could have said it more forcefully. I suddenly knew that I would never hike the canyon again. I hadn't really noticed before, but I had grown old. Thank God for memories.
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