Friday, May 28, 2010

Awe Inspiring

Looking at the mile deep Grand Canyon, I wondered where the drinking water comes from for the Grand Canyon Village perched on the south rim – almost a mile above the Colorado River below. A visit to the Park's HQ provided the answer. Today, the water is piped from Roaring Springs on the north side of the canyon. For those early 20th century tourists, Santa Fe Railroad hauled the water in from 100 miles away until 1932. Over the next forty years until a reliable system was built from Roaring Springs, the park periodically resorted to hauling water to the Village – for its residents and tourists.

(Note: The village of Tusayan just south of the park with its complex of hotels and restaurants has two water systems each with a well over 3000 feet deep.)

One morning when I arrived at the park earlier than usual, I was passing the mule corral as the riders were being given the talk about riding mules. A couple of wranglers were sitting on a stone wall waiting for that moment when they would assist riders in boarding the mules. I sat down and started conversation with an older cowboy with a weather beaten and sweat stained hat. With ice blue eyes and a beard that was fading from red to gray, he politely answered my questions. First season as a dude wrangler and first at the Grand Canyon. For forty years, he was a cowboy all over the west from the Canadian border to Mexico – mostly following cows. Our conversation ended far too quickly as the head wrangler had completed his words to the dudes who would soon be atop the mules.

As I walked away capturing a few more photos, I noted the cowboy had a cell phone in his hand and was obviously reading a text message. Cowboy and a cell phone. Time warp to be sure.

The park's guests arrive from dawn to dusk. They arrive by RV, by train, by car, by tour bus, by motorcycle and at least one bicycle (I saw one). One day I made the mistake to be in the Village at mid day. It was difficult walking with all the posing for photos in front of the Canyon. Rather than fighting the crowds, my offer to take the photos of couples or families was gladly received.

Over three days, I walked most every section of the Rim Trail. There were several sections where my acrophobia had me hugging the inside of the trail. Okay. So I wasn't going to fall over the edge. My real concern was that a gust of wind might throw me off balance -- and over the edge.

Frequently, there were people standing right on the edge of the canyon. Then there were others with youth and testosterone raging in their bodies who were on the rock outcrops in the canyon. As I watched people challenging gravity, my thought was a book that I had read about a year ago: Over The Edge: Death In Grand Canyon. (The book documents the deaths in the Grand Canyon over the past 100 years. The high level review of the various categories is fascinating, but the book bogs down in details of individual deaths.)

One of the CCC projects during the 1930s was the construction of a knee high stone wall for most of the distance in front of the Village. Most of the rock consists of sandstone and limestone slabs with an occasional non square specimen of rock – like this heart shape. It would be nice to meet the stone mason that placed that rock there and what were his thoughts as he set that rock in mortar. (Sounds like a plot for a love story.)

Each time I visit the Grand Canyon, I am awed by my insignificant and short life on this planet.

So with that, it is time to head out and do more exploring to satisfy my ever curious nature.

For more photos, check out the Grand Canyon gallery.


  1. Lloyd, you're killin' me. I tried my best in February to get there but Mother Nature just wouldn't allow. The rest of my summer is booked but maybe I can add Grand Canyon to my list in late fall. It looks spectacular.

  2. There is a similar book for Yellowstone. The title, unsurprisingly, is Death in Yellowstone, by Lee Whittlesey. Three hundred people have died stupidly in the Park since it's inception, many Boiled alive.

    I knew a cowboy whose horse bucked itself over the Rim of the Canyon about 8 Mi West of Desert View. Buster Holt "stepped off" three bucks before the horse went over the edge. He griped to us that it took his brand new saddle with it.


  3. It is such a spectacular place, and has been several years since I was there last. Thanks for the photos.

  4. Those are some beautiful clear shots - you must have had some unpolluted days. I especially love that heart-shaped rock. You're right - that must have a story.

  5. Larry,
    The Canyon will still be here when you do get to the neighborhood.

    Lew and Jan,
    Yellowstone visit on the planning list for 2011. Looking forward to reading the book.

    Glad you enjoyed the photos.

    Barb and Ron,
    That wind did manage to keep any pollution from hanging around.

  6. Cowboy on a cell phone... Hmmmm... how 'bout... a cowboy on a cell phone... listening to his Ipod... on his Motorcycle... taking pictures of it all, with his digital camera and writing 'bout it on his laptop :o)

    Oh... My... God! ... What have I become??!! :o)

  7. I am going to try to be better at looking at the blog when we get the email reminders.

    Great photos and comments as always. enjoyed your thoughts about those edges!!



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