Sleep, Wake, Work, Eat, Walk—Plunge a Mile Below

I moved slowly today, because I only got four hours of sleep. I had worked until 5 a.m., and the park ranger came knocking on my window at 10:30 to see what my plans were. He was apologetic, but it turns out no one had the spot reserved, so I guess he just needed something to do. Grrr. That’s okay, though. Once I paid for the spot I had pulled into early this morning and picked a better one for the next two nights, I was glad to be up and about. I had things to do. Projects to write. Canyons to ogle.

One of the neat things about traveling on your own—or being home alone for that matter—is that you can go at your own pace. True, it’s nice to have someone to push you along when you’re feeling sluggish. But I sure enjoyed just sitting in my Jeep in the new camping spot, staring into space and gradually coming up with a plan for the day. I needed tissues, water and cheap sunglasses (I’ve already lost three pairs on this trip). I wanted to add to my collection of food, so I wouldn’t be tempted to buy too much. I try to eat one good meal a day at a restaurant or on my own, and then keep healthy snacks for the rest of the day. I admit to eating a Snickers yesterday.  J

Once I came out of my morning stupor, I toddled over to the on-site market with ungodly prices (actually, not as bad as I thought they’d be). I got the groceries I needed, then I went back in to browse the gift shop and outfitters.

All I can say is whoa. It has been years since I perused outdoor gear. I’ve had three husbands and boyfriends who were not into high-tech camping, and I didn’t press the issue. I think I forgot how much I like it. I walked around the outfitters department with my mouth hanging open I’m sure, now that I think about it. There are blinking lights you can wrap around tree branches to find your way back on a trail, backpacks that stuff into hip-pack-sized parcels, four different kinds of traction devices for the bottoms of your shoes, braided bracelets and keychains that unbraid into useful lengths of high-tech rope, $25 wicking neck gaiters that are as thin as a piece of paper, and …and…and…

I had a blast. I think I stayed there for 45 minutes looking at every single thing they had. I found propane backpacking stoves with a variety of sizes of propane bottles, a Tech Blanket I bought to prepare for the 20-degree weather tonight, ultralight foam seats for sitting on rocks, fold-up kitchens and a bunch of beautiful hiking shoes.

I bought the Tech blanket, a new backpack to replace the one I’ve worn out with my tech writing gear, a cheap pair of sunglasses, a carabineer with a water bottle neck attachment, a utensil that is a spoon, knife and fork in one, a cheap Grand Canyon T-shirt, a bookmark, a neoprene brace for my foot, and a tiny stuff sack with a shoulder bag in it for future shopping or other unplanned bag needs. Go green!

I’m pretty proud I didn’t get more. But I might spring for a pair of shoes tomorrow, so when I get my work done I can go on a real hike. Tomorrow, it’s actually supposed to snow, so the hike will probably be on Thursday. Snow! Sheesh…everywhere I’ve gone on this trip since the first of December, they’ve had the worst weather they’ve had in a long time. I could take that personally, but I’m having so much fun, I don’t even care. I’ll be sleeping in 20-degree weather tonight, and if I’m lucky I’ll wake up to beautiful snow. I will be happy to have the car heater, though, and I plan to crank it up before I go take a shower—which I need badly after a three-day shower hiatus.

After the shopping spree, I buckled down and did some work in one of the lodge cafeterias. Finally, I was free to play, and I had already noted one of the museums I wanted to go to—the Kolb brother’s house. It’s built right on the edge of the canyon. They ran a photography business there for many, many years, and were known for the crazy stunts they did to get impossible photographs. They took an unheard-of trip down the Colorado and filmed it as a public relations stunt. People who came to see the movie would buy their art photos. They must have done pretty well. The photos of their home showed nice furniture and tastefully decorated rooms. There was a woman—I’m assuming a wife, but she might have been a sister. Her influence showed. As usual, it’s actually the women who tame the wilderness.

It’s cool to view the canyon from inside the house. The brothers had built a three-sided glassed-in porch for that very purpose. I pressed my nose to the glass, so I could see as far down as possible. The house has a two-story gallery and auditorium where the brothers showed a movie they made of the trip down the Colorado River. Sort of an old-time Imax flick. It was fun to watch the movie, but I was antsy to get outside, so I bundled up and started walking along the rim. As I walked, I watched the sun go down and studied all the different ways the canyon looks with different amounts and angles of light. I kept walking, because the path was gradually rising, and I could see more and more of the canyon and the sunset.

The Grand Canyon just before sunset...from six feet behind the rim, thank you very much.

In some places, the rim path has no protection on the edge, and in some places there are thick walls low enough to sit on. As the wind came up, I decided to walk as far away from the edge as I could. It would be just my luck for one of the forecasted 50-mile-per-hour gusts to pick me and deposit me at the bottom of the canyon. So much then for adventure! But there were plenty of places I could bend over the edge of a safe wall, just enough to see down into a terrain rippling up with dark pines, down with pale rocks, up again with red cliffs, down again with plunging splits in the earth.

As I looked out across the canyon, I thought, “How beautiful and dangerous.” I imagined an invisible plain connecting the south rim with the north rim. What if the park buses could drive across it and people could look down as they rode? What would the canyon look like from that vantage point? What if hikers could hike across on clear paths, choosing favorite spots with canyons a mile below and camp on the air? It sounds crazy, but you can’t help thinking things like that when you are standing on a monstrous flat rim looking out into the distance at its twin. What if?

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