By Noah Wentzel ’13
Day One: Introductions; Travel
On our first morning we met at the WOC equipment room at 4:45 a.m. There were 11 of us (plus our driver): the students—myself, Eric Hagen ’14, Nick Kraus ’14, Jillian Stallman ’15, Lilliana Morris ’14, Laurel Hamers ’14, Marisa Lupo ’12, and Bex Rosenblatt ’12—as well as Scott Lewis, his wife Bernice, and daughter Mariah.
We landed in Tuscon at about 11:30 a.m., stepping outside into the surprisingly warm air, and headed east on I-10. Outside our windows we got a first glimpse of the Arizona desert, full of cactus and tough shrubs and dusty hills.
We arrived at Gilbert Ray Campground in Saguaro National Park outside of Tucson around 5 p.m. We were met there by the 12 member of our group, Professor Mihai Stoiciu, who had just arrived from a conference in Tucson. We unloaded the van and set up our camp and soon called it a night.
Days Two and Three: Saguaro National Park
It began to rain soon after we awoke on Sunday, and the temperature that had been so pleasant the previous evening plummeted. As a result we decided not to do a significant hike. Instead we took a short walk through the desert before driving into Tucson on the far side of the hills. We spent some time at the public art museum located near City Hall and toured a craft fair outside. After we returned to the campground, Scott led us on a short hike up nearby Brown Mountain. The weather held and we climbed to a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside.
The next morning we drove to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum on the other side of Brown Mountain. The Desert Museum is much more like a zoo than an actual museum and more like the natural desert than a zoo, filled as it is with enclosed fauna of the southwest desert. There are also numerous exhibits on the natural history of the region, illustrating the geography the land. The whole establishment is a garden as well, full of various sorts of cacti and other desert-dwelling flora.
After lunch we returned to the campground and some of the group went on a nature walk with Al, our docent host at Gilbert Ray. After dinner, Al hosted provided a viewing of the visible planets—Venus, Jupiter, and Mars—through his personal telescope. Before we went to bed that night we made ready as much of our gear as possible for the drive to Flagstaff.
Day Four: To Flagstaff
Tuesday morning we woke early to break camp. With everything packed away in our vehicles we headed to Flagstaff. Countless hills and buttes rose up out of the hazy distance. To the east and west loomed snow-capped peaks on the far horizon, sailing slowly past in the distant sunlight.
The desert began a slow, sure climb toward the north, flat as ever. At 3000 feet the saguaro cacti vanished from the landscape, and we ascended higher and higher into the altiplano chaparral beyond.
We reached Flagstaff in the late afternoon and stopped at the National Park Service office, where we met Todd Nelson, the Grand Canyon National Park volunteer coordinator. He gave us each a pair of microspikes metal and rubber mini-crampons, for us to put over our boots in case the upper rim was icy. It had snowed some 50 inches in Flagstaff over the weekend, and there was no predicting what conditions we would find.
Day Five: The Rim
Free time on Wednesday morning allowed us to try out Macy’s Coffeehouse, purported by Scott to be the best coffee in the world. There we met President Falk, and with all 13 members of our complement, we loaded into three vehicles and began our caravan to Grand Canyon National Park. We passed through open ponderosa pine forests as we skirted the snowy San Francisco Mountains and descended to a plain dotted by junipers and other small conifers. Rising at odd intervals out of this tableland were hills and buttes whose exposed flanks glowed in places red and orange. Scott informs me these are long-dormant cinder cones, quiet reminders of a time when the San Francisco range spewed forth lava across the plain. Soon afterward a distant bank appeared on the horizon ahead, blue with atmosphere, the first intimation of our proximity to the impressive destination ahead. But this, too, was lost to view as we came to the park entrance. Past the gate the landscape of the forested plain continued uninterrupted, until we turned around a corner and saw there before us the whole canyon opening up from the roadside.
We stood there and gawked for a few minutes like the rest of the tourists. The scene simply did not look real, but rather more like a set from an old western abandoned in the desert. The distances were too vast for the eye to resolve into useful relationships and the whole landscape looked flat, like oil on canvas, absurd in its overreaching and overwrought grandeur.
We drove to Grand Canyon Village, the cluster of settlement at the South Rim. This includes the Visitor’s Center; the Rim Trail with its various shops and curiosities; Mather Campground; various NPS and Xanterra (the private concessions company in the park) support facilities; and a community of small houses where the park staff live. Originally we were slated to camp that night at Mather, but after the weekend snow the ground was muddy and our NPS contacts provided us with an alternative. So we went instead to the Trails Operations building in the support complex, where we would spend the night. There we dropped off all of our gear and organized our food for transport down to the canyon floor via mule train. We also met our volunteer host and guide, a man named Kenton Hotsko who works on the year-round trail crew in the park.
In the early evening we drove west to Hopi Point to watch the sunset. After a whole afternoon staring at the canyon it began to seem (to me) a bit more real, as the sun set and the landscape faded into deepening pastels.
Day Six: Descent; Phantom Ranch
At about 8 a.m. we drove to the South Kaibab Trailhead. It was still cool on the rim, but nevertheless we began shedding layers, anticipating the warmth of the hike and the rising sun and the lower canyon far below. By 9:30 we hefted our packs and hit the trail.
The initial stretch of the South Kaibab Trail, known as the Chimney, is perhaps its most difficult: a quarter-mile crosshatch of switchbacks set into a concave semi-circle bay in the canyon rim. It is north facing and—at least in late March—almost perpetually locked in shadow. The previous weekend’s snow had been compacted by multitudinous footsteps in places into sheer ice plates that had only just begun to melt in places. We were certainly glad of the microspikes Todd Nelson had provided us in Flagstaff, but even with their help it was slow going as we baby-stepped over the treacherous rimy sheets. Stepwise and in groups we made our way down, idling in the pockets of sunshine that bathed the extreme edges of the western switchbacks and watched as below a brave soul or two ventured down toward the next. But soon enough the tight switchbacks ended and the trail shot out along a northeastward canyon spur toward the sunlight below, and the Chimney was behind us.
Very suddenly we found ourselves blinking in the bright morning sun. We had emerged onto a tumbling rocky shoulder, from whose socket a red-rock arm extended deep into the heart of the canyon. This was Cedar Ridge, which the trail follows for several miles along its (relatively) gradually sloping fringes. Stepwise again we descended, but this time without pauses: For half a mile at a time the trail would ride the ridge’s flank, descending only marginally, before dropping into another precipitous network of switchbacks.
From the snow-shouldered, conifer-clad upper reaches of the rim, the South Kaibab snakes downward at last to the foot of the ridge. Here it transects the curious plateau that segregates the upper and lower canyon walls. This is the Tonto, a sagebrush and cactus steppe that rolls gently down from the scree-slopes of the upper walls to an abrupt lip overlooking the Colorado River. From many viewpoints of the South Rim, the Tonto looks like the floor of the canyon, though in fact it’s little more than midway between the rim and the basement. It is as bone-dry as the rest of the desert landscape, but its pale green hue intimates a remarkable contrast with the red and orange of the walls above. This is the color of sage and cactus, yes, but also of the peculiar soil, in which streaks of oxidized copper swirl with the rust-red dusty sediment.
We lunched in the sun on the Tonto. We were close to the bottom, and not wanting to dawdle, we shouldered our packs once again and continued downward. Side canyons opened up out of the tableland before our feet, and we followed the trail down into one of these. A switchback below, the ground before us vanished and we saw, really saw for the first time, the Colorado River sparkling below us for the first time.
What had seemed little more than a trickling bourn from the rim was resolved now in its full eminence as the grand instrument of attrition that carved our celebrated Malacandrian edifice into the high desert of Arizona. Immediately below the projecting rock on which we stood, the river flowed from the east out of a precipitous gorge into a wider space below.
In this space we caught sight of our destination: Bright Angel Canyon, one of the largest branches off the Colorado in the park. Below it we could see Bright Angel Creek, flowing toward the river through a (relatively) wide and gradual valley littered with green, and on the west bank, Bright Angel Campground, on the east Phantom Ranch. That’s where we were headed.
We arrived at Phantom Ranch in the mid-afternoon heat, so its shade was welcome. We were welcomed to our bunkhouse by Kenton, who had started at the rim with us that morning but outpaced our descent by an impressive margin. We settled in, claiming bunks for our weeklong sojourn.
The lower course of Bright Angel Creek is a special place. Cottonwoods and an occasional fig tree dot the valley, providing the only organic shade for miles around. Catclaw and rushes line its banks, and the remarkably tame mule deer stroll through the shallow water to nibble on their leaves. Nestled into the landscape is a small community, the only one of its kind within the canyon walls. Aside from our trail crew bunkhouse, there were numerous other buildings: the ranger’s house behind ours, assorted other bunkhouses and cabins, the mule barn, and the cantina in which the concessionaires serve food and sell a few postcards and souvenirs.
John Wesley Powell camped here in 1869 as he explored the canyon, but he was a latecomer to the scene. The Anasazi tribe settled the delta a millennium or so ago, supporting a community from the agricultural productivity of the isoscelete strip of land between the river and the canyon walls. In my imagination I can see these Native American ancestors and I am more than a little jealous of their life. To be bounded perhaps for a full life within the glowing canyon, to bathe in the Colorado, to learn every nook and crevice and side-canyon of the place; such an existence would seem of unparalleled innocence and contentment.
In the quiet of late afternoon we explored the area a bit more, and that evening we sat on the screened porch and watched the last light fade from the cliffs. Before calling it a night we made one final excursion into the front yard to view the stars which, entrenched as we were in that canyon, glittered crystal clear above us.
Day Seven: Work Project, First Day
The River Trail begins at the Black Bridge over the Colorado, where the South Kaibab Trail crosses the river toward Phantom Ranch. From the bridge it runs west along the south bank of the river for a mile or so until it reaches the Silver Bridge and the Bright Angel Trail. Of course, “bank” is here a rather loose term: along this stretch the river has forged along its southern edge a chute of swift, deep water, and from the extremity of this channel the granite rises up in a vertical rock wall, precipitous even by Grand Canyon standards. The trail is cut into this wall, oftentimes the only horizontal break in the escarpment stretching up even to the bottom slope of the Tonto, hundreds of feet above.
The primary traffic along this course is mule trains, and mules are very tough on trails. It was our job to fix what the mules had disheveled since the Williams crew did this same maintenance last spring. What did this mean? First, we were to fill in sections of trail that had been eroded to the point that the bedrock was jutting well above the tread level. This required large volumes of dirt for filler, a challenge given the local geography. Our solution was to “mine” dirt from a couple of sources: from the sediment traps—essentially weirs constructed out of whatever large, loose rock was at hand—that had been constructed at some time in the past few years across a couple of drainages above the trail, and from a ditch we dug along the uphill boundary of the trail. These ditches would trap water over time and support plant growth, which would regenerate the (marginal) supply of dirt some years in the future.
Our tools were mostly picks, shovels, and McClouds (a long handled tool with a flat metal head that’s straight on one side and cut into six long teeth on the other). It quickly proved fairly difficult to break ground for the trench, so Kenton and Eric returned to camp to fetch a curious power tool known as a Pionjär. Essentially a portable, gas-powered jackhammer, Kenton used this seventy-five pound tool to dig into the packed rock and earth and loosen it up enough for our picks and shovels to carve out the trench.
It felt good to swing a pick over my head and down into the ground, scoop dirt into piles, rake rocks out of the trail. The weather was ideal: cloudless skies and temperatures in the high 60s or low 70s. It was pleasant to work along the River Trail, too, for it faces north and the craggy heights above kept us mostly in the shade. But by mid-afternoon—our quitting time—we were tired, hot, and ready to call it a day.
Day Eight: Work Project, Second Day
We said farewell to Professor Stoiciu and President Falk, who would be hiking out of the canyon that day. We then returned to the River Trail for our second day of trail work. We were making progress and began to move west along the trail from the relatively short stretch we had worked on the day before. We had found a rhythm for the work, splitting into teams of three or four to tackle stretches of trench with a pick, a shovel, a McCloud, and a few buckets. By lunch we had completed the whole stretch of trail between our first sediment trap and the South Kaibab Trail, and afterward progressed down the trail to the new areas of sediment that Kenton had broken up with the Pionjär.
Day Nine: Work Project, Third Day
For the third time, we woke up and made our way to the River Trail. Our task for the day was simply to complete the cyclical maintenance on the final stretch back to the Silver Bridge. We advanced quickly after the experience of the first two days, meeting up for lunch at a rock-scarred gulley well down the trail.
After lunch, Kenton’s time with us ended. We were sad to see him go: he had quickly integrated into our group and helped us get comfortable at Phantom Ranch. His quirky humor and sure hands with any tool helped speed our work and the passing of time. We especially appreciated that he was donating his time to work with us, spending three full days of his time off with a bunch of college kids from Massachusetts.
We finished our work a little before 3p.m., happy to have contributed to the maintenance of the park trail system. After dinner and sunset we walked out to the boat beach where we could get a better view of the stars and sat by the sound of the passing river for some time before returning for the night.
Day Ten: Ribbon Falls
On the first of our free days after the work project, we headed north up Bright Angel Creek on a 13-mile (roundtrip) hike to Ribbon Falls. Up past the cottonwoods and the junction with the Clear Creek Trail, the North Kaibab Trail passes through a remarkable geologic formation called Box Canyon. Passing around a loop of trail, sheer granite walls close in on either side, and the visible sky narrows to a brilliant lapis strip between the preponderant sandstone pinnacles looming high overhead. Through this cleft the creek flows through the long grass and bushy catclaw, tumbling over river stones of smooth sedimentary origin; the path follows along on slender and shady embankments. Four bridges cross the water in this section. Past the second a similarly enclosed side-canyon opens up to the northwest. Here Phantom Creek joins Bright Angel, and the confluent waters flow back down the canyon to the Colorado.
For four miles we hiked up Box Canyon, through dark chutes of water and rock that seemed almost tunnels and emerging into wide oxbow amphitheaters. As we progressed, the trail began to pass under even more precipitous cliffs and a series of ominous-looking granite overhangs. One must certainly find a certain degree of faith or recklessness to pass under such places with a sure step, and it seemed wiser not to look up at the sinister cracks in the rock above our heads (though alas I did exactly so, to my regret). We finally emerged from under a protrusion of particularly evil aspect and found ourselves beyond the narrow canyon. In full sun we continued another couple miles through desert country, then turned off onto a side trail to the left and soon found Ribbon Falls.
High above our heads a whitewater stream gushed from fissure in the sandstone wall and poured down through open space, splashing down onto the flat top of curious rock formation shaped like a giant bullet lying point-skyward. The water continued its descent in a main conduit this down formation’s steep mossy sides, while a side-channel trickled down in a cascade of verdant pools like a spiral staircase. At the foot of the waterfall is a wide pool, from which the creek trickles down into a narrow glen, banked on its sides by wild spearmint and the omnipresent catclaw. We ate lunch in the glen, sunning ourselves on the wide, flat rocks beside the water, and then headed up for a closer look at the waterfall.
From the pool at the bottom there is a trail that circles up into bight of open space behind the waterfall. Gaining this high point, we took turns stepping carefully into the mossy pool atop the rock formation for a quick shower. My own turn came, and I made my way across the slippery isthmus of rock to the point. The water slapped down from its height in great foamy globules onto my shoulders, and it was cold, perhaps not frigid like the Colorado but still cold enough to leave me with the worst brain freeze of my life. It was a remarkable sensation, standing there and looking down the sunlit canyon to the impossibly high turrets of the canyon rim, one that I still cannot fully put into words. This was my favorite moment of the trip, and it has lodged itself permanently in my memory of the more sublime destinations of my life. The remaining members of the group followed, each taking their turn in the dazzling pool. Scott even took the opportunity to do another of his trademark handstands right in the middle of the waterfall, howling with glee.
Day Eleven: Utah Flats
Tuesday was to be our last full day down in the canyon, so we wanted to get the most out of it. In the morning we set out from the bunkhouse intent on climbing to Utah Flats high above on the Tonto. Crossing the creek we came to a rough trail up through the scree toward the ridge above. It was a tough climb, not only very steep but also ascending over unsteady ground that threatened at various times to give out underfoot in a sudden landslide toward Bright Angel below. At length the seven of us—Scott, Nick, Eric, Jillian, Marisa, Bex, and myself—arrived atop the first ridge, only to discover we were perhaps only halfway up to the Tonto. We continued upward and the trail grew more solid and less steep, and we found progress to be easier. However, as we approached the final sedimentary wall and turned up a gulley, it became apparent that we would have to scramble up a tumbling boulder field. This was not too difficult, though, and at length we clambered up a few last stone steps onto the wide flat area above.
This was Utah Flats, a wide expanse of Tonto plateau beyond the west wall of Bright Angel Canyon. I decided that this plateau was the ideal perspective of the canyon. After having spent time above and below, it struck me that at either extremity it is not possible to gain an impression of the full scope of the place: from above the lower is only a shadowy rift with few details evident to belie its impressive nature, and from below the upper canyon is almost totally lost to view. In either case one can only see half of the canyon with any immediacy. But on the Tonto one stands in the middle, and fro m any of the more prominent points the lower canyon lies directly below even as the temples of the upper heights loom up behind.
Day Twelve: Ascent
After six days in the canyon, it was time for us to leave. Saying our farewells to our temporary home as we finished cleaning the bunkhouse, we turned our backs on Phantom Ranch for the last time and set off to climb out of the canyon. It was hard to leave, for though the hike out would be beautiful (and fairly long) our departure marked the beginning of our slow return to school and the end of our break. It is a special place there by the banks of Bright Angel and we were lucky to be able to stay so long and in such (relative) luxury.
We paused on the Silver Bridge, seemingly hesitant to begin our trek and certainly less than eager to be on our way. We continued onward along the river for a mile or so before coming to Pipe Creek and turned south into its canyon. We ascended only slowly here, until at last we came to a set of switchbacks emerging into the sun called Devil’s Corkscrew. Above this step we continued along the creek’s path as it climbed toward the Tonto past small trees and brilliant fuchsia-bloomed redbud clusters. Upon reaching a small bay to the left of the trail, Scott offered to show us a site of Indian ruins he knew of, so we dropped our packs and clambered up the bank onto the ridge above, where we saw set into one side a collection of ancient stone structures Scott reported to be granaries of the tribe that once inhabited the valley. Returning below we started back up the trail and soon arrived at Indian Gardens, our halfway point, an oasis of shade amid the materializing Tonto. Here we rested for a time and snacked; it was as yet not even eleven o’clock, and those of us at the front of the pack decided to save our lunches for our arrival at the rim now high above us.
Up until this point the hike had simply been that, a somewhat difficult trek to undertake with a full pack but not especially backbreaking. However, about a mile or so above Indian Gardens, the BA Trail began to climb very rapidly up switchback after switchback into hazy heights. This was the real challenge of the day, and I for one soon began to suffer. We had obviously gained altitude on the hike already, and as I continued up the slope and gradually added the strain thousands of feet of higher altitude, I found myself sorely winded. I had previously been hiking at the front of the group with Eric, Jillian, and Nick, but dropped behind them near the bottom of the ascent and was to hike alone the rest of the way up. This did not seem so bad, however, as I was in no particular mood for conversation and it felt good to go at my own pace. I soon began to regret many of the things I had packed; I had unconsciously assumed that the mule train would so significantly lighten my load that no amount of spare clothes could load me up as heavily as if I had been carrying food, but this was clearly not the case. Why had I felt the need to bring an extra fleece sweater? Or my fleece pants? I had not needed either of these items down in the canyon and they now weighed heavily on my back as I strained upward. And the strain did get to me in an unexpected way that precipitated a humorous episode on my climb.
The climb up the final leg of the BA Trail is roughly four and a half miles long, and at each mile and a half point is a rest stop with an outhouse and increasingly large numbers of day-hiking tourists (We no longer thought of ourselves as tourists in the canyon. After a week at Phamtom Ranch, working on the trails on the lower system, we felt like veterans, though surely Kenton and his cohorts would not agree). The final mile and a half proved to be one of the most arduous of my life. For a time I found myself racing a mule train and began to entertain the illusion that I might reach the top first. It seemed I was gaining as I saw them pass below me from time to time, until suddenly a great shaggy face with long ears materialized over my shoulder as I rested briefly at a turn. Admitting defeat, I let them pass. The trail here was deceitful: I thought myself nearly to the top repeatedly, only to turn some protruding limestone mass to see yet another maze of switchbacks above. However, the steadily increasing traffic kept me fairly apprised of my progress. Finally I looked above and saw Kolb Studio projecting into the skyline and knew I was nearly finished. I had only to negotiate the muddied ice sheets that had begun to appear underfoot, the growing crowds of tourists meandering along the trail in both directions, and the ever-steeper slope ahead, and before I knew it I was walking past the trailhead sign. I sat next to the others who had reached the rim before me and waited for the rest of our group. First we spotted Mariah marching around the final switchback by herself, followed soon after by Lilli and Laurel. Scott and Bernice appeared, and finally Bex and Marisa made their way up the final slope. We had returned from the basement of the canyon, and made a stop by the ice cream shop nearby to purchase a small prize for our accomplishment. [finish line photo]
We had dinner that night at the house of Rich Goepfrich, the head of trail crew operations in the park and a friend of Scott’s. It was just the sort of meal we needed after a tough day of hiking, with burgers, ribs, and chicken on the barbecue, baked beans, and all the rest of the fixings of a good grill night.
Day Thirteen: Farewells
We rolled out of our sleeping bags at 5:45 on Thursday morning and drove to Yavapai Point on the rim in order to experience sunrise over the Grand Canyon, a fitting sequel to our sunset experience at Hopi Point a week earlier. It was still twilight when we arrived and the landscape was shaded invisible by varying degrees of midnight blue. It was also quite cold there on the rim, so we huddled together at the viewpoint in our bundled layers and waited for the sun to emerge.
What was striking to me at this moment was the contrast between my initial observations of the Grand Canyon upon our arrival on the 21st and my perspective today. Our weeklong sojourn at Phantom Ranch changed my view to no small degree. That first day the view had not seemed real or tangible, but I now found that this was no longer the case. The landmarks that had established themselves during our time in the canyon now helped orient my gaze even from the distant vantage of the rim. Here was the shady cleft of Phantom Canyon turned up to the left from the conspicuous north-south Bright Angel gap, and below their conjunction one could discern the smudges of green that distinguished Phantom Ranch on the banks of the creek. The mass of Utah Flats projected out toward us from the distant feet of the northern monuments, and we could even pick out our own route across the Tonto through Scott’s binoculars.
Day Fourteen: Oak Creek Canyon; Sedona; Phoenix
Once again this morning we breakfasted at Macy’s before checking out of the hostel and heading for Phoenix. Along the way, we detoured to have a final canyon experience together. We descended by switchbacks down a precipitous incline into Oak Creek Canyon and found there a distinctly different landscape than the Grand Canyon. This was no desert, but rather a continuation of the ponderosa forest of the high plain above, pockmarked by clusters of chalky sycamores along the waterway. The emerging red rock was similar to what we had left behind in color and composition, but rather than the primordial disarray of the Grand Canyon’s plunging chasm, the Oak Creek formations rose out of their wooded veil in fluid structures that bespoke a more urbane and understated motif. We took a short hike up the creek to a sunny glade, where the chilly water ran in shallow ripples over flat, gently sloping shelf of the signature red rock. We stayed there for a bit, lounging with our feet in the water, reflecting a bit on this trip that would soon be over as below myriad hundreds of caddisfly larvae clung to the rock streambed from within their wattle-and-daub shells and fingerling trout darted to and fro through the pools.
Stopping briefly in Sedona, we returned down the long road out of the chaparral and arrived in Phoenix. Kurt and Colleen Roggensack, parents of Kelsey Roggensack ’13, were gracious hosts to us, housing us for the night and providing us with dinner as we made final logistical preparations for our departure in the morning.
Day Fifteen: Homecoming
We awoke on Saturday, ate breakfast quickly, and completed the last bits of packing and organization before saying farewell to the Roggensacks and heading to the airport. We landed backing Albany around 10 p.m. and were met by Miles Horton ’12 in the WOC van.
It seems I ought to provide something by way of a conclusion. I have no final meditation on the experience, nor do I feel compelled to deliver any final revelations. Rather, I would like to leave any reader who has suffered through my accounting of our experience with a few thoughts, ones that I hope are self-evident from my observations but that I consider sufficiently important as to deserve reiteration.
First, I feel it is my responsibility to advise—or rather, to urge—that any reader who has not visited the Grand Canyon proceed to do so at the earliest possible opportunity. It is truly a spectacle of the sort you cannot find repeated the world over.
Second, I would like to commend the efforts of the National Park Service and their volunteer associates devoted to preserving the natural wonders that are our heritage. It was a great privilege to be invited to work alongside them in the park and experience the Grand Canyon through their eyes for a week.
Third, I would like to thank the individuals whose hospitality made the trip possible, specifically: Todd Nelson, who coordinated our visit to the Grand Canyon National Park; Rich Goepfrich, who oversaw our work project and allocated the Trail Operations building on the rim and the bunkhouse at Phantom Ranch for our use; Kenton Hotsko, who capably spearheaded our work project and made us feel so at home at Phantom Ranch; Kurt and Colleen Roggensack for welcoming us into their house and feeding us for a night; and most of all our own Scott Lewis, without whose tireless labor and intimate knowledge of the canyon this trip would never have been possible.
Finally, if my reader will permit me one last indulgence, I will leave you with this image: as I climbed alone up the BA Trail toward the South Rim, I looked back over my shoulder toward a ridge to the northwest and caught sight of several ravens in the distance. These birds were not hunting or travelling, however, but gamboling about in the air. After staring in bewilderment for a moment it struck me that I was witnessing a remarkable phenomenon, one that Scott had told me about a few days before: These ravens were playing tag like winged schoolchildren in the bright upper air of the Grand Canyon. It struck me dumb that this place to which we had come to visit for a short time on vacation—this grand geological playground—is their beloved ancestral home. The ravens played here before Grand Canyon Village sprouted along the fringe, before Powell and his men rode through in their boats, before the Anasazi or Havasupai settled the narrow valleys. This is their home; and I am unbearably jealous of the savage freedom of those birds cavorting in that high place.