Rim of the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon


I should have been able to leave Vegas, stop by the Hoover Dam, and soak in the Grand Canyon in a day. It is a lot, but I was aware of time running out and wanted to make sure I saw everything possible. But alas, though I began to speed a little past my comfort zone, sunset falls fast in the Arizona desert and I made it to the rim at twilight just in time to see a large, dark hole. I was disappointed my plan was foiled, and legitimately thought about driving on, but then realized what I was saying. It was ok to “miss” Mt. Rushmore, it was not ok to miss the Grand Canyon. That’s just stupid. So I pitched my tent and slept, consoling myself that Roosevelt also had first seen the Grand Canyon at daybreak.

Alas, I woke up early the next day, but not at sunrise. I walked slowly and methodically along the paved rim trail, soaking everything in. It’s hard to get perspective on just how large this thing is; hikers below were just tiny dots, and the raging river was just a spaghetti noodle draped between a sliced peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The Grand Canyon was more than just a big ditch; it was millions of years of geologic history exposed before your very eyes. I wanted to do beryllium dating immediately and roll in the dust that most assuredly was once dinosaur crap. I caught up with a park ranger leading 30 only slightly annoying tourists, and I joined momentarily to learn more. It was nice to suddenly be able to identify the condors flying overhead, attracted by our large heard and waiting for something to drop dead so it could feast and peck your eyes out. Further along we moved onto the delight of an abandoned uranium mine. Before Roosevelt essentially saved the Grand Canyon, numerous land developers had seized mining claims on the area. One guy actually just pretended to mine the land, while actually capitalizing on a small trail that lead around the rim and into the canyon. He would charge a dollar to get onto the property itself, and then, in true business style, charge another dollar at the bottom of the trail for the only clean water for miles. Others were not so kind. A uranium mine held its claim and actively pursued it until the 1980s. When its uranium thread ran underneath the park boundary, they led a huge campaign advertising for a fake hotel they would put on the rim if the government didn’t them continue. The hotel plans never went through, but the debris is still there, the costs of cleaning it up rising higher every day and resting in the court’s determination of responsibility. Now, as the price of uranium continues to rise, the question of whether to open new mining operations has surfaced to debate again (though not necessarily this one, or any one in the Grand Canyon).

I walked on, got my picture taken by a couple that didn’t speak English, and then got a better picture taken by a chemical engineer from northern Virginia on vacation with his wife and two daughters. I talked with them for a while on superfund site clean up and applying to colleges (aka W&M) until I moved further west along the canyon. I stopped once more further down the road at something I only remember being referred to as the tower. Finally, the river had turned into a much more formidable sight, and it was best seen at the top of this tower, climbing against the skyline. The tower itself was made in the 30s, with local native artists painting hieroglyphic like outlines all over the inner walls (it actually felt like some ancient relic and I was a little sad to learn that it had been built so recently). I waved goodbye to the vultures overhead, breathed in heavily, and ran back to my car.

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