April 1993 on


Grand Canyon vista
(borrowed from Touch the Earth Tours)


Even before I had accepted what I saw, I heard the silence: felt it, like something solid, face to face. A silence in which the squawk of a blue jay was sacrilege. A silence so profound that the whole colossal chaos of rock and space and color seemed to have sunk beneath it and to be cut off, timeless.

- Colin Fletcher
The Man Who Walked Through Time


Grand Canyon - a sight so monumental that for a moment all else ceases to exist.

I first came by accident. Time was not pressing. Freedom and chance made me turn into the canyon while I was travelling elsewhere. Standing at the edge of time and space, I was so compelled by the colours and the shadows that I am drawn back to touch the silence and feast in the beauty.

Walking alone over the rim, away from the crowds and into the quiet of the canyon, I find peace. A lone bird soars above Cope Butte. To me the Grand Canyon is more than physical space - it is a state of mind. I chose to sink in and wrap it around me.

A feeling so wondrous, that for years this scene becomes an icon for me - a window to sleep and dream. So I return, again and again.


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It is early April 1993 and although it is not yet the height of the Grand Canyon season, the rim of the canyon is a downtown sidewalk. Along the rim, hundreds gather like lemmings, their toes tickling the edge of the abyss. Parents clutch the hands of young children admonishing them not to go too close. Photography enthusiasts pick the time and place to immortalize their memories. Foreign tourists, enthusiastically point and chatter. The noise of people and vehicles is overwhelming. The milling faceless crowd tempts death by hanging at the edge of space. For most this is the canyon that they will remember.

I have decided to make my first solo hike into the Grand Canyon. As I pull into the parking lot at Hermit's Rest, I feel as though my body is in Arizona while my mind is still on the road somewhere much further north. I've driven three days from Edmonton, Alberta to Arizona. My car knows the route - the American southwest and particularly the Grand Canyon, has been my chosen destination almost every year since 1976.

The dust in the parking lot settles to the ground as I lift up the car trunk. Items are strewn about in boxes. I don't know if all the gear will fit in my backpack and I have no idea of how much my loaded pack will weigh. I pull out my hiking list and mindlessly check off items. The list is probably longer than necessary. Like putting away dishes after dinner in my kitchen, each item of hiking gear has a designated place in the pack. There is a degree of comfort in reviewing a checklist before a longer trek. This time, however, there is no one to share the weight.

I peel off my travel clothes, pull on shorts and shirt and carefully layer my socks before pulling on my hiking boots. My green lumpy backpack squats on the ground near the trunk of my car - looking huge and heavy. I have conscientiously not lifted it for fear that I would back down from the weight. I carefully lock the car and idly wonder if the half empty fuel can in the trunk might explode from the heat in the next few days. I eye my backpack carefully. My grunt is muffled as I lift the pack onto the trunk of my car. Friendly tourists stop to watch as I fit my arms into the shoulder straps and belt up the waist.

"Where y'all goin'?"
"Into the Canyon."

"By yourself?"

"How long ya goin' for?"
"About 6 days."

"That looks heavy. How much are ya carrying?"
(Ouch - that's the very question I was asking myself)

I gingerly bend forward pushing away from the vehicle and take a few steps to gain my equilibrium. Fifty pounds - I guess. I'm not an ultra-light hiking enthusiast. I like creature comforts on the trail - warm clothing for star-gazing at night, a few good books, several packs of Canadian cigarettes, smoked oyster, fresh ground coffee, a nice bottle of French red wine, smoked salmon and cream cheese with bagels...


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It has been a very long and hot hike from Hermit Rapids along the Tonto Plateau to Monument Creek. Earlier this morning I basked, like a gecko on a rock, by the Colorado River watching kayaks and rafters challenge Hermit Rapids. When I finally leave, it is close to noon and the sun beats down on me as I hurry along the trail. Perhaps only mad dogs and Canadians travel in the noon day sun. I haven't seen a living soul for hours. I appreciate having the whole Grand Canyon to myself. Walking along the trail, the only sound is my feet tramping the ground and the occasional airplane flying very high overhead. It seems quite odd to think that there maybe fifty people on the rim watching me with binoculars, yet I feel quite alone and see no one.

By five o'clock in the afternoon, I am feeling exhausted from the heat. As I draw close to Monument Creek, I pull out my map and search for the campsite. This is my first trip outside of the Bright Angel Corridor. I'm not quite sure what to expect. The map shows a triangle at the top of the Creek. But as I reach the head of the canyon, I see no people, no campsites, no trees, no water, nothing. Even the trail seems to disappear. I backtrack and find the trail and follow it to the head of the canyon. Where it meets a gully into the canyon, the trail disappears. I can see where the stream bed flows down into the canyon and I walk towards it. There is no flowing water...just rock. I walk down the stream bed, but find myself climbing over bigger and bigger boulders. As I let myself down gingerly over yet another pour-off, I decide that this can not be the way to the campsite. I wonder if the triangle on the map means that the campsite is at the Colorado River. But the river is a long way down Monument Creek and no one would be crazy enough to carry a full pack down this stream bed to the river.

Panic begins to set in. I have a half liter of water left. In this heat, that will not be enough to take me anywhere. I must find water soon or I will soon have to return to Hermit Campsite. That means hiking in the dark.

I decide to climb out of the Canyon and again try to find the trail. Once out of the canyon, the trail west to Hermit is obvious. I try hiking further east around the rim of Monument Canyon but there is no evidence anyone has come this way.

I backtrack to a large rock at the head of the canyon and consider whether I should begin the hike back to Hermit. The trail back is level along the Tonto Plateau and I could use my flashlight when night sets in. My knees are shaky. Some of those pour-offs scared the hell out of me. I remove my pack and pull out my cigarettes. If I am going to die, I might as well have my last cigarette. The rock is cool in the shade and I lean back and savor the cigarette, holding the smoke in my lungs and blowing out deeply. This cigarette is my only friend in the world. I relax and discuss my options with Mr. Cigarette. He doesn't respond.

My binoculars are amongst the items I removed from my pack while searching for my cigarettes. Absentmindedly I pick up the binoculars and scan down the canyon along the dry stream bed. There!!!!! Low down in Monument Canyon, I see a trail crossing to the east side of the canyon, hugging a huge rock wall and then disappearing around the corner of a side canyon. There must be a way down! I pull the binoculars away from my eyes. The trail is now obvious - winding down the west side of Monument Canyon - nowhere near the dry water bed. I am saved!!!!


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Rain in the Grand Canyon must be awe-inspiring to suit the grandeur of the vista.
Rain caused by angry gods. Thunder and lightening and drenching downpours in late afternoon. Rain caused by the heat in the desert - rain caused by rolling cumulus-nimbus clouds that quenches the ground in an instant. Rain that causes the streams to rise, red and angry. Or passing rain from a solitary thunderhead in an otherwise clear sky, evaporating on the way to earth so that only the barest mist falls at human level. Or rain where sunlight dapples on layers of rock just up-canyon or down-canyon, but not where you are standing. Rain, where the sun shines bright enough to form a rainbow, resting one arm on the Esplanade and the other atop an Amphitheater. These are suitable rains for the Grand Canyon.

But not this cold, dreary, wet, insidious, west-coast weather, alternating between low gray cloud and misty drizzly rain. Rain that keeps clothes perpetually damp. Where did this fog come from which rolls down from the Cocinino in blankets? Navaho blankets of cloud teetering on the brink of the canyon, tumbling over the edge like puffy dumplings, then trailing into wispy streams.

We three sit content under a ledge, bundled in fleece and Gore-Tex, congratulating ourselves on our quirky wisdom in carrying warm clothing on what might otherwise might be considered a hot hike. From time to time, one or the other of us emerges from cover, to determine if the weather is breaking. Not this day. Evening falls as gray and dull as the morning began.

"This is not desert weather", says Sue, shaking her head. "I know. I lived in the desert all of my childhood and I have never seen anything like this before."

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It is mid-afternoon and the sun is baking the trail near Salt Creek. We stop in the shade of rock and rest our packs on a convenient waist-high ledge. We unbelt our heavy packs and watch them tumble down onto the trail raising a cloud of red dust. I take huge draws from my water bottle, wet my handkerchief, wipe my face and place it on the back of my neck to cool. I lay back and rest on the rock.

Kathy pulls out an enormous bag of Dorito Taco Chips from her backpack. The bag appears to have filled the top third of her pack. She has been carrying this bag for 3 days. I rip open the bag. Each chip is intact. I cram the chips into my mouth craving the salt. I can't seem to stop eating.

We gaze across the sun-heated haze of the Tonto Plateau to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Colours are muted in the heat of the day. Nothing moves except dust particles settling back on the trail. It is so silent. The crunch of taco chips is magnified. People miles away must hear us eating.

I am thinking that this magnificent canyon should inspire deep insight. Is there a God? Why do I exist? What is the Meaning of Life? I am unable to wrap my mind around these questions. What does strike me as profoundly mysterious is how Kathy was able to keep these taco chips from being crushed. My mind can only cope with immediate issues; heat, distance to the next campsite and my craving for salt.

Leslie breaks the silence and asks me what I, being a Canadian and clearly from another universe, think about the moral issue of homosexuality and gay rights. I suffer mental whiplash. What? What? What? Suddenly I am faced with a Deep Question. I try to think. All that comes to mind is water, salt and heat. These words tumble out:

"Do you see that mesquite bush in front of us.
I have no thoughts about the morality of that bush.
It's neither good nor bad. It just is."

That thought hangs in the haze. We crunch Taco chips and watch the heat shimmering in waves off the plateau.


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We set up our living room and kitchen in a lovely alcove at Monument Creek campground. We are alone at the campsite and spread ourselves out. This alcove, close to the stream bed has no room for our tent, so we pitch ours further away under trees. But here the ground is dry and cozy and we spend the day resting and reading during an unseasonably cold, wet day in the Canyon. Each of us is so caught up in our novel that night sets in before we consider cooking dinner. We hale from higher latitudes where darkness comes gradually. However, in the Grand Canyon, evening falls abruptly - light one moment and dark the next. We light our candle lanterns and the reflected light makes our alcove into a cheery room. The flask of scotch helps. The smell of supper drifts into the night and we laugh and joke - mostly about our lack of cooking skills.

Out in the darkness, lights bob in the distance. Two haggard men in military camouflage clothing, suddenly loom out of the night. They are hysterical - obviously frightened and shaking - and they keep whispering to us to be quiet.

"You've got to be quiet. The walls of the canyon are falling in. If you keep making noise the walls will crash in on us. This whole canyon is unstable." one whispers.

We look at one another wondering what they have been smoking.

"Didn't you hear the rocks falling? There are places where the whole canyon wall has completely collapsed. The trail has completely disappeared."

"What the heck are you talking about", we cry out. "We've been here all day and heard nothing."

"Shhh, shhh", they keep saying over and over in an effort to silence us.

"Any loud noise will cause more rocks to fall. We've just come up the canyon from Granite Rapids on the Colorado River. We had a hell of a time. The trail is completely gone - it's covered in fallen rock. We had to climb over enormous boulders to get here."

"We were in such rush to escape the falling rock that I fell and dislocated my thumb", cries one.

He holds up his hand to show us a swollen thumb which sticks out at an odd angle. His friend searches his military medical kit for a cold compress to reduce the swelling. Pat comforts the man.

"Why don't you just sit down and join us for dinner - we have plenty of food."

Sue and I wonder if this is some form of invasion. We peer into the darkness searching for the rest of the army.

Pat moves over to let the men sit on her ThermaRest and she dishes them our dinner. By the light of our candle lantern, the men appear to be mere boys - perhaps in their early 20's. They relate their harrowing experience climbing up from Granite Rapids in the dark. We assure them that the canyon is not falling in and that we haven't heard any rock falls. They don't believe us.

We change the subject and ask about them. They tell us they are from New Jersey and work in the computer business. Although born and raised in the city, they decided to have an 'outdoor' experience this holiday. They purchased camping gear from a used military store and flew out to the Grand Canyon to go hiking. This has turned into a trip from hell.

We bring out our scotch and talk into the night. They call us their 'Angels of Mercy'.

Later, as they set up their camp, we whisper to one another about their odd claim. It appears likely they strayed off the trail in the dark and climbed up the stream bed. I'd made that same mistake before.

The next morning we leave early. The men are still asleep. The trail to the river is intact. But the stream bed, beside the trail, is a horror with huge boulders and pour-offs. It is a wonder they made it to our camp.


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There is a quiet spot, near a campsite, where some energetic souls have dammed the creek to make a pool of clear water. A small waterfall pours through a veil of maidenhead ferns into this pond. The water draws hot tired hikers. Not everyone knows of this pool. It is hidden, shaded by walls of rock - a private place. So private, that by mid-afternoon, a person finding his way to this pool, feels compelled to shuck his clothes, and ease into the cool water.

We find this pool by getting lost on a hot climb from the river. Upon finding the pool, I recall having found it once before. This must be a mystical place that loses itself in a hiker's memories, only to be found again, by accident, on the next visit.

Sitting by the edge of the pool, Larry dangles his feet in the water. He writes in his journal. I stand in mid-pool, my head laid back with hair like a fan in the water and watch a large bird with spread wings rising on thermals.

"This is very strange. Are there fish in this pool?", Larry says.

"I doubt it.", I say, looking around for a trout or a bass or some large fish. "This is a very small pool".

"Well, something keeps tickling my feet."

I climb out of the pool, glancing around with some trepidation, looking for tell-tale signs of a fin racing towards me.

I reach for my towel and book and lay beside Larry, dangling my feet in the pool. In a few minutes, I too feel something bushing at my feet. I look up from my book to see Larry leaning over, staring into the pool. He draws my attention to his toes which are surrounded by tiny fishes.

"These must be the tiny fishes called 'dace' that I read about".

We watch the fishes dart about our feet. They appear to be eating - taking bites, then backing off. My feet tingle and tickle with the action of the fishes. Our feet are in the midst of a feeding frenzy.

"It feels like they are nibbling the dead skin on the bottom of my feet. Voracious little beasts. This must be their afternoon snack."

I wonder if these fishes have older brothers in this desert piscina.

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Pat and Sue want to know what draws me to the Grand Canyon and decide to catch a flight to Phoenix. I agree to show them the canyon that I love.

As Sue tells the story, it is a near miss. Pat, not renowned for arriving on time, draws up to the terminal in Edmonton minutes before the flight is to leave, tosses her keys and twenty dollars to a redcap and tells him to leave a message at the information desk about where the car is parked. Pat and Sue race through customs with their backpacks.

I have just spent an idyllic week sleeping in the arms of my lover under the stars in a lonely canyon of the Escalante. With his scent still lingering in my hair, I drive to the Grand Canyon to meet my former business partners and friends at Babbitt's Store. We arrange to meet later at the Bright Angel trailhead. Still dazed from the previous week, I drive to the trailhead, load my pack and hike to Indian Gardens in less than two hours. Upon arriving at the campsite, I realize that I left my friends behind and have no camping permit. Fortunately, aware of my idiosyncrasies, my friends have already obtained the permit and trek down to meet me.

In an effort to revive memory of the Escalante trip, I eschew the idea of sleeping in a tent with my friends. I lay out my sleeping bag on a ground sheet under the stars and decide to sleep that way for the balance of the trip.

We drift along in the heat of the Tonto Plateau. A screech behind me. I turn and my mouth drops as I watch Pat, with a 40 lb. pack on her back, perform a light-footed dance in the dust. I have absentmindedly passed a pink Grand Canyon rattler, basking on a rock in the sun, near the trail.

Monument Creek campsite is a lovely oasis in the desert. I have fond memories of cooling my feet in the brook, lying in the shade of a tree and serving myself smoked oysters on crackers, which I dug out of the tin with the point of my knife.

Pat and Sue set up their camp under the shade of a tree. They remove their hiking clothes and drape them over the limbs of the tree to dry. I chose to set up my sleeping bag nearby but we are separated by a huge boulder. I pull my groundsheet away from the rock thinking that I do not want creatures, who live on or near the rock, to wander into my sleeping bag.

The weather has been strange this trip. Thunderclouds develop in the canyon in the late afternoon, but there has been no respite from the heat. As night falls, I lay in my sleeping bag, but the heat still pervades the land. I open the bottom of my sleeping bag and lay my feet outside the bag to cool. I drift into sleep.

Suddenly, I awaken and sit up. Two events occur simultaneously. Huge drops of rain fall onto my sleeping bag and I am bitten on my jaw below my left ear. "Big rain", I cry out to my friends whose clothes and gear litter the area. I brush something off my jaw and I hear it fall onto my sleeping bag. Revolted by the thought of having my space invaded by a creature, I claw my way out of my sleeping bag and shake it.

Pat and Sue both come bursting out of their tent. Half naked bodies shine in the night as we scurry about gathering up gear in the rain. I can feel burning pain on my face.

"I think I've been stung by something", I whimper.

"Come into the tent and we'll have a look. You'd better move all your gear into the tent."

I move my sleeping bag to their tent and placing it between their sleeping bags, with my head at their feet. It was the only way three could fit into the tiny two-man tent. I am not prepared to face another encounter with an invisible night creature.

Pat reaches for her flashlight and examines my face.

"I can't see anything", she declares, as if that would end the matter.

"But I can feel the pain pulsating and radiating over my cheek. And I heard something drop on my sleeping bag after I bushed it off my face. The pain is incredible. There must be something there."

"Nope. I can't see any bite or red mark on your jaw."

Sue pulls out her St. John's Ambulance book. She has just finished taking a lifesaving course and we rely on her obvious expertise.

"Check to see if there is anything on black widow bites or scorpion bites", I suggest.

Sue thumbs through her book.

"There is nothing in this book on scorpions" she says. This is not surprisingthis book is published in Canada. We don't have scorpions in Canada. Too cold.

Sue is bilingual. She suggests that perhaps she should turn the book upside down and read through the French version. She and Pat erupt in laughter at this bizarre thought.

"Scorpion stings can kill", I say with righteous indignation. I know we have hiked for two days from Indian Gardens and have another very hard day's hike before we can get out. There is no help available. I recall that snakebite victims should remain calm and move about as little as possible to slow the spread of the venom. I try to remain calm.

"Let's try Tiger Balm. It cures everything". They smear Tiger Balm on my face, but the pain only intensifies. "Wrong move", I say as I rub off the paste.

The pain is incredible and I now feel it moving down my throat. I fear that I will not be able to breath soon and suggest that they may have to perform a tracheotomy. Sue says instructions for this are in her book - both in English and in French. They laugh. The humour evades me.

"I'll either live or die". "If I die, just roll me over the edge of the Canyon", I say helplessly.

Pat and Sue look at one another. They later tell me they have no intention of carrying out my dead body. They later tell me that I rambled on at great length about what they were to tell various people if I died.

It suddenly becomes quiet in the tent. I believe my friends are now sufficiently concerned. Then it occurs to me that they have actually fallen asleep. What the hell, I think, I might as well sleep too. And I did.

The next morning I awake, surprised to find that I am still alive. I have a terrible headache and my face and neck are numb. But the pain is gone. My face feels like I've just returned from the dentist.

A few days later on the trail, a nurse tells me I was stung by a scorpion. The treatment is to apply a cool compress and rest. The pain will disappear in an hour and the area will remain numb for about 24 hours.

Once the pain disappeared, the whole event became a great adventure and the source of a much repeated joke amongst our legal colleagues.

"Pat was stung by a scorpion in the Grand Canyon." says one friend.
"Did the scorpion live?" the listener responds.

Post Script

After a recent trip through the canyon with my brother, I met a Navajo woman at the Cameron Trading Post who tells me that the native remedy for a scorpion sting is to apply a poultice of tobacco on the sting. "It sucks out the poison", she says. I delight in this news as an additional excuse to bring a large supply of cigarettes on the next hikefor medicinal purposes.

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This plateau is not a fit place for man at mid-day when the weather is hot. Heat rises from the ground, is reflected off the rock and hangs in the still air. The land is so desiccated that it has no smell. We are on our fourth water stop since we left Monument Creek that morning. There is little shade on this wide ledge of eroding green-yellow-gray-magenta-tan Bright Angel shale. This trail was etched into a layer of red-brown Tapeats sandstone known as the Tonto Plateau. The undulating plateau, located about 3,000 ft. below the rim of the Grand Canyon and about 1,200 ft. above the Colorado River, parallels the river for some 70 miles. We are only walking a short part of that distance. Resting beside a ridge of rock between Salt Creek and Horn Creek, we pretend we are in shade.

Sometimes the heat does strange things to my mind. I once imagined that I heard a whole choir of Russian females singing in their high nasal voices while I was hiking. I mentioned this to my hiking companion. He stared at me with grave concern. Today, I imagine that I hear the theme song from the Adam's Family. "Da, na, na, nup, snap, snap" repeats itself over and over in my mind. And the sound is drawing nearer. I am reluctant to tell my new travelling companions of this quirky disorder that sometimes afflicts me in the heat. I have only just met these sisters. But it appears they too suffer from this affliction. Their heads jerk up and we drift away from the rock in search of the sound.

Far to the east, perhaps a mile away, we watch eight or nine people top a small rise, one after the other, marching single file in ant-like precision. We move back to the rock, blending into the colourful landscape to watch this extraordinary procession. As the party draws closer, we note that the man in the lead is thumping a pole on the ground to the beat of the final "snap, snap" while the rest of the men snap their fingers and do a quick foot changing hop. The men stop to chat with us. We learn that the group are Oklahoma oil-men on an annual holiday which includes a two-day excursion down the Bright Angel Trail to Granite Rapids the first day and out the Hermit trail on the second day. We, who have laboured over this same territory for 4 days, with yet another stop planned at Indian Gardens, are amazed by their audacity. We are particularly impressed by the fact that one member is carrying an electric razor. (How we came to learn that bit of information is still a mystery to me.)

I suggest they may have some difficulty in keeping to their time table. We place a wager of dinner at the Arizona Steak and Pizza House the next evening, in certainty that we will win. This seems to galvanize the men. As the leader walks away he mutters to his men, "That Canadian gal suggests we won't make it. We'll show her."

The next morning, we women top out of the Bright Angel Trail before 11:00, examine our blistered feet, and decide to buy a case of beer at Babbitt's and drive to Hermit's Rest. We arrive shortly after noon and debate whether to leave the beer in an ice-filled cooler near the trailhead with a note for the men. We anticipate they will drag themselves out in the evening and will be unlikely able to meet us for dinner. As we discuss the likelihood that the beer will remain intact if left there, we are shocked to recognize two hikers sauntering out of the Canyon.

"The rest of the fellows", they inform us, "have already topped out. We were moving too slowly and the others went on ahead."

"Pizza on us", we replied, as we hand them a cold beer.

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Sometimes when I drive to the Canyon, I imagine I am that Spaniard, the first white person, to have seen the canyon. I try to clear my mind of the Grand Canyon and pretend that I do not know what to expect. I picture myself, looking a little like Sancho Panza, riding one of those high-backed droopy horses featured in 'Southwestern Art', carrying a long pointed lance, and following behind my trusted Indian guide

"Canyon, canyon, canyon. That's all you have been talking about for days. My butt hurts, the sun's too hot, I'm hungry and thirsty, I smell and I haven't had a decent sleep in months. This damn pole keeps getting caught in the trees and knocking me off my horse. I could have remained at home raising chickens with my brother in Toledo. But no - I wanted to see the New World. Have an adventure. Here I am, sent in search of a hole in the ground."

I imagine that we have been riding for days through the pinion pine and juniper to the south. I am sleepy in the heat and am dozing in the saddle as we plod along through a forest ponderosa pine. Suddenly my horse stops. Small rocks kicked up by his front feet trickle over the edge of nothing and all I hear is the very distant sound of the small rocks clattering and bouncing below. My horse and I are one step from oblivion. I sit with my mouth agape trying to comprehend what I see.

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When I first began to hike alone, a friend once asked if I wasn't worried, as a woman, about hiking alone. He offered his cell phone to carry with me. I was surprised. In the first place, I hike to get away from phones and faxes and communication of all kind from the outside world. To use the words of Dianne Ackerman, in The Moon by Whale Light (and altered slightly):

Hiking offers me a moment when I am most at peace, in the fading light of day. For a short time, I do not have to explain or defend or champion or solicit or reform or challenge or be anything to anyone or do anything but perceive life at it's most natural and undisturbed.

In the second place, the suggestion that a bad person would go to the pain of driving to a remote location in the desert , hiking down 4,000 ft. and some 10 knee-braking miles into a canyon, carrying a 40 lb. pack, in 90 degree temperatures, to find and assault an old woman, seems absurd . The chance of my being assaulted in my parking garage at work seems more likely. So my reaction to his suggestion that I carry the additional weight of a telephone, for protection, was not positive.

The most exquisite thing about hiking alone is having a place like the beach at Hermit Rapids entirely to myself, one evening in late April. To set up my camp where I wanted, how I wanted and to linger over my dinner and sit quietly reading late in the evening until the light finally fades, is to know perfect freedom. I sleep like a babe, without a moment of concern.

Early next morning, as I walk from Hermit Rapids, I linger near a small pool along the trail. The coolness of the desert evening vanishes by 8:00 in the morning and this day promises to be an exceptionally hot one. So complete is my feeling of isolation that I do not hesitate to remove my clothing and luxuriate in the cool water. I lay my head back into the water and drowned the early morning chatter of birds. Perfect quiet in a perfect place. After routing through my pack for clean clothing and wrapping my hair in a towel, I am startled by the noise of an approaching person. Around the corner walks the most unusual person I have ever met in the canyon.

He is tall, dressed in heavy denim blue jeans and layers of shirts topped by a heavy woolen red-plaid bush jacket. He carries a very small grungy daypack. His face is old and lined with wrinkles. Most of his long stringy gray hair is tied back in a pony tail, although some wisps still cling to his face. On his head he wears a big-brimmed, dirty, battered, gray hat, with a very tall rounded crown. A bullet hole bore through the middle of crown. My eyes kept straying to that bullet hole as he talks to me. He tells me he is a left-over hippie living in Seattle. His eyes roll around searching the sky. He asks if I heard the helicopters. I nod my head, although I can't recall having noticed that sound. He says, "Hiking the Hermit trail is just like being in fucking 'Nam. The next time a helicopter flies over, I'm going to take out my gun and shoot it out of the sky." There is no doubt in my mind his small pack contains such a weapon. He moves on down the trail.

I think how peculiar. Poor man, obsessed with his past. After that chance meeting, I heard the helicopters flying overhead all that day. And every day since that encounter, when hiking in the Hermit - Boucher area, I am annoyed by sound of helicopters passing overhead on 15 or 20 minutes intervals, flying tourists over the Grand Canyon.

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