Saturday 25 April 2020

Crossing the Grand Canyon on the Arizona Trail twenty years ago

The Grand Canyon

On March 24, 2000, I reached the place that had led me to walk the Arizona Trail, the Grand Canyon, the most awe-inspiring landscape I have ever seen. This was my second visit and the effect was as overwhelming as ever. That evening I walked to the South Rim and stared into the black impentratable depths.

The Colorado River

The next day I descended into those depths, down the turning, twisting Bright Angel Trail as it cut through layers of rock, millions of years, to the Colorado River where the rocks are 1.8 billion years old. Down here I felt I was in deep time itself, the great cliffs rising thousands of feet to the present far above me.

That evening I walked out along a side trail and bivouaced under the stars. I woke as the first rays of the sun turned cliffs high above red and gold. A raven called harshly. From a yucca came the much sweeter song of a cactus wren. Otherwise I was alone amongst this vast beauty. It was one of the best camps of my life.

Early light on Zoroaster Temple

A long hot marvellous day ensued as I wound my way up the North Kaibab Trail some four and a half thousand feet to the North Rim. There I camped amongst big ponderosa pines and Douglas firs. I'd left the desert for the forest.

The North Kaibab Canyon

Four more days and I was at the Utah border and the Arizona Trail walk was over. It had been a tremendous trip, one of my favourites. And the highlight was the Grand Canyon, splendid, immense, unfathomable.

View from the North Rim

The full story of my walk is told in my book Crossing Arizona.

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