Archives for September 2006

The Great Unknown

I went for a walk with some of the ranch employees under the stars down a dirt road tonight. We were walking in the black of starlight. Coming back I realized how fortunate I was to be on a casual stroll near one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Grand Canyon. I mentioned some of my stories that I sometimes fear to tell, and my co-workers started to listen; then they grew uncomfortable as I started going into detail. So I remained quiet, and ponder the mysteries of the landscape on my own. So many folks fear the great unknown and turn to go the other way…

The darkness was black beyond sight. Without flashlights we became vulnerable as we stumbled down the dirt road in darkness. But the night was young, the stars, bold. The hills were silent. And then came yips and howls of ancient coyotes reminding me that we are not alone in this wasteland wilderness they call Whitmore Canyon. We continue down the road passed two or three cattle guards, down into Whitmore Wash, a main Grand Canyon tributary. The stars glisten and change colors rapidly in their twinkling. The Colorado roars off in the distance, down in the pre-Cambrian stomach of Mother Earth. The canyon wails an ancient and beautiful song with wind through the Junipers. She seems to say, “I’m Waiting.”

One Expensive Mistake

It is exhilarating to live far from the fenced confines of the “sophisticated’ modern world. The Grand Canyon is a mystery. It is far from the reality of the miserable suit and tie people. This morning I flew into the canyon by chopper, with a pilot named Rahn. We were supposed to pick up river runners on the Colorado. They never showed up. We sat down there for an hour and a half, visiting, waiting, talking about religion, life, and our different views on the existance of God. We decided to fly up the river to see if there were any rafts headed our way. It turns out the river runners are coming tomorrow, on Saturday. This turned out to be an expensive mistake, but I don’t regret flying 150 m.p.h. over the north rim, into the gorge, and out like a hell-bat. It was windy and the helicopter was bouncing all the way back to the ranch.

The Colorado River was sure boiling with a silence as if it wanted to drown another human being in it’s current. So many mysteries occur in the canyon and it’s tributaries. Every year a freak accident occurs or someone goes missing, never to be found. Today at the ranch, it was abnormally quiet. The air was cool, a first sign that fall is coming.

We tried to feed a pet-shop mouse to some rattlers we have in captivity, but they didn’t bother it. When we catch native mice in the sticky traps and feed them to the snakes, they go berserk. Our fellow road runner, Billy, eats live varments right out the palm of your hand, now.  Never did I suspect these birds to be so intelligent. He comes into the lodge, and the men’s bunk house to visit with folks.

The nights are getting cold. Time to start wearing the jacket. This afternoon, all the employees left for the weekend. It’s just me and another guy named John who stays here occasionally. He’s watching an old movie in the other room, while I write this. The wind is blowing outside. The power we consume comes from two solar panels nearby.

Tonight, I am going to dream of boating down the Colorado among great cliffs of ancient strata, and daring fifteen foot rapids. Tomorrow morning I’ll be ready for another helicopter ride to the river…

Living in Isolation

I’m out living, working, and breathing isolation every day now. My life is far from a phony reality that once enslaved my poor spirit. I’m on the edge of the enourmous Grand Canyon now and hear the  wind, and the lonesome happy singing of gentle ravens gliding along buttes of Hermit Shale, Toroweap Sandstone, and Kiabab Limestone. The Creosote bushes span as far as the horizon. So many cacti cover the lower portions of the Canyon; three species of Prickly Pear, Hedgehog Cactus, Barrel Cactus, and Fishhook Cactus. Spanish Bayonet, also known as Banana Yucca intermix with creosote, sage, Ephedra Bush, and Desert Holly. Jimson Weed (Datura) grows everywhere, around the ranch, over by the hen house, and up and down every flash flood gully. The large white trumpet flowers are so seductive. I know of the plant’s deadly power.

I work in Whitmore Canyon, a tributary canyon of the Colorado River. It is simple here. All is quiet. It is easy to push out any existing noise and know the a beauty that surrounds me all the time. I’m visiting the rushing red waters of the Colorado river on a regular schedule, educating folks about the truth and the history of this area. They listen very carefully when visiting the canyon. They listen to what I have to say and are appreciative. 

It has been dry here. The clouds have been encouraged to drop rain on the ranch but they often hesitate, moveing up and over Mount Logan, north of the ranch. I want to hear the flood waters rushing down Whitmore Wash. Oh, how I crave the sounds of thunder and rain. But the desert is so beautiful. I’m surrounded by solitude and I hesitate to go home every weekend.