Thursday, April 12, 2012


"Leave it as it is. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American should see."

President Theodore Roosevelt on the Grand Canyon

I HAVEN’T WALKED the Bright Angel trail from the South Rim to the North Rim and suspect, at 60, I probably won’t. So what business have I to try to convince anyone that the Grand Canyon is, indeed, grand?

Kolb Bros. Studio - Nice digs!

LAST WEEK, with friends, I engaged in a two-day buzz-by of one of the earth’s seven natural wonders. In a rented Jeep Cherokee Laredo – not on the Beemer or Guzzi – we participated in an exercise begun in the 1910s by the Kolb Brothers: something they said would never be completed – photographing the Grand Canyon.

DESERT VIEW is located at the east entrance to the Park. Here, a tower was commissioned to provide passers-by with a platform from which to view the depths of the Canyon. Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter designed and supervised the construction of the tower. Fred Harvey Company began a process that has evolved into sales of trinkets and curios more or less flying in the face of Teddy’s admonition –

– but the climb up the tower affords not-to-be-forgotten vistas. It is one of the few places where the actual work of the Colorado may be viewed.

Wind, weather and time work on so many elements here. This skyward reaching dancer of a branch speaks to the rugged and subtle beauty of the area.

Click to enlarge
SORRY FOLKS: for those who believe Scriptural references to a world being but 6,000 years old, understand that at the time those words were written, that opinion was credible. Now, we know more and we know better. Still, there are secrets locked in the rocks we may never uncover.

A WALK ALONG THE RIM WEST of “the village” (more like a little city with traffic and restaurants and lodging and even some crime now and then) exposes the depths of the canyon, the depths of our knowledge and the depths of our wonder.

Colored layers evolve with each degree of the setting sun’s movement. Shadows enhance the mystery.

AT PIMA POINT – eight miles by trail or by shuttle bus (gladly, the road to the west is closed to private vehicular traffic) another view of the canyon bottom is allowed. From this point one can hear the erosive work of the river as the rushing sounds of the water echo up the canyon walls.

The clouds did not offer a dramatic skyscape this evening, but the drama of the canyon never fades.

MEANWHILE, back near the population center, a maiden perches atop of rock wall and faces that setting sun. The dark hair and the woolen serape were too much not to photograph. Perhaps she was simply a plant adding "authenticity" for tourists such as myself.
But perhaps she embodied the spirit of the peoples who preceded us in this remarkable place.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: On my short list of things to do is a stem to stern motorbike navigation of US Highway 89 from Tucson to Glacier. It visits the neighborhoods of the Grand Canyon, Brice, Zion, the Central Rockies, the Tetons, Yellowstone and a whole bunch of country in between. I suspect it might be the most beautiful "run" in the entire United States.  This is a theory I need to test, so to speak.  Continue to watch this space (probably for years) to see if I ever do.

RESOURCE: The Park Service’s fine introduction to the Canyon should be accessed at

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press

1 comment:

  1. A fellow BMW rider reports this delightful tale: Oh that brings back memories.

    My girlfriend and I took a weekend off from studying (yeah...sure) and drove from LA to the Grand Canyon in 1971 in my Alfa Guilia Spider...long distances were not its forte, but we got there. Neither of us had seen the Canyon, and we were awed.

    But the strong memory is not of the Canyon. The Kolb Studio stood as in your picture, and was still in business: cards and photos and paintings were for sale. The Studio showed a b-and-w movie of the Brothers' expedition down the Canyon in 1912. When the lights came up, the guide walked over beside the screen, opened a door, and out walked a small, wizened old man. This was Emery Kolb, the surviving Kolb brother. He was 91.

    No one moved; this was a real, human connection to history and the exploration of the Canyon. He smiled, and in a shaky voice answered a few questions. Then he walked back through the door and disappeared.

    I had eyes like saucers for several days.