OHE March 9, 1998

Date: Mon, 9 Mar 1998 08:47:27 -1000
Subject: Re: Grand Canyon

Dateline: Flagstaff, Arizona
Weather: Strong winds, heavy snow, 14 inches, massive snow drifts, I-40 closed to traffic. Snowed in!!!
Situation: Watching the snow fall from my motel room, wishing I was 60 miles north, hiking in the Grand Canyon!!!

Narrative: Just knew it. El nino has, on a personal basis, made my life challenging since I began my drive west from New York City. Heavy storms out of St. Louis and Oklahoma City. (The kind of snow fall where you must follow right behind a big rig and let it clear the road for you.)

Not that I did not know the storms were coming. Each night as I settled down in my motel room, the weather reports showed front after front lined up over the Pacific Ocean.

About an hour out of Flagstaff the clear sky started to darken, and by the time I arrived, the snow was falling heavily and the wind was howling. By morning the bare spots had 14 inches and the drifts six feet. So much for the Grand Canyon.

After a day and a half of waiting for the highway department to catch up with their road clearing, I was able to drive the back roads from Flagstaff to the canyon.

Once again I left my U-Haul behind and drove Rte. 180 to the South Rim. This road had barely been cleared and I had a very exciting, two hour ride through the Kaibab Forest. Very beautiful, but my attention was focused on the road which had 3 inches of packed snow/ice covering it. Several minor slides but, no sweat. (I attended Utah State, so like Bo, I know snow!)

Because of the inclimate weather, traffic to the entrance of the park was light. After paying the $20 daily car fee, I made a bee line of the first lookout.

Surrounded by snow, but under clear skies, I viewed one of the prettiest sights I have ever seen. Better than the pictures. Encompassing my entire field of vision was this masterpiece of geology. Whereas the Carlsbad Caverns were a confined sensory overload, the Grand Canyon allows your mind room to expand from horizon to horizon.

With a length of over 250 miles, the canyon and it's Colorado River, are a striking geological occurance. And with a deep layer of snow on the ground, the striations (?) are highlighted in a winter wonderland.

But for myself (and probably others), there will be no hiking. The North Rim is always closed during the winter, but the snow has closed the East and West Rims also. The Rangers are discouraging hiking also. Something about the mountain lions being hungry this winter. (Remember I'm the guy that calls Hawaii Loa challenging.)

Alas, I am confined to the tourist stops. But I find them interesting and spend 5 hours wandering around the South Rim taking pictures and visiting with fellow tourists. As I scan the ridges and plateaus, I do notice several groups of hikers venturing down into the canyons. (I quickly check the nearby hills and cliffs for mountain lions, but see none.)

A Park Ranger and I talk about hiking the canyon, and he says that the canyon within the canyon to hike to is Havasu. He called it utopia. Unfortunately, I am due in LA LA land like two days ago, so must look towards the furture in regards to the hiking the Grand Canyon.

I spend my last half hour viewing Mather Point, the quintessential lookout. As I leave the park I have burned Mather Point onto my motherboard of memories.

But.....you know what? OHE members who will never get the chance to see the Grand Canyon in person are very lucky. There's an exact replica (I was surprised by the exacting similarities) on Kauai. Waimea Canyon. Aloha.

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