"Fly fishing is my passion, hunting is my weakness, and mules are a perplexing addiction."

Sunday, May 5, 2013



                       THE GRAND CANYON

“You’re only as old as you feel,” someone once said.  “Sixty is the new forty,” touted another.  I’m pretty certain both these statements were spouted forth by some brain-donor lounging in a shaded deck chair on the sands out front of the Aston Waikiki Hotel while working on his fourth pink concoction with a tiny umbrella in it.  I promise you it is entirely possible to feel far older than your chronological age and today, at least, sixty is closer to the new ninety!

Having somehow managed to cheat death once again, and safely returning home from my hiking adventure into the Grand Canyon, I immediately collapsed on the couch in the den like a wet mattress off a roof.  Having now spent a day in a state of complete vegetation I've had a bit of time to reflect upon the experience and have walked away from it with… let me rephrase that; having hobbled away from the adventure still reasonably intact, I’d like to share with you some thoughts about a few of the things I learned while exploring one of nature’s seven wonders of the world.

I learned that crazy people with a sick sense of humor have apparently been around for generations.  Mainly I’d be referring to the twisted individuals who first saw the Grand Canyon and said, “Hey, let’s build a trail down there,” and of course, the other moron, who upon polishing off the last of their jug of whiskey, added, “Yeah, and let’s see how steep we can make it!”  We were told on this trip that a string of five pack mules had been lost over the side of one of these trails just two weeks before our arrival.  “That’s it?” I wondered, in all seriousness.  I now have a new appreciation for the longears who tote people and supplies into, and out of this incredibly rugged area on a year-round, daily basis.  It is impossible to fathom the steepness of these trails, and in fact, steep isn't even an adequate enough adjective to describe them.  There should be another word to convey what can only be described as steeper than a cow’s face.  I’ll work on it.

On my adventure I discovered that ground squirrels are unabashed thieves and masters of opening a backpack in seconds.  A backpack that took somewhere in the neighborhood of forty-minutes and two full-sized humans jumping up and down on it to cram the contents in and get the zippers closed.  These pint-sized pilferers can tear a three-hundred dollar backpack to shreds quicker than a new bride’s nightie comes off on wedding night, and often times, right before your very eyes as you stand in amazement mumbling to yourself, “he wouldn’t dare?”  They would, and they do.  Personally, and I realize this will come as a shock to the PETA pinheads out there, I am of the humble opinion these portly, puff-cheeked criminals would make for fine looking hats.  Not only that, it would create an entirely new industry, providing countless jobs for posterity, boosting the economy, and we could all make a fashion statement in the process by sporting sheikh, stylish squirrel bonnets in the process.

It is said there are about 656 muscles in the human body.  Nonsense!  I have discovered that biologists are incorrect; hacks, really, and that the number is actually far higher than previously believed.  I am confidently certain the number is closer to seven-thousand-and-twelve, and that nearly three-quarters of those muscles are to be found below the waist in ones legs.
I have learned that blisters can indeed grow other blisters atop themselves; a phenomenon biologist may wish to look into for future study.  I personally experienced nearly a dozen of these wonderful creations of friction, and in fact, am the proud, new holder of the current Guinness World’s Record for the largest, single, foot blister upon a blister ever recorded; approximately the size of a Hugo.

For the uninitiated, or those wise individuals who have peeked over the wall on the South Rim and wisely said, “I don’t think so, Buckwheat,” the trails in and out of the Grand Canyon are comprised of a series of steps or rock bars; tens of thousands of these gems, in fact.  The National Park Service would have one believe these steps, ranging anywhere from six-inches to three feet in height, were place there to help aid in reducing trail erosion.  Bull butter!  I have discovered that their primary purpose is two-fold; one, they actually aid in allowing the human body to act much as a Slinky would by causing an individual to quickly reach maximum velocity and the downhill momentum of a fighter jet should you stumble head over teakettle while sporting a fifty-pound backpack.  Thankfully, the Park Service and nature have strategically placed numerous, large boulders throughout the canyon’s trail system to aide in halting many of these supersonic tumbles.

The other purpose of these steps, or rock bars, is one of the National Park’s dirty little secrets.  They no doubt figure if you are stupid enough to hike down into the Grand Canyon, you probably should be prevented from breeding.  The NPS actually doesn't want you to leave and are trying to keep you in the canyon; forever!  You see, what they don’t tell you, as they cheerfully take your American Express Card and hand you a back country permit, is that if you are one of the fortunate souls to reach the mighty Colorado River alive and with most of your limbs intact, even though in theory, your backpack will become lighter from using up the four days of food you've hauled down there, gravitational forces of nature take hold and actually make your, now forty pound pack, weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of six-thousand pounds.  At least a hundred time during my four days in the canyon I heard voices screaming, Who the hells idea was this, anyway?”  I finally ran out of breath on my trek out and quit asking.

As Gus McCrae famously said, “It ain’t dyin’ I’m talkin’ about; - it’s livin’!”  That statement sums it up, I suppose.  I’m simply trying to live; to get all those things done I've yet to do, and one by one I’m slowly, but surely, checking those items on my novel-sized bucket list.

In short, I've manage now to check one more off the list, but the truth is, I can’t tell you how many times during my trek out of the canyon I sat down and said, “Screw-it; I’m just gonna sit right here on this rock, feast on squirrel meat for the rest of my days, and make sheikh  little hats to sell to tourists as they pass by on their trek out of the canyon!