170. A Pretty Good Canyon

A Pretty Good Canyon: Mostly, you expect to be left breathless by the Grand Canyon. Not just by the steep trails that plummet you miles down to the muddy Colorado River, but by the overwhelming scale of the thing. Etched in red, orange, buff hues, layer upon layer, a hundred tributary canyons feeding into the big one. Standing at any vista point, the ten crow-miles across the canyon look flat, like a painting you could caress. And then you move a little. Shadows shift, new light gives it new depth and the grandeur of it takes your breath away. This is what you expect of the Grand Canyon. What you don’t expect is the techno music.

I’m talking about the experience of camping at the popular South Rim campground. Although the campground setting is beautiful (and covered in snow when we arrived), multiply 350 sites by an average occupancy of three people per site and you’ve got a lot of bodies, a lot of late night drinking and whooping, a lot of unfortunate littering, a lot of mud tracked into the bathrooms, just a hell of a lot of humanity. And drunk, young humanity at that, the sort that will decide it’s ok to crank the car stereo after midnight and blow everyone out of bed with some breakbeat club music.

To be fair though, we knew things were going to be weird when we arrived at our assigned campsite and found that someone had left behind their toiletry bag.

Me: There’s a shaving bag here. Maybe someone left it behind to save this site.
Amy: What’s in it?
Me: Oh man, you’re not gonna believe this. IT’S FULL OF POT.
Amy: I think it’s safe to assume that someone did not leave their ditty bag full of weed to reserve this spot.
Me: Holy God there’s so much pot in here. And prescription med-
Amy: Prescripitions? What kind of prescriptions?

Incredibly, the stoner owner of this bag came looking for it later that night, after dark, with a flashlight and a very worried look on his face. Motivated I’m sure by his desire to reclaim a big bag of grass (which he said was medicinal) that was inside of a shaving bag with his name and address all over it. Yes I gave it back to him. Thirty minutes later, the techno started. I’m not saying the two were related, draw your own conclusions.

Imagine our surprise then, when on the very next day we found ourselves completely alone, absent any human sound, standing on the edge of one of the most heavily touristed wonders in the United States. We had chosen a five-mile portion of the unpaved South Rim trail to hike; it’s relatively flat so we expected it to be quite crowded. But there is, it turns out, a shuttle bus that runs roughly the same route on a parallel road. And given a choice, 95% of tourists will choose this bus over walking. Even in Spring when it’s seventy five degrees at the hottest part of the day. We were prepared for a day of jostling, sweaty elbows, road rage and cigarette smoke, things that would detract from our awe of the place. Instead, we found ourselves as alone as we wanted to be. When we stood still, it was quiet enough to hear the river rushing far below, quiet enough to hear a raven’s wings flap overhead. Quiet enough to hear the light percussion of ice melting on the canyon walls. Our kind of music.

Photos: Partially obstructed view; on the South Rim and; throwing snowballs.


  1. The Chez says:

    Sounds kinda like camping in Oregon, only replace techno with quads….

  2. servo3000 says:

    I’m glad he got his bag back. His glaucoma must have really been acting up.

  3. ronnie says:

    i would have charged a finders fee but thats just me.

    hiking is one of the few times when the laziness of others can work to ones advantage.