Woke up this morning to a smattering of rain and autumnal, gunmetal skies, even though it was Memorial Day weekend in Arizona – Timp Point on the North Rim of Grand Canyon, to be specific and exact, which is redundant and repetitive.
Last night, I scoped the Bill Hall Trail and the North Bass Trail from a hiking book, but, like the streets of London, found the routes impossible to discern. So I slapped on some rain gear, left camp, and followed the Rim east. My map said I’d encounter North Bass Trail if I followed the Rim. I stumbled on an unmarked logging road that showed promise of following the contour of the scarp all the way east to North Bass, but the double ruts fed back into the Forest Service road that led back to my campsite. Timp Point, BTW, is one of the Vista Points west of the Park itself.
I ventured down a couple of other abandoned Forest Service roads which led nowhere, then gave up. Giving up is sometimes a good thing to do.
I packed up camp and headed east with the vague notion of spending the night at Saddle Mountain on the east side of the Park. If it wasn’t too crowded. I crossed a FS road that led south toward the Rim and changed my mind. I wanted to wander down North Bass and get out to Powell Plateau, a mid-canyon mesa connected to the Rim by an eroding saddle. Both the guidebook and my adventuresome 70 year old friend, Michael, had warned me that I’d run up against downed pines that NFS hadn’t yet cleared, and, sho’ ’nuf, I proved too flimsy to lift a ponderosa log from the road, though I moved it about 18 inches, I’ll have you know.
Okay, Saddle Mountain was on again. I turned ’round the land yacht, my 75,000 mile Silverado with monster treads and an old pop-up on its back that I bought used from an old woman in Cortez, Colorado. Along the way east, I passed the road sign for Parasawampitts Point, a place I’d camped out at last October. I asked my inner guide for an intuitive thought or decision. I really didn’t want to go to Saddle Mountain, world-girdling as that top-out was. I wanted to stay on the west side of the canyon, to watch another sunset. The topography blocks a good sunset view of the Canyon from Saddle Mountain. So I turned down the road to Parasawampitts. A couple miles in, the Parasawampitts (murder on my typing fingers) sign told me turn right. But the road stretched before me, a new road I’d never travelled before. Something about a new road, a new movie, a new taste.
Proceed as the path opens, writes William Least-Heat Moon, in Blue Highways, a road-agrophy which chronicles the lost, forgotten and true roads of the American rural. This undiscovered road arced and rose before me, hemmed in by big pine and small oak. I wanted to know what lay down this rusted dirt track, unmarked with a number, so I kept bumping down the skidmarks.
On and on I steered, with no idea where. I’m used to knowing the destination. At the beginning of this trip, My Executive Vice President yammered at me—
You should go to work instead of camping.
Durango’s only about 11 miles away. You could turn around and go there.
Here’s the Wal-Mart!
For some reason, the Executive VP gets excited when we go to Wal-Mart.
But I’d ignored its insistent patter for over a hundred miles as I kept driving to the North Rim.
Now, the VP was mysteriously silent, turned off, tuned out, the volume control on the receiver for him dialed down to a blessed ‘0.’ I drove until the ponderosa petered out and low growth gambel oaks grew tall along with mountain mahogany and aspen. The thick deciduous forests reminded me of an Arkansas farm road deep in the Boston Mountains. I didn’t seem to exist in Grand Canton anymore. I snagged glimpses of the towering Redwall through deep rim forests. The road narrowed to a single set of tracks.
I saw a clearing and jerked left into the turnout, a half-road buried in the broadleafs. I parked at what might be my bivouac for the night. I hiked down the road to a meadow, and a parting in the trees showed that the canyon still lay a couple miles in. Breaks of aspen and oak and ravines blocked an easy hike to the rim.
Back in my truck, past signs warning of a narrow and steep road, I consulted my inner guide, which seemed to imbue me with the sense of confidence absent when the Executive VP took control of the radio broadcast and it blathered on about all the danger. Steep grades? Big ass rocks? Who cares?
I buzzed over a cattle grating. A sign said that Monument Point lay ahead. Monument Point: a name half-remembered from the unintelligible guide book. I took the road left toward the Point. In a few short miles, the forests cleared. A fire a few years before made the land clean for vistas that stretched past even Toroweap and Mount Trumbull, the far western guardians of the Canyon. At the end of my journey, the Bill Hall trailhead waited for a test drive. An NPS ranger, Bill Hall gave his life in service of others here in 1979.
I took the trail to the spine of a hogback about 1 ½ miles west of Monument Point and overlooked the wildest expanse of Grand Canyon I’d witnessed yet. The desert dust summoned up by the winds of the last few days was chased away by another wind, one pristine and cool. The clouds of morning had gone.
Mount Trumbull and the rest of the Uinkareets no longer slept in a blanket of smokestack gray. The wind cleansed them blue. They stood closer than they had yesterday. The winding Inner Gorge went back to its natural dark, metamorphic hue; the schist rock closer, too. Rusted capstone studded the Esplanade above the inner canyon, and the geology reminded me of the Maze in Canyonlands so many miles away.
Faith. Intuition. The discipline to ignore the haranguing Executive VP, always warning me to turn back from whatever adventure I’m on.
I scrambled, followed the ridgeline and found and lost the trail a dozen times. I’ve known where I was going most of my life. I either ended up bored, not where I really wanted to be, or both.
If I trust the God that hides Itself in uncertainty, that buries Itself in doubt, wrapped in masks of trial and error, only revealing Itself in the perfect judgment that always and only comes after the ride is through, I end up in a miracle. I don’t want to know where I’m going anymore.
© 2014 by Michael C. Just