I got another note from my mom about their trip to the Grand Canyon. (First note is here.)
We had a great morning exploring. We took a shuttle bus along the rim. It was still early, so not crowded -- the bus was only about half full. You can get off at any stop and then just get on a later shuttle -- they run every 15 minutes or so. We got off at a stop where no one else got off, and we found we were the only ones there. It was great -- silent on the trail.
We stayed and strolled around maybe a half hour and then hopped a shuttle and rode on. By the time we got back to the starting point, there were already long lines of people waiting to catch the shuttle, so timing is everything.
It's just so odd how the land goes along perfectly flat, and then just drops off. I keep imagining what the first settlers must have thought when they came upon it. Dad suggests, "Like, whoa." [Swistle suggests: "Oh sh**."]
One thing that surprises me very much about the canyon is the ledges. The trails aren't real narrow -- maybe 3 feet across -- but there aren't railings and the drop-offs are frequently sheer and of the sort that if one were to step off it would be certainly fatal. Families walk along with little children running ahead and peering over without anyone seeming to be the least alarmed. You may think I'm exaggerating and the drop-offs must not be QUITE that sheer or deep, but ask Dad -- one slip and that would be that. [Next sentence contains Narnia reference:] There were several spots where I thought about the cliff Eustace fell off of -- the kind where there'd be a long time to think about one's error if one stepped off. Eventually one would BUMP along, but there wouldn't be any stopping for a real long time.
￼Here, for example. The trail goes through that rock tunnel on the left. To the right the trail edge drops off exactly like what is visible to the right in the photo. And it's about as far down as if one were on a tall building. I watched children no older than the twins running ahead of their parents on this very stretch. Not to mention slightly older children pushing and shoving and arguing as they walked along, no parent in sight. I admit MY technique would be a little extreme in the opposite direction -- without a word of discussion, I would scoop the children up, put them into their car seats, and leave the park.
It's hard -- impossible, really -- to photograph a ledge that one is standing on, because with the camera pointed down, the cliff edge looks horizontal. One has to show something in the distance and say, "It's LIKE this." Okay, the trail often runs along the very edge of places LIKE this one:
When we FIRST got on the trail, I would think as I approached it, "What an optical illusion! Haha! It looks like the trail is running right along a sheer cliff!" Then I'd look over and freeze, like Eustace. It's one of those ledges where the upside of falling off would be you wouldn't need to bother to retrieve the body.
￼The trail is horizontal, I'm happy to say -- not sloped. The trails are very nice -- flat and with a little line of stones running along the ledge. But I'll say this -- if I took a class of my students on this trail, I would return with fewer children than I started out with. The trails are very good: wide .... flat ... secure. But disconcerting to think, "Haha ... looks like if you stepped off the trail you'd go straight down, haha!" and then find out that's exactly what would happen like for maybe a couple thousand feet.
￼One sees mule droppings all along the trail (and there's a mule pen at the top for the mules to wait in for the daily mule train), and as we walked along we imagined being up on a mule. I notice the mule prints tend to be about 6" from the ledge (and signs say to let the mules pass on the drop-off side). No. Thank. You.
￼By the way, the Q&A poster on mule rides has the Q "Do mules ever trip and fall?" with the answer being Very Seldom. But yes, it has happened. But that so far no human has ever been killed. Only the PACK mules have actually, well, plummeted through space. They said they use particularly steady ones for humans. So don't worry.
Another thing I think about is that story a couple years back about the woman who was posing on a ledge for her husband to take a photo of her when she stepped back and fell. Of course one assumes her husband gave a little push, but looking at the ledges, one realizes how very little push would be needed, and how confident he would be that she wouldn't live to tell on him (which she didn't). It actually surprises me that people are trusting enough to pass strangers on the trail, since the smallest push from anyone along at least half of the trail would have fatal result. One thinks of these things. Well, SOME of us think of these things!
My favorite parts:
1. "It's one of those ledges where the upside of falling off would be you wouldn't need to bother to retrieve the body."
2. "I'll say this -- if I took a class of my students on this trail, I would return with fewer children than I started out with."
3. "I notice the mule prints tend to be about 6" from the ledge (and signs say to let the mules pass on the drop-off side). No. Thank. You."