After biking nearly 80 miles, the author peers over the edge of the
Like a giant incandescent filament, the morning sunlight ignites the capstone of
Nearing the end of the road, clouds boil in the afternoon sun over the Hurricane Cliffs.
Swinging around Diamond Butte, the road begins paralleling the Hurricane Cliffs, a 1000-foot-high escarpment created by a seismically active, 150-mile-long fracture that rends the Arizona Strip into two massive offset blocks – the higher Uinkaret and the subjacent Shivwits Plateaus.
Continuing south, now some 50 miles from St. George, the weight of my pack stuffed with water, food, and camping gear begins to take its toll on my lower back. I remind myself that any discomfort felt on this little two-day sojourn is incomparable to the suffering of those who have toiled in this land before me.
I think of the three nearly starved men in 1869 that decided they had endured enough with the periled Powell expedition on the
Life at Bundyville, also known as
I roll into what remains of Bundyville just in time to have lunch at the newly rebuilt schoolhouse. Its white paint makes it stand out among the original adobe and wooden buildings which are well past their prime, decaying inconspicuously behind waist-high prairie grasses and sage. Photos inside the school illustrate a colorful and exciting, but difficult lifestyle on the Strip.
This crumbling adobe block home in Bundyville, cloaked in tall sagebrush, is easy to miss.
Beyond Bundyville, the tablelands give way to deep, gnawing tributaries of the perpetually incising
With the elevation loss come changes in flora and scenery. Sage and Juniper are gradually displaced by wiry creosote, portly barrel cactus, and the giant, curled green pipe cleaners of the ocotillo. Piles of soot-black lava choking the lower portion of Whitmore provide contrast to the drab gray ledges of Permian-age Kaibab and Toroweap Formations.
Normally lifeless-looking ocotillo is green and vibrant following late summer thunderstorms on the
The route ends abruptly at the elevated hanging mouth of
Upstream view of the Grand Canyon’s inner gorge from near the elevated mouth of
I try to envisage the stream of glowing molten rock that poured out of
I wonder if the lake quietly overtopped and gradually eroded the rock dam away or if the dam failed catastrophically releasing several trillion gallons of water down the canyon at once.
Scanning the cliffs below, I locate the start of the Whitmore Trail – one of only a handful of routes allowing passage from rim to river – and head down the mile-long path.
Midway down I get an incredible view of uneven tiers of polygonal basalt columns that resemble dangling, heavy stone-carved wind chimes.
The Whitmore Trail rewards hikers with a rare, three-dimensional view of columnar joints formed when thick lava cooled near the mouth of
Leaping into the river at trail’s end, the murky water is shockingly cold but therapeutic on my sunburned skin.
Back on the rim, the sun sets as I spread out my bedroll and continue to ponder the evolution of the fantastic abyss before me.
The canyon turns black and my attention is drawn to the brilliantly stippled sky; not even the annoying glow from distant Sin City quells the stars’ intense burn.
Asleep less than an hour, I wake up panicked, convinced that I am in the headlights of some lost motorist barreling down the road toward the rim. With eyes adjusted, I realize that a full moon has emerged, its blanket of ashen light revealing a much more ethereal and mysterious canyon that is this evening’s encore.
After an equally spectacular sunrise I start the long ride back to St. George.
Sleepwalkers beware! Setting up camp within 5 feet of the canyon’s rim is an unforgettable experience.
The morning sun bakes the Grand Canyon’s northern wall as the tranquil