DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Jul 29 2013

Canyon Dreams–and Nightmares!

by Hope L

book coverHaving grown up in Grand Canyon National Park, I often feel nostalgic about the place I remember so fondly;  short of a high school class reunion a few years ago, I haven’t gotten back for a visit.  But I can and do visit often by reading a good book, like Travelers’  Tales Guides’  Grand Canyon: True Stories of Life Below the Rim edited by Sean O’Reilly, James O’Reilly and Larry Habegger,  a compilation of short vignettes about different authors’ experiences while hiking, rafting and camping in the canyon. I almost felt the sunshine on my face, saw the bluest of blue skies with white cottony clouds  and heard the ravens squawk while I read some of these entries.

I also enjoyed Jack Hiller’s expeditions down the Colorado River and through several states and the Grand Canyon from the book “Photographed all the best scenery”: Jack Hillers’s diary of the Powell expeditions, 1871-1875. Talk about roughing it!

But by far my favorite canyon books are those by Michael Ghiglieri and Thomas M. Myers.

Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon includes incidents from the time of some of the first visitors—Wesley Powell and his crew of 1869—to that of tourists falling off its rims today (the Library does not currently have this book in our collection, however, we do have Canyon by the same author). Living in the park for 10 years of my childhood, I was unaware of most of these happenings.

These accounts of nearly 600 people who have met untimely deaths in the Canyon held me spellbound: accidental falls off the rim or while hiking, drowning in the Colorado River, dehydration,  hypothermia, cardiac arrests,  aircraft fatalities, freak accidents, suicide and even murder and lightning strikes  are included.  Had I known even some of this while hiking rim-to-rim with my class in junior high school,  I would have been scared to….well, death.  Thanks to constant adult supervision and a bit of good luck, however, I survived with only one incident:  tripping on the very narrow trail down from the North Rim and falling facedown, my heavy backpack preventing me from getting up on my own power.  A beloved teacher, Mr. Eager, had to climb over me and push me up from my shoulders. I didn’t know then how close I came to being included in this book!

Another Thomas M. Myers book,  Grand Obsession:  Harvey Butchart and the Exploration of Grand Canyon (with co-author Elias Butler), follows the unbelievable adventures of  math professor Harvey Butchart, who spent 42 years exploring the Grand Canyon and hiked 12,000 miles, scaling plateaus, buttes, and blazing trails—making him perhaps the most prolific canyon hiker.  Needless to say, Mrs. Butchart, who did not share her husband’s passion, was probably a pretty lonely gal.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Joyce B. July 29, 2013 at 1:12 PM

I traveled and hiked the Grand Canyon for the first time earlier this year. (I’m glad I did not know about Over the Edge before I started hiking.) I did see, however, see an episode of the TV show I Shouldn’t Be Alive where a solo woman hiker took a wrong turn and was lost for a week. As it turns out, I was hiking the very same trail! The guide pointed out the wrong turn. Safely home, I look forward to reading some of these suggested titles. Thanks!

Dea Anne M July 29, 2013 at 4:00 PM

It has been years since I visited the Grand canyon but it was certainly a highlight of my trip to Arizona. I had no inkling at all of how…well vast it is and how beautiful. The biggest potential danger I faced during my visit was running into a skunk while I was returning to my room after some stargazing. Also, I remember signs waring tourists not to feed the deer and the pictogram showed a deer attacking a cowering man. You can bet I took that waring seriously! Great post, Hope!

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