Other than a week or so in Florida or Virginia every few years, I have never really traveled much outside of New England. So, when I was confronted by the color palate of browns, reds, and oranges that compose the Grand Canyon-Parashant region of the country, it took some time for my eyes to adjust from their usual New England green setting. It was honestly fairly difficult for me to see the vast dusty scrubland as beautiful, but the conversations I had with Park Ranger Todd and Matt and Todd, the SUU faculty who accompanied us, revealed secrets of the land that proved that much more life existed there than met the eye.
Ranger Todd is the sole Park Ranger responsible for the western two thirds of Grand Canyon National Park, an area of about 1,000,000 acres. The respect that he has for Mother Nature was profound. He relies on the scant 8 inches of water that falls in his region for the drinking water he requires for the entire year. During some of his patrols, when he leaves his house for 30 days at a time on a mountain bike, he brings along a cup to use to scoop water out of pockets in the rock that he has learned well enough to survive for the entire month in the desert sun bringing hardly any water with him. His reliance on and respect for nature was profound and inspiring, and proved to me firsthand that this land, which seemed to barren to my eyes, which were so used to seeing green and blue all around me, could sustain life.
One of the things we talked about a good deal was Landscape Porn. This is what Todd has termed highly edited photographs of natural landscapes like the deep orange photographs of the Grand Canyon. In reality, the rock that makes up the canyon is much closer to a grey color. We only arrived at the rim of the canyon itself a few days into the trip, so we had time to adjust to the idea that the rock wouldn’t look like we had seen it pictured so many times before. Luckily, my preconceived ideas of what the Grand Canyon would be like didn’t affect my experience.
As I approached the north rim for the first time, I noticed a huge mesa in the distance. It must have been miles beyond the south rim, and I’m sure it was at least 2,000 feet tall. Then I noticed that the ground in front of me started disappearing. I felt a huge wave of understanding as I realized that this was it; I was about to see one of the seven wonders of the natural world for the first time. With each step the earth just…opened up before me. The vastness of the Grand Canyon is truly incomprehensible. It was amazing how I could simultaneously feel like the smallest and the largest person in the world standing on the rocks overlooking the largest canyon in the world. I don’t think anyone around me spoke for a good five minutes. All we heard was true quiet. The wind rushed up from the void below and surrounded us, filling our ears, and I looked up at that mesa and saw how tiny it looked now; seven mesas of the same size could have fit in the gaping void below us.
Being confronted by such amazing things so far outside of my comfort zone, like Ranger Todd’s respect for nature and the scale of the Grand Canyon, created an environment that was perfect for introspection, one of the things Todd advocated strongly while we were on the trip. I am so happy that I had the opportunity to be so introspective in such a beautiful place. I’m also incredibly happy to have met so many intelligent, beautiful, fun, adventurous, and caring people during my time on the trip. I’m sure the relationships I built during that week will last a lifetime.
Taylor Hogan, Business Administration