My time in Grand Canyon National Park was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I consider myself an experienced outdoor person, and yet nothing had ever really prepared me for the entirely new world that faced me out west. Before my plane even touched down in Las Vegas, I could see the plains, deserts, and, of course, canyons stretching from horizon to horizon. The browns, tans, and golds that swirled and mashed together to make up the entire landscape were almost jarring, nothing like the greens and blues I was used to. One of the first things I said about the area was that I thought it looked like the sets they use at Universal Studios, which does make a lot of sense.
The first night, we stayed in what’s known as BLM land, which stands for Bureau of Land Management land. BLM land is land that, basically, no one wants, so people can just go there and do just short of anything they want. We just drove right in, set up tents, and then walked in and around whatever we wanted for the rest of the afternoon. I saw dirtbikers and atvs, as well as many spent bullet casings. I found that you can’t technically “live” there, you’re supposed to stay in one spot for no more than two weeks, but also no one checks up on you.
During the trip, we went to Pipe Springs National Monument. A National Monument differs from a National Park in that a monument is established by the president while a park is determined by congress. Pipe Springs National Monument is partly run by a Native American tribe, and the visitor center includes a lot of fascinating history about the area. While there, I got to participate in a bat catching study, where people caught and counted bats. I got to hold and release one. Afterward, I was interviewed by Southern Utah University for some kind of documentary about bats. I talked about my experiences with bats and bats in popular culture. I had always known there were bats where I grew up, but this was really the first time I had ever learned about bats, which was cool.
Nothing had prepared me for standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. I don’t like to use cliches, but nothing captures my feelings about it as well as the statement “you had to be there”. Descriptions, drawings, pictures, videos, none of it could truly capture the sheer scale, the way it feels to really be standing somewhere, and then there is this big hole in the ground, and all the way on the other side you can see these tiny little green things that you can barely believe are fully grown trees.
The last couple days, we did some volunteer work at the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument. I’ve been doing outdoorsy volunteer work pretty much my entire life, so this was not really a new experience for me, but it was nice to give back to the environment that had hosted such a great experience and the people who had helped us during it. Also, I found a skeleton that might have at one point been a cow, so that was cool.
Most of the people I met during this trip go to school all over the country, so it was fun to talk to people who have experiences I have never had, and may never have. It was these differences that helped all of us get different perspectives on our experiences there, and, at the end, we all got a chance to talk about what these events really meant to us specifically. It was awesome hearing all the different things people had to say.