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Into the canyon

Shirley Belle

September 17/Day 62. This morning I wake to my alarm, early. I meet in front of the visitor center, along with 14 others, to join a mule train down into the canyon. It’s a four-hour trip down about 2,000 feet below the rim and back. My mule is Shirley Belle, the prettiest thing you ever saw. By 8:00 a.m. we’re all mounted up and start down the Kaibab Trail, which is a quagmire due to rain the last three days. Since I’m from Texas, the wrangler calls me “Cowboy” and tells me I’m the caboose—last person in the train.

It’s a wonderful thing to watch the mules carefully, flawlessly pick their way through six-inch deep mud and slippery rocks with nary a misstep. Shirley Belle, I’m convinced, is a little smarter than the rest because she chooses her own slightly drier path, whereas the others mostly step into the same mud-hole the mule in front of them does.

The Caboose

In spite of the hairpin turns and steep drop-offs, I feel perfectly safe, for two reasons: one, the mule’s reputation for surefootedness and two, I climbed Angels Landing and that was just plain scarier. Gee, I discover, it’s nice to be able to watch the scenery while someone else does the work. One woman, slightly apprehensive, asks the wrangler if they’ve ever lost anyone. The wrangler answers with a drawl, “Yes, ma’am, we did. But we found ‘em.”

After the ride, I take a drive to several viewpoints along the canyon rim: Vista Encantada, Walhalla, Roosevelt Point and Cape Royal, the only place you can actually see the Colorado River from the North Rim.  I’m reminded that the last time I was here, with the family, we couldn’t see into the canyon at all because of the snow. A little nostalgia sets in.

Tomorrow my Dad turns 91, bless him. He and Mom are still hale and hearty, still running around town doing errands, going to the symphony,meeting friends, still loving life. Why, my Dad just retired last month; that ought to say something! And day after tomorrow, on the 19th, I’ll turn 65—me, the little boy in the Buster Brown shoes and bib-top shorts you see over to the side there, yes, that’s me. On Medicare.

Am I boring you, Shirley Belle?

I assess my situation. I had hoped to hike down into the canyon, but trails on the North Rim are muddy from three days of off and on rain, leaving me with few activities; even if the trails were in great shape, there’s always the plantar fasciitis to consider; no fresh groceries are available and I’m reduced to eating canned food, i.e., emergency rations; communications here suck and even text messages are time-delayed; and last but not least, I miss Jane.

I make the decision to head home, a long two-day drive.

Colorado River

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Olivia
    September 18, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Nice to know after 62 days you miss Jane. Oh, I like Shirley Belle. 😉

  2. September 20, 2011 at 4:39 am

    YAY! It’s been a long two and half months but who’s counting? Can’t wait to see the dogs spin and bark when you get home!

  3. The Other Brian
    September 21, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Great trip and wonderful narrative. Thanks for “taking us along”.

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