National Geographic : 2016 Oct
unplugging the selfie generation 47 scorpions. They sting and sometimes take up resi- dence in the folds of sleeping bags. Still, I pressed on with proselytizing, something I’d tried to avoid: This is heaven. He conceded the point about the setting, the company, the food, the adventure. But he’d never understood the idea of camping. “It seems like well-off white people trying to experience homelessness in a safe, natural set- ting,” he said. In this sentiment, again, he was somewhat typical of his generation. The number of people who camp overnight in park backcoun- try is down significantly from 35 years ago—which the service attributes to millennials being less en- amored of roughing it than earlier generations. I tried to make the case for sleeping on the ground. We had the best of all worlds: wilderness and rel- ative comfort. It wasn’t so long ago that the Grand Canyon was a blank spot on the map—marked “unexplored” on an 1855 plat of the southwest- ern territories. Fourteen years later, John Wesley Powell, the one-armed Civil War veteran and far- seeing geologist, led a 10-man expedition to solve one of the last great geographic mysteries of the United States. “ We have an unknown distance yet to run; an unknown river yet to explore,” he wrote on August 13, 1869, as he prepared to plunge into the gnarliest part of the canyon. “ What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls rise over the river, we know not.” By the early 1940s, only about 250 peo- ple had gone through the canyon in boats. “Don’t get me wrong, Dad—I feel lucky,” Casey said. “I realize this is something very few people get to experience. It’s like I’m getting a private tour of someone’s really nice house.” The next day we rose with a half-moon still visible in the dawning sky. We ate a breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, and fruit, broke camp, and got on the river just as the first rays of sun- light were touching the upper canyon walls. My hope was that both of us could slow down, if not to geologic time, then to river time, to channel our inner Huck Finn. By mid-morning we’d gone through a half doz- en rocking rapids in the stretch of the river known as Marble Canyon. This was where Floyd Domi- ny, the most consequential head of the Bureau of Fifth graders in a three-day program called Mountain School learn about the outdoors at North Cascades National Park in Washington State from young rangers and graduate students. Seeking work in nature, some millennials join fire crews, like this one taking a break after setting a backfire at Crater Lake.