National Geographic : 1951 Jun
A Map Maker Looks at the United States be seen from the ding-danging little cable cars. I rode them up to and down from my hotel on Nob Hill and to the end of the line at Fisherman's Wharf. On my next visit to San Francisco I'll see what lies beyond the cable cars.* The local plane in which I returned to Los Angeles landed at Santa Maria to load several cartons of day-old chicks and two seals, mother in one crate and baby in another. A dog, already aboard, protested the seals' presence with vehement barking. The chicks peeped steadily and the seals gave forth with a schoolboy's "bird." Aloft, things quieted down, but my nose reminded me that seals eat fish. Dogs, cats, tropical fish, chinchillas, and octopuses are common sights in the cargo compartments of this airline, I was told. Map Depicts Sun-cooked Desert I changed planes quickly in Los Angeles and in a few minutes was high above the naked, sun-cooked Mojave Desert on my way to Las Vegas. Here, more than elsewhere, I was struck with the similarity of map and terrain. Little desert communities like Lenwood, Barstow, and Daggett appear only slightly wider than the combined width of the high way and railroad that link them in the parched landscape. More conspicuous are their ink counterparts on the map. On the field at Las Vegas I met Captain Danielson and asked him about the possibili ties of having a look at Hoover Dam on the way to Valle, Arizona, the Grand Canyon stop. From the air Hoover Dam appears like a piece of a broken teacup that has been care fully fitted between the steep walls of Black Canyon. The original unbroken teacup would have been 1,005 feet in diameter at the rim and 726 feet high (page 729). We leveled off over the clear water of Lake Mead. Below us, at the lake's eastern end, was the delta of silt deposited by the muddy Colorado. If unchecked, the Colorado's silt, at the rate of half a million tons a day, will have filled Lake Mead by the year 2380. More than ten thousand centuries ago a ceaseless sculptor, the Colorado River, began a work known today as the Grand Canyon. This indescribable abyss is a symphony of varied color; of magnitude; of delicate castel lation on massive buttes; of pinnacles; of amphitheaters; of the earth's story, eons old, told by strata in slopes that curve, drop vertically, and curve to drop again. It's not a sight; the Grand Canyon is an experience!** (pages 737 and 740-41). At the bottom of a side canyon we saw the agricultural Indian community of Supai,t noted for remoteness and for waterfalls that plunge into pools of emerald green. As we circled, Captain Danielson pointed out an incongruous Quonset hut and explained that it was lowered into the canyon by helicopter. Donated by a construction firm of Phoenix, the building serves as church and community center. Later the same day I stood on the rim at El Tovar while purple darkness, like mist from the ageless river, rose and slowly filled the mighty chasm. This, of the Grand Can yon's many moods, is my favorite. Seated in a jump seat between Captain Sleeth and copilot Eads on the flight to Santa Fe, I watched intriguing names on my map come to life. First were the snow-capped San Francisco Peaks which we, like gold-seeking Conquista dores four centuries earlier, used as a land mark. A few miles eastward, in a setting of small volcanic cones and black cinders, we passed Sunset Crater, so named for the brilliant red and orange coloration in its rim. Captain Sleeth pointed out the Painted Desert. "It's far more colorful in the early morning and late evening," he explained. "Fly westward over it in the clear air of early morning. As the sun rises behind you, the colors change from blood red to russet, to amethyst and blue." We passed mile-wide Meteor Crater, which differs from its volcanic neighbors by being more in than above the ground (page 727).:: Early American "Guest Book" Early American "guest book" El Morro, or Inscription Rock, was easily recognized by its 200-foot sheer faces, one of which bears the inscription: Passed by here the officer Don Juan de Ofiate to the discovery of the sea of the south on the 16th of April, 1605. Our view of the fortress city Acoma was * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "California, Horn of Plenty," by Frederick Simpich, May, 1949; "San Francisco: Gibraltar of the West Coast," by La Verne Bradley, March, 1943; and "Out in San Francisco," by Frederick Simpich, April, 1932. ** See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "Scenic Glories of Western United States," 8 ills. in color, August, 1929; and "Surveying the Grand Can yon of the Colorado," by Lewis R. Freeman, May, 1924. t See "Land of the Havasupai (Indians)," by Jack Breed, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, May, 1948. + See "Mysterious Tomb of a Giant Meteorite (Meteor Crater)," by William D. Boutwell, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, June, 1928.