National Geographic : 1969 May
feet below the rim when the entire perspec tive began to change. And once out from the first line of cliffs and through the Redwall, I stepped also out of time and space. The canyon soars around you, and you walk on and on and on without a line of it chang ing, or your objective getting any closer. Your legs float you through an endless spectacle that seems to have neither beginning nor end. What startles, and then comforts you, is that you are absolutely alone, and absolutely in command of your own survival. I was climbing down through two billion years of the history of our planet. My foot prints stirred the dust of vanished deserts; my boots crunched the tiny skeletons of creatures that lived in seas long gone. It gives a man some measure of eternity.* It is easy to say that shale is simply hard ened mud, that sandstone is just sand grains cemented together, or that tiny sea creatures gave up their shells to make limestone. But to see towering 200-foot cliffs of sandstone sur mounted by 650 feet of shale, topped by 700 feet of limestone and another 800 feet of sandstone and shale, and more above that -it gives one the eerie feeling of looking deep into the very ribs of our planet (foldout, pages 678-80). Powell Returned to Seek New Answers Canyon geologists are fond of the story of the cowboy who rode to the brink, looked down, and remarked to his horse, "By golly, something happened here!" Powell dedicated many years of his life to finding out what did happen. In the early 1870's he returned to the canyon country with geological expeditions better equipped than his first; the maps they produced filled in white spaces in the United States atlas. The major was influential in establishing the U. S. Geological Survey, and became its second director. He was also one of the founders of the National Geographic Society. Those honors and achievements were far in the future, however, when his tired band made their way to the beach at Bright Angel Creek, where Phantom Ranch, a picturesque glen of cottonwood trees and rustic wood-and stone cabins, now stands. The major took a sad inventory: "We have now only musty flour sufficient for ten days, and a few dried apples .... We must make all haste possible." The Craigheads had to leave us at Phan tom Ranch, but the Grand and the Green went on, hastening after Powell. Beyond the hostile waters of Hakatai and Walthenberg Rapids, the massive Redwall seems to step closer to the river. The Colo rado swings south into a wide U-shaped bend, around Explorers Monument-a panorama of baking walls of such magnitude that our rafts seemed like tiny chips awash in the gutter of a Wall Street. In this stupendous landscape, the canyon has hidden away one of its delicate wonders. We tied to the left bank and made our way across a rocky, stove-hot talus to the side of a small stream. Over great boulders, around a series of stepladdered pools, is Elves Chasm, where Royal Arch Creek finds its way to river level by way of a beautiful waterfall. The fall plunges into a deep pool, and with in moments John Evans was plunging with it. His roar of pure delight at the freshness and coolness of the water echoed in the small canyon. The water creates a microclimate *See "Grand Canyon: Nature's Story of Creation," by Louis Schellbach, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, May 1955. 705 NuUAnnumts N...