Unforgettable Grand Canyon

Library travelogue fundraiser at the College of the Rockies.

Panorama Point on the South Kaibab Trail.

How would you like to visit the ultimate time machine? A place where every step takes you back 100,000 years in history. Well you can do it 7 p.m., Monday, Dec. 17, at the College of the Rockies when retired journalist Gerry Warner presents a slide show entitled “Contemplating the Grand Canyon.”

The travelogue, which is admission by donation, is part of the Friends of the Cranbrook  Public Library fundraising series and shows the immensity and grandeur of the almost 2 billion year old canyon considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

“In some ways I found the Grand Canyon more impressive than my trek into Everest base camp two years ago,” says Warner. “Everest is higher, but the Grand Canyon is on a scale that dwarfs even the world’s highest mountain.”

The great gash in the earth stretches more than 250 miles through the arid, red rock of Arizona’s Kaibab Plateau and averages more than 20 miles wide and a mile deep. It took eons for the Colorado River to cut down to the metamorphic rocks at the bottom of the great chasm which geologists estimate to be 1.8 billion years old, about a third of the age of the earth.

“The time scale is incomprehensible, but the beauty of the canyon can be enjoyed by anyone whether they’re standing on the rim or hiking through the rainbow colored rocks to the green ribbon of water below,” says Warner. “But it’s a hell of a climb out.”

The former Daily Townsman reporter took three days to hike the canyon, starting from the forested North Rim at 8,200 feet and hiking approximately 25 miles down and up again to gain the South Rim at 7,000 feet. Along the way, he met extreme runners who were doing the rim-to-rim trip in one very long day, a dangerous practice strongly advised against by park management. “They’re welcome to do it. But I was there to take pictures and enjoy the scenery,” says Warner.

And what unforgettable scenery it is, he says. “I’ll never forget the red and ochre cliffs towering like stone temples above the trail or the gigantic buttes and mesas that are like mountains themselves rising from the canyon floor and the grey limestone walls of the inner canyon sloping down to the rushing green river. It’s a humbling experience.”

Warner also got a taste of the danger the Grand Canyon offers to anyone that drops below its rocky rim. Missing a sign on the canyon floor, he took a shorter but steeper trail and ran out of water before he made it to the top. Fortunately he didn’t need as much water because it was a cool, late autumn day. Other hikers that have done the same thing in the searing heat of summer when temperatures climb above 45 C (120 F) haven’t been so lucky. More than 250 helicopter rescues take place every climbing season in the Grand Canyon.

Despite the busy Christmas season, people are advised to come early to the show which will take place in Lecture Theatre #250 with limited seating.  And the funds raised help the library build its collection, including travel books on famous world places like the Grand Canyon.