From Zion National Park, I took the 9 west to the 15 south, then at Hurricane veered off on the 59 in the direction of the Grand Canyon. Along the way, I pulled over at the Kaibab Paiute Indian Reservation. The place I stopped was called the Pipe Spring National Monument.
The Pipe Spring is a natural spring that helped flora, fauna, and Natives Americans to thrive in what otherwise would’ve been unlivable desert conditions. When the settlers discovered it, they started a cattle ranch and then built a fort to protect. Talk about spoiling the party for everyone. There was a small museum I rushed through, but my primary concern was getting to the Grand Canyon while it was still early enough to get a good view.
I’d been to the main attractions on the south rim a handful of times, but this was the first time I’d be visiting the north rim. Now I was on the 89A, taking the 67 south at Jacob Lake. It was another hour to get to the north rim. The day was clear and the sun was shining brightly through the windshield, but there was snow on both sides of the road, with pine trees sticking out of it like dark green cocktail toothpicks.
Sometimes when my mind is open songs come to me. So far on this trip I’d come up with was the Ballad of the Mountain Bluebird. In the time it took to get to the canyon, I came up with a simple new folk song called The Slaughter.
There was snow on the roof of the entrance booth and snow in the parking lot that was turning to slush when I got out of the car. There wasn’t any breeze but the air was brisk. There was a COVID mask required to get into the Grand Canyon Lodge, and I could live with that, as long as it was open. Inside was a statue of a famous mule and a piano with a large kachina doll above it.
When I walked outside, the canyon was deep and dark, lined with scrubby conifers and patches of snow. I walked over to Bright Angel Point where you could almost look into the canyon. There were so many tourists lined up there that you had to wait in line for a turn.
My idea was to meditate somewhere along the rim, but I felt conspicuous amongst such crowds. When I returned to the car, a family with about eighteen members was having a picnic in the back of a pickup truck right next to me. I went walking off into the woods, through crunchy snow up to my calves, to reach a private stretch of canyon, and sat down on a cold, damp log.
Now, of course, the wind decided to start blowing. The branches in the trees above my head began bobbing up and down. I wasn’t far enough away from the parking lot. I could hear car doors slamming and people talking. My hands were cold. I shut my eyes but could still sense the shadows of the trees, falling to the left and right of me. When I opened them, I could see pine needles on the ground. That was the smell the air was full of, cold pine needles.
That tribe of hillbillies back in the pickup were having more than a picnic. It sounded like more of a keg party. Either that or they were wrapping another episode of Alaska Bush People. I could no longer concentrate. My trip was coming to an end. It was too cold for camping. I was inhaling junk food like oxygen. The race was on now just to make it to the finish line.
Getting back in the car after acknowledging my rowdy neighbors, I lit out of there. It was already late afternoon and it was almost four hours to Flagstaff. My hope was to find something before then, but if worse came to worse, knew there were a lot of hotels in Flagstaff. All I needed to do now was just drive. If things eventually came back into focus, that would be a plus.