So it was that for the most part, the names of the rapids and the many side canyons in the Grand Canyon were new discoveries. But I knew a few of the places from reading I had done over the last forty years and I was anxious to see and photograph them. Two books that I reread this week included Down the Colorado, the Sierra Club pictorial including the words of John Wesley Powell and photos by Eliot Porter, and The Hidden Canyon, A River Journey by Edward Abbey and John Blaustein.
And that brings us to the morning in Little Nankoweap Creek. We spent the morning packing and preparing for the day, which I knew would include one of the iconic spots I had waited a long time to see: the granaries of Nankoweap.
Then again, 600 feet is 600 feet. Vertically, 600 feet is imposing, and there was no easy trail to the ruins. There was a very steep trail-of-use. It was probably no more than 1/2 or 2/3 of a mile long, but it climbed unmercifully in the hot sun. I was instantly regretting those many months of missed gym sessions on the stair-climber!
We made our way back down to the river.
The Tonto Group is the visible record of the splitting and subsidence of the Rodinian supercontinent. As the beach transgresses onto the land, the waves grind up terrestrial sediments into sand and gravel, and that is what became the Tapeats Sandstone. As the shoreline moved eastward, the offshore mud and silt eventually became the shale of the Bright Angel. Because the continents at that time were at tropical latitudes, the far offshore shoals and shallows produced the thick layers of Muav Limestone. The rocks are full of traces of the earliest complex and hard-shelled creatures to be found on the planet. These fossils include a variety of trilobites, brachiopods, archaeocyathids, and other generally unfamiliar life forms.
Trilobites were perhaps the most intriguing. They were arthropods, in the same phylum as today's insects, crustaceans, and arachnids (the term arthropod refers to "jointed-foot"). The resembled today's horseshoe crabs, or more familiar in my backyard, pill-bugs (but often much larger). A vast number of barely known soft-bodied forms were present as well. They left few fossils, but did produce many trails, tracks and burrows.
challenging ceremony involves a long journey on foot from the Hopi mesas to the Little Colorado River where mythology and tradition states that people emerged from the third world into the fourth. Young men come downstream and collect salt, carrying it back to their villages as part of the journey into adulthood
River travelers are asked not to stop here, and we didn't. We continued down the river, pulled into camp at Carbon Creek and unloaded the boats. We had covered about twelve miles. Clouds were gathering in the sky above us...