One of the villages we passed was called Cliff Dwellers. We were disappointed to be told nobody actually lives in the cliffs, but some people do live in curious little rock features called ‘hoodoos’ that they have adapted into small houses. Hoodoos are created where a large, harder stone (at Cliff Dwellers located on the top layer of the cliff) has fallen on to a softer stone. Over time wind and rain wear down the softer rock, apart from that which is directly underneath the harder rock, leaving a mushroom-like rock feature with a hard rock cap and a soft stone pedestal. the cliff dwellers link has additional information on the history of cave and cliff dwellings peoples of this region.
At the head of the canyon sits the Glen Canyon Dam. The ferry was the main crossing point at this end of the Colorado River before the growth of car travel meant it was replaced with a bridge in 1929. With the growth in the size of vehicles and the volume of traffic, that bridge too began to outlive its usefulness and was replaced by a more modern bridge. Completed in September 1995 at a cost of $15M, the new bridge takes vehicular traffic in both directions, while the old bridge is now used for pedestrian and horse traffic.
J. D. Lee was a Mormon and was part of a group involved in the massacre of about 120 non-Mormon people in a crime known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. After hiding out at Lees Ferry for a number of years he was eventually brought to justice in March 1877 when he was executed by firing squad. He was the only one of about 50 people who participated in the massacre to pay for his crime with his life. The the link above leads to an interesting document commenting on the event and it is an interesting read.
Other little gems were related to snakes with “the pinky ones are happy to avoid you'. He recalls meeting one that jumped up at him but he thought it was just trying to get away. He describes the small Mojave rattlesnakes as “with markings like eyebrows’, its harder to hear their small rattle (used to warn you of their presence) and they will chase you if you are too close. Joanna is quite taken with the idea of a snake with eyebrows and thinks of it as like a pantomime villain. Needless to say we spent a fair part of our journey looking for snakes with eyebrows, particularly when undertaking ablutions in the middle of the dark canyon nights.
To our right the solid cliff, to our left a steep, steep slope dotted with cacti. Slip here and you slide (or fall) a very long way. It is an adrenaline rush, tempered with trepidation and an element of fear. The path at times zig-zags down the side of the cliff wall, on other occasions it just goes straight down. Once or twice on really steep sections we are reduced to embarrassment-inducing bum slithering, passing the rucksacks down hand-to-hand.
On the canyon rim and its slopes Kailab limestone lies on top of the gypsum and sandstone of the Toroweap. Even the names of the rock layers have a wonder about them. The geology of the Grand Canyon is exceedingly complex and as you walk it is forever changing as you move from one formation to the next. JC provides us with a commentary on the changing rock formations, but to be honest, most of it goes over the top of my very hot head.
We are on the edge of a great wilderness and the sense of wonderment is palpable. Words do not do it justice but thousands of writers continue to try and capture the sense of magc and spirituality that it engenders. You just need to stop, sit to wonder and ponder on man's place in the universe. And we did, whenever we could find a little bit of shade to provide us with some comfort, because all the while we were aware of the moisture being sucked from our lungs and dissipating in the hot, arid, desert air. The temperature was now in in low to mid 90F and at times I was struggling when walking in open country.
Sleep comes slowly as we begin to freeze in the cold night air and before we can drop off we need to find and put on woolly hat and gloves and additional layers. Only the inner mesh of the tent is on and we eventually go to see the Sandman bathed in starlight.