The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon was not always how I'd expected it to be. For one, it was cold. Now, understand, I was there in the winter, but still the amount of snow and ice surprised me.  

By May, when the desert started feeling hot and dry like I'd thought it would be, the cactus flowers and California redbud were in bloom, which was surprising in its own right. Then the cottonwood trees grew wide green leaves. All of that made me start to think of the canyon as a lush oasis.

But my perception of Grand Canyon as a verdant oasis was limited by my experience. As part of the trail crew, I'd been stationed at Indian Garden, where a creek flows between massive cottonwood trees, making that place feel temperate and watered. We were building log stairs along the trails, less than a mile from the Colorado River, the sight of which again served as a constant reminder of how much water that desert sees pass by. 

Our worksite spent a good portion of the day in the shade of that narrow canyon within the canyon. Nearby the job site, a spring water dripped though a wall of yellow columbines that towered over a pool at the base. That pool of standing water--extremely rare to see in the desert--was sprouting with red monkey flower. 

So I think I can be excused for looking back at that corner of the desert as a deceiving sort of desert. Despite those scenes of a watered desert, it will still forever maintain the harsh veneer of sunshine and dry air that the scorpions and lizards need and that those rim-to-rim hikers, who don't have time to stop in the shade and investigate the incongruous sound of dripping water, will love to suffer through.