January 11

Grand Canyon National Monument, Designated as a National Park in 1919


Julian looked over the edge.  The awe-inspiring Grand Canyon stretched beneath and across and beyond, a panorama too much for him to take in at once.

It made him dizzy.

The best way to enjoy a sight like this would be to identify with some of the people in the distance.  Travelers who opted for the guided tour hiked in slow clumps on a craggy ridge.   Another group across the gap had paid premium prices to explore the terrain on the backs of sure-footed mules.  In the distance, the mules looked as small as ants; the riders seemed even smaller.

He squinted to focus on the mule at the front.  Its rider had an oddly shaped head, and Julian decided the man or woman wore a wide-brimmed hat.

The canyon was at once beautiful and frightening.  He never realized rocks could have such dramatic variation in color.  His point of identification was a young man, Julian decided — a student who worked as a guide during the summer to help pay college tuition.  The guide waved his arm to encourage the rest of the group to pick up the pace.

The leader’s burro passed a large yellow W that seemed planted in the ground.  The canyon wall behind was brick red, and sunlight glimmered off diamonds that seemed crushed into the rock.

A few mule-lengths ahead, a gas dispenser lay on its side:  part of a convenience stop under construction, to supply fuel to transport vans.  A coffee shop jutted partly out of the next section of rock.  Those shops were everywhere these days; it made sense that tourists would want a drink.

The best way to enjoy a sight like this was to deny what really happened.  With a little imagination, distant people crawling for help are burros; people hanging from the edge over a deep pit are simply tourists enjoying a national park.

The upended arches of a fast-food restaurant, the fallen remnants of a city street, are harder for his mind to transform.

His whole life, Julian had wanted to visit the Grand Canyon, but he’d never left his home state.

After the epidemic of earthquakes, the Grand Canyons came to him.