A painting of a trail going down canyon through colorful cliff layers.


Behind the Scenery

Hidden forces shape our ideas, beliefs, and experiences of Grand Canyon. Join us, as we uncover the stories between the canyon’s colorful walls. Probe the depths, and add your voice for what happens next at Grand Canyon!


Wild River with Wayne Ranney


♫ Soft guitar and singing: Wild River (Just Float me away Wild, wild, river I’ll ride you some day Sleeping on sandbars)

Wayne Ranney: Every time I think about a Grand Canyon River trip, what I think about is how wonderful it is to fall asleep on those sandy beaches, looking up at the darkest sky you've ever seen, pockmarked with 4000 stars visible to you. It's just an incredible experience, I hope, if your finances allow your bucket list sometime down the line allows that you will put a Grand Canyon River trip on your list. It's really one of the most incredible trips a human being can take on this planet.

♫ Stars fill the sky The thrilling white water A Grand Canyon prize …

Grand Canyon. Where hidden forces shape our ideas, beliefs, and experiences. Join us as we uncover the stories between the canyon’s colorful walls. Probe the depths and add your voice for what happens next at Grand Canyon. Hello and welcome. This is Jesse. This is Emily. And this is: Behind the Scenery.

Ranger Doug: Hello folks. My name is Ranger Doug from the North Rim, bringing you another Behind the Scenery / Grand Canyon National Park podcast. The title is: Wild River, with Wayne Ranney.

Have you ever contemplated taking a river trip on the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park? How long does it take? How much does it cost? How dangerous is it?

These questions and more, will be answered by today’s very special guest. His name is Wayne Ranney.

Wayne wrote a popular book on Grand Canyon geology titled: Carving Grand Canyon: Evidence, Theories and Mysteries. He also co-authored another awesome book, titled: Ancient Landscapes of the Colorado Plateau.

He is a noted geologist, lecturer and river tour guide.

I sat down to interview Wayne in June of 2023, to learn about all things Grand-Canyon-river-running related.

The podcast title, Wild River with Wayne Ranney, implies that the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is wild. It is indeed a wild ride, and the river and its many camps are in wilderness settings.

But technically, the river is no longer wild. Wayne will talk about two dams and reservoirs, one upstream, and one downstream from the park. And some of the rafts in the Grand Canyon are actually motor-powered.

Nevertheless, it is a very special treat to ride the rapids at Grand Canyon National Park.

So, strap on your life vest. Let’s jump into that river raft now. And hang on tight, as we ride the Wild River with Wayne Ranney.

Wayne: Hello listeners. My name is Wayne Ranney and I’m a geologist living in Flagstaff, Arizona. But I first got my introduction to Grand Canyon in the mid-nineteen seventies when I worked as a backcountry ranger at Phantom Ranch, Cottonwood Camp, and down in the lower gorge of the Grand Canyon. And after my backcountry ranger experience with the National Park Service, I went to Northern Arizona University and got a bachelor’s and master’s degree in geology. And I supported myself in graduate school by being a river guide in the Grand Canyon. And that’s how I became enamored with running the river and the Grand Canyon. And I’m happy to share my experiences with listeners out there.

I've been lucky enough to do more than 100 river trips through the Grand Canyon. I can't believe it myself, that it's been that many. My first 33 river trips were oar powered trips where I rowed a boat down the Grand Canyon. And I became a geologic educator on the river using motorboats. They tend to be better for educational trips through the Grand Canyon. And I lost count of how many exact river trips I did, but I know that it's more than 100.

Doug: Wow, that's pretty good. How many river miles is the Grand Canyon trip? And how long does it take?

Wayne: Well, between Lee's Ferry, where river trips begin and Pearce Ferry down at the other end, the Grand Canyon is 278 miles long. And the takeout place where the river trip ends is another two miles so conveniently the river trip through the Grand Canyon is about 280 miles long.

Doug: Wow.

Wayne: Fabulous trip, multi day.

Doug: So what's the average length of a Grand Canyon River trip?

Wayne: You know when you do a river trip, you can either go on an oar powered boat and river trips like that are anywhere between 12 and 16 days. And if you do a motorized trip, they’re anywhere between seven and 10 or 12 days through the Grand Canyon.

Doug: So how many rapids are there on a typical, let's say, when you go all the way through to Pearce Ferry, how many rapids?

Wayne: I have heard the figure that there's 165 named rapids in the Grand Canyon. I haven't verified that number.

I should also say that when Hoover Dam was finally built in 1936, that the water from Lake Mead backed up 35 miles into the Grand Canyon and drowned out at least three big rapids, two of which were considered the two biggest rapids in the Grand Canyon. And they no longer exist. This would be the rapid at Separation Canyon, where three of John Wesley Powell's men left the river trip in 1869 and then just downstream from there, six miles, was Lava Cliff Rapid, which was considered the most treacherous of all the rapids in Grand Canyon. But again, those rapids no longer exist. But the vast majority of Grand Canyon still has wonderful white-water experiences on the river trip.

Doug: How about with lower lake levels on Lake Mead? Have some of those reemerged?

Wayne: You know, we have been in this 23-year-long drought and Lake Mead is much diminished from what it used to be, however, the sediment that backed up into the Grand Canyon when the lake was full has choked those rapids, and they have not reemerged yet. And there's a big sediment pile of reservoir sediment that is still burying the rocks that used to create those big rapids.

Doug: Are there any hints that the rapids might be underneath the sediments? Boulders or anything?

Wayne: The boulders are still there, they're encased in reservoir sediment. The problem with those being re-excavated is that once the river leaves the Grand Canyon, it is running over what used to be bedrock high above the river. And there are some large rivers now down… , I’m sorry, large rapids downstream from Pearce Ferry. And so we've created a perched sediment pile back up in the lower end of the Grand Canyon.

So until the river can excavate that bedrock wall that the river now has to flow through, this reservoir sediment will stay perched and we won't have those rapids reemerging until the river can find its original river channel and then eat away at that soft reservoir sediment.

Doug: OK, so I know there's some legendary named rapids. How did the rapids get their name, and what are some of the legendary rapids?

Wayne: Grand Canyon is famous for its rapids and a handful of them were named by John Wesley Powell, and some of those still go by the names of Sockdolager Rapid, a really fun ride. Sockdolager is a 19th century boxing term for a 1-2 punch and apparently one of John Wesley Powell's men after running the rapid, turned to Powell and said, “that was a real sockdolager, Major”!

And other rapids that John Wesley Powell named would be Granite Falls at the mouth of Monument Creek. Lava Falls is considered the most treacherous rapid right now on the Grand Canyon.

Anywhere there's a side canyon that comes into the Colorado River is where we see these rapids located, and so a lot of the rapids take the name of the side canyon.

Doug: OK.

Wayne: Probably the most exciting rapid in the Grand Canyon today is Hermit Rapid at the mouth of Hermit Creek. And there you have a series of 7 to 9 roller coaster waves that at certain river levels can really give you a fantastic ride and everyone looks forward to riding the waves in Hermit Rapid.

Doug: And I know some rivers in North America using I through VI rating system, but the Grand Canyon’s unique. How are these river rapids rated?

Wayne: And one of the things that I've noticed, Doug, is that most of the boatmen don't really refer to the one to ten rapid rating in the Grand Canyon anymore and they don't really use the Roman numeral I to VI rating either because the river level changes and the way that the rapid appears to a boater also changes. And you know, on some of the trips that I do, the boatman will say this is a one-hander or this is a two-hander.

Doug: What's that mean?

Wayne: Well, what that means is you hang on with one hand or two hands (chuckles). And I've even heard the rating of robust two-hander and that might be a rapid like Hance Rapid. Hance Rapid has a lot of boulders where you need to maneuver. Now, if we were to use the Roman numeral I to VI rating for Grand Canyon, we have a lot of II’s and III’s, which would be one-handers. But Grand Canyon also can have IV’s and V’s, and that Roman numeral I to VI rating system each Roman numeral actually has a definition for what you will need to know going through the rapid.

For example, a Roman numeral VI means the rapid is un-runnable. It's too treacherous. You should not attempt it. But a Roman numeral V means you have to make two moves in the rapid to miss obstacles. And so the Roman numeral system is a much better way to rate rapids on rivers. But historically, that has not been used in the Grand Canyon. But today we can look at the rapids and we can say well, this would be a Roman numeral IV, or a Roman numeral III or whatever it is.

Doug: OK.

Wayne: Yeah.

Doug: So maybe list the top five or six well known and notorious rapids.

Wayne: OK, so the most well-known or notorious rapids, I think at River Mile 17, that would be 17 miles downstream from the start at Lee's Ferry, we have House Rock Rapid. Great big churning hole on the left side of the river there. Probably the next well known rapid would be Hance Rapid at River Mile 76. This could be considered a Roman numeral V especially at low water where you have to make a couple of moves it within the rapid to miss these obstacles.

Horn Creek Rapid just below Phantom Ranch can be a big rapid at low water levels and then we have Granite Falls and Hermit Rapid other really well-known rapids. And then of course we have Crystal Creek Rapid, which was created only in 1966, when 15 inches of rain fell on the north rim over about a 55-hour period. And it washed a huge debris fan into the channel of the river and Crystal Rapid is probably the second most treacherous rapid after Lava Falls, which is the one with the historic and the modern reputation as being probably some of the most treacherous waves in the Grand Canyon.

Again, if you run the rapid properly you might not even get wet going through it. But there are hazards and obstacles, and should you hit a hazard or an obstacle, this is where things can get exciting. And so a lot of times the rapids that have the higher rating can be run relatively dry because the boatmen have to be in the right place.

By the way, I should mention that professional boatmen in the Grand Canyon, a lot of them have run the rapids so many times they're very well experienced and professional about the way they run the rapids. There's also an opportunity to take your own river gear and do what is called a private river trip, and some of the people that do private river trips have a lot of experience running rivers. There's also people that on private river trips that are learning how to row rapids for the first time, and they might have more exciting runs in the rapids.

Doug: How does the Park Service separate commercial river trips versus private river trips?

Wayne: Yeah. When you think about people using the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, it's been regulated since the early 1970s because the demand was just growing exponentially. And the Park Service wanted to protect the river environment from too much overuse. So, in the early 1970s, there was the establishment of licensed concessionaires who can offer river trips to paying customers, and we call these commercial river trips in the Grand Canyon. And so you will pay a fare to one of 15 river companies that still exist here. They are licensed concessionaires by the Park Service. And they will take you down on either a seven- or eight-day motorized raft or, a 14- to 16-day oar-powered raft through the Grand Canyon.

And then we have the other side, which is the private river running sector. These are people who apply in a lottery to receive a permit to run the Grand Canyon. They either have their own river equipment and are experienced river runners in the Grand Canyon or other rivers, or they will rent equipment and go down and this is something that's become quite popular in the last decade or two because there's a couple of outfits in Flagstaff, AZ that rent complete gear and menu and food for these 16-day river trips. And you just write one check, and they'll give your private party six boats, all with the oars and the boxes full of food and a menu on how to cook the food. Those are the two ways that people access the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, either on a private trip with friends or relatives, or paying a commercial outfitter to take you down.

Doug: So let's say I want to go down with a bunch of buddies and we're all experienced boat, boat people. When I throw my name in the lottery, what's the normal wait time to get a private permit?

Wayne: They get a lot more requests for these private permits than they have permits to give, and if I'm not mistaken, there are around 400 or 450 private permits given per year. And so you might have 8-9000 people who get on the list every year to try to snagb one of those 450 permits. The system that is set up now is that if you do not get chosen in your first year, then for the next year if you reapply, you will get two chances to get your number or name picked for a river trip that second year. If you don't get a permit the second year, then you get a third chance and you'll have three balls in the hopper, if you will, to get a chance, and so it's a weighted lottery, meaning that the longer you're on the list, the better chance you have to getting one of these coveted private permits.

The Park Service only allows the commercial river trips to run between April 1st and October 31st. And if you wanted to go in November, December, January, February or March on a private trip, there tend to be more openings. However, going down the river in the wintertime is a completely different thing than going down in the warmer summer season, or spring or fall.

Doug: So how many people typically get to run the Colorado through the Grand Canyon, combining the private and commercial trips every year?

Wayne: Given the current use, about 27,000 people a year are allowed to go down the Colorado River in Grand Canyon.

Doug: Sounds like a pretty exclusive club.

Wayne: It is a pretty exclusive club and you know it's too bad that it has to be that way. But on the trips that I do and I'm lucky enough to get to do two or three geology themed river trips every year. The passengers invariably will mention to me how clean the beaches are and we are sometimes camping on beaches that every night between April and October will have somebody camped on them. And my passengers will come to me and they'll say “I can't believe how clean this place is.” And the Park Service has very strict regulations about building fires along the river, you can build fires in your camp, but they have to be in a fire pan. All the ashes and charcoal have to be contained and packed out and this keeps the sand in the Grand Canyon from getting that dirty charcoal color and charcoal bits spread all over the beach. We always pick up our micro trash.

Doug: So talk about how you set up a typical kitchen on the river.

Wayne: This is another thing that the passengers are commonly surprised at. On these boats, whether they're the oar powered boats or the motorboats, there are folding metal tables that get brought off the boats and set up for cooking and serving meals. There's huge ice chests that are in these boats that can take refrigerated goods for up to two weeks in time. There are metal cans that bring canned items and packaged items like fresh bread and things like that. And people are always amazed at how good the food is on a Grand Canyon River trip, even after day 12 or 13 they may still be serving you sandwiches with fresh bread.

Doug: So how can they keep the beaches so clean when beaches are being used over and over and over again?

Wayne: We always encourage people to eat their sandwich down by the river's edge. So if you're eating a tuna fish sandwich and a little bit of a celery or the lettuce falls out of your sandwich, if it's big enough, we ask people to pick it up and put it in the trash receptacle. All the trash is taken out as well.

Also underneath the serving table and the kitchen table, these mesh mats are set up to collect all of the crumbs that might fall off of the table. And then when the camp is being broken down, these mesh nets are folded up, taken down into the river and shaken out into the river. So tiny breadcrumbs and potato chip pieces and little bits of relish that may have fallen on the ground they fall on this net and these nets are then taken down to the river when we leave the camp. And that stuff just goes into the river. And so that's one of the ways that the beaches are clean.

But one of the other things that's happened in the last couple of decades is that now the operations at Glen Canyon Dam allow for these controlled released floods that come down through the Grand Canyon. And if enough sediment has been washed into the main channel of the river these controlled floods will put this brand-new sand up on the river beaches.

That's the ethic of running the Grand Canyon. And the professional guides and the private river trips that go through here know that every little bit of trash that's left behind can become a problem. You know, we didn't always have these regulations in the early days and granted there weren't that many people running the river prior to the closing of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, but human waste used to be buried in the sandy beaches and as river running began to increase in the 1960s, the river runners started to realize that the beaches were not as clean as they used to be. And so somewhat by self-regulating, but then also by Park Service regulations, it became such that we wanted to preserve these beaches in the Grand Canyon in as pristine a manner as possible. And again, I'm even amazed myself that when we go to these places, you rarely find any trash at all, even little wrappers.

Doug: So what's the ethic for human waste?

Wayne: So all river companies and all private trips are required to carry all human waste out. People are asked to urinate in the river because in this dry desert environment of the Grand Canyon, if you were to urinate on the shore, we don't have enough rainfall to wash that away. And so you can get odors that will develop. And so everybody as much as possible urinates right in the river. The volume of the river takes care of that, that urine waste.

And then the human waste, the solid waste, is in toilet systems that are contained during the day while you're on the boat. You never even know that stuff is there. And every night the toilet is set up in a secluded place on the beach and all of the waste is taken out of the Grand Canyon. Every bit of trash, every bit of human waste. And as we say, the urine goes into the river. So it's really remarkable how clean these beaches are, especially with the use that they get.

Doug: So tell me about a typical Grand Canyon toilet.

Wayne: A typical Grand Canyon toilet will be a metal can that sits as high as a toilet at home. It will have a toilet seat just like a toilet at home. And there is either some kind of powder or liquid that is included in the bottom of the metal can to disable the bacteria that can build up when this human waste is containerized. What that does is it allows for the human waste to be taken out and then it is disposed of at proper receptacles back in Flagstaff or Kanab or wherever the river company operates out of.

And so we follow standards where it would be like going to an RV park. And if you have a recreational vehicle that has a toilet, there is a known place where you can go and dump that human waste. Once the river trip is over, the human waste is dealt with in that manner back in an appropriate place back in the city.

Doug: OK. Is there a slang term for that toilet?

Wayne: Yep, we call that the groover.

Doug: And what’s origin of that name?

Wayne: (chuckles) The groover word was originated, there used to use these old ammunition cans that had sealable tops. We called them ammo cans or rocket boxes. And before they found out that you could put a toilet seat on top of you would sit right on the edges of this metal can. And as you got up from it, it would leave little grooves in your butt cheeks. And so people started calling it the groover.

Doug: I also thought it was named because sometimes some of the best views on the river is while you're doing your business, you can kind of groove on nature and enjoy the view.

Wayne: I had not heard that definition, but it's definitely true.

Doug: OK, so far out I can say to that!

Wayne: Yeah, one of the companies that I do my geology themed river trips on, they have an indoor toilet where they set up a small tent. And you can have some privacy in that groover.

But then they also have the scenic groover, which is a little bit farther away, but just set up in the great outdoors, usually facing the river as you do your business. And that's called the scenic groover.

Doug: OK, a special one.

Wayne: And I just completed 2 river trips in the month of May 2023, right after one of these high flood experimental flows and the new sand was just lovely to camp on.

I'm telling you, when you camp on a Grand Canyon beach down along the Colorado River, it's as nice as setting out your towel on a Caribbean beach. The sand is wonderful. It's great to sleep on, and this replenishes the sand and helps to keep it clean.

Doug: Wayne, how dangerous is running the rapids in the Grand Canyon?

Wayne: You know, there are some people who do have a fear of the rapids and the rapids are nothing to take lightly. But as I told you before, if you're going down with a professional guide, they often have run the rapids dozens, if not hundreds of times, and know exactly every rapid by heart.

There occasionally are oar boats that go over, really extreme rare cases when a motorboat goes over. And it's not a completely hazard free experience. Nothing in life is, but I'm really impressed with the professionalism of the commercial river guides. And also, a lot of the private boaters also have a lot of experience on the river.

There are guidebooks that tell you how and what you can expect in each of the rapids. And I would say overall, it’s an extremely safe trip, but one must always be aware that things can happen, and that's why in some instances it may be good to go with a professional group just because they have the most advanced first aid training and they travel with satellite phones should that be necessary.

I have flipped a boat once myself when I was an oarsman, and my boat went over. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. Everybody was safe. We did lose a little bit of gear to the river, but as I say, I've done over 100 trips and I've had one flip in my boating career.

Well, we're living in modern times. And so, as I say, all river trips, even the private ones, are oftentimes traveling with satellite phones. That if you can catch a satellite going over, you can make a direct call to National Park Service dispatch. If there is a medical problem that deserves attention, living in the times that we do, there are options to get people off the river in relatively quick fashion.

If the wind is blowing really, really strong, they won't fly the helicopters. If it's raining or there's a big storm coming through, that's another reason that might delay a helicopter rescue from the river.

Doug: What's the cost to do a commercial river trip or a private river?

Wayne: So how much does it cost to go down the Grand Canyon by river trip? You know, I wish this was something that absolutely everybody could afford. But you got to realize these are trips that sometimes last over 2 weeks, and the general cost is somewhere between $400 and $500 a day. So, if you go on a motorized rafting trip in the Grand Canyon, it's going to cost you about $4000 per person. And if you go on an oar-powered trip, that might last as long as two weeks, it might cost you 5 or $6000.

Doug: Wow, how about private … how about private trips?

Wayne: So on a private trip, if you. And by the way, private trips are limited to a maximum of 16 persons. One of those persons is designated as the trip leader. And one of the popular ways to do a private trip is just to rent all of the gear, all of the food, and even the shuttle from one end to the other. And if you divide that by 16 people, the cost is somewhere around $2000 per person, so probably about half the price for a private trip.

But then you have to do a lot of the things yourself. And hopefully there's somebody on the trip that has prior Grand Canyon experience, someone who knows the way, someone who can lead the others that may not have any prior Grand Canyon experience and that can also be a wonderful way to go down the river.

Doug: Sounds pretty spendy to pay for a commercial trip. Any thoughts on how it can be more inclusive for the everyday person?

Wayne: Well, I don't know how you could do that except to say that a lot of the river companies that if you can gather together a charter group, in other words, where you find all of the participants to go on a commercial river trip, a lot of the river companies will let the organizer go down the river for free.

So if you can sell 20 spots on a two-boat motor trip the river companies will allow one person, the leader of that group, to go down without paying a fare. So that's one way you can do it.

Another thing is that my wife and I have established a scholarship. Every other year, Northern Arizona University Geology Department does an alumni river trip. And people who have graduated from the program at NAU Geology, we get together and do a river trip. And my wife and I have established a scholarship for an undergraduate who wants to go into geologic education as a career. So there may be other ways that you can learn about scholarships that may be available to go down the river.

Doug: That’s great. I didn't know that. So what are some of the must see stops and side trips if you're doing the Grand Canyon river trip.

Wayne: You know, Doug, I can honestly say that it's not specifically the river and the rapids itself that has caused me to go down there more than 100 times. What really gets me to come back time after time is all of the side hikes that we can do from the river and going up into some side canyons in Grand Canyon. And you just can't believe the number of springs and waterfalls and side streams and places where there's ruins left behind by ancestral peoples that lived here 1000 years ago and hikes up to beautiful scenic temples and viewpoints. (Note: the word “temples” is used in Grand Canyon to denote prominent, high-standing natural landforms a d not religious temples).

There are tremendous opportunities to do off river hiking on one of these river trips. And some of the more enjoyable ones by myself would be up into North Canyon. That's a four-wheel drive hike, but it's only about a mile long and you get to a beautiful reflecting pool at the end of the hike where you see a beautiful view.

I also like to hike up into a place called Saddle Canyon, where there's a very remote and secluded little waterfall back in a slot canyon gorge, and the approach to the Saddle Canyon waterfall is through this most verdant green ground that you've ever seen with redbud trees and cat claw trees and oak trees. I love the hike at Saddle Canyon.

I love to do the little side hike up to the Phantom Ranch when we stop at the Bright Angel beach, and I just like to go up there and maybe mail a postcard to a grandkid or something like that.

One of the bigger hikes on the geology themed river trips is to start at Carbon Creek at River Mile 64 and hike up Carbon Creek about a mile and then look at the Butte Fault and then hike along the trace of the Butte Fault for about a mile and a half. And then you get to a place called Lava Chuar Canyon and you hike back down that canyon to the river. And that's one of the most incredible geology themed hikes you can do.

And then around the Tapeats Creek and the Deer Creek area, there are probably half a dozen different hikes you can do to these beautiful springs and waterfalls and side streams that are just not seen from the rim of the Grand Canyon but traveling along the river you really get a sense for how important springs and side streams are to the ecosystem of the Grand Canyon. And that's one of the neat things about these river trips takes you below the rim into the wilderness of the Grand Canyon, and you get to see the Grand Canyon from the bottom up. And the side hikes are a great way to do that.

Doug: Any special sacred or special places for indigenous folks? And how does the park manage visiting those areas?

Wayne: Yeah, we do have a number of these very special places to indigenous people. The first one that comes to mind is where the Little Colorado River comes into the Big Colorado River. And if the Little Colorado River does not have any runoff in it with brown mud, there is 13 miles of the Little Colorado River that is a turquoise blue color from dissolved calcium in the water. It literally is the color of turquoise. And this is where the Hopi believe that all human beings emerged out here into the 4th world. And so the Hopi have asked the National Park Service and the National Park Service has asked river runners to visit the Little Colorado River with respect. This is a very sacred spot to the Hopi.

At Furnace Flats, which is a very rich archaeological area because the Grand Canyon has opened up relatively wide and in about a five- or six-mile stretch, there's a lot of ancestral sites and Furnace Flats is a place that has been deemed [off-limits to visitation] just because of the amount of archaeological sites that are present there.

Also caves in the Grand Canyon are closed to visitation without a permit because of the archaeological and paleontological resources that can be found in them. In these dry desert caves, human items as old as 4000 years have been recovered from hunters and gatherers that used to live in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. They would leave these split twig figurines that were woven in such a way that they resembled a Big Horn sheep, probably made to invoke hunting magic for these hunting and gathering people, and literally hundreds of split twig figurines have been found in Grand Canyon caves. And so for that reason, caves have been deemed a place we should not visit without a permit.

Doug: Wayne, any favorite river stories you want to share?

Wayne: Oh gosh, there's so many river stories, but I guess the first one that comes to mind is back in July of 1983, when Lake Powell became too full, too fast, and there were not enough outlets at the Glen Canyon Dam to let out all of the water that was coming in. And so, with as much water as could humanly be released from Glen Canyon Dam, we saw a flood travelling through the Grand Canyon that mimicked the historic floods before the dam was constructed across the river. And river revels got as high as 100,000 cubic feet per second. That's about 10 times higher than what we normally see in the river through Grand Canyon. The Park Service temporarily closed the river because there were some accidents on the high water that was moving through. But they eventually just ended up telling people to please consider canceling your private river trips and commercial river trips were even halted for a short time.

A group of river runners and myself got together and we obtained a cancelled private permit. And we did an oar powered river trip 226 miles through the Grand Canyon in three days, a trip that normally takes 14 days. And we weren't trying to set a record. We weren't trying to go as fast as we could, we just wanted to see what the river looked like at that high river level, that high water volume. And it was striking how different the river is.

I mentioned to you earlier in this podcast about House Rock rapid at River Mile 17. I was a half a mile below House Rock Rapid before I realized we had already gone through it because the water was completely flat through the rapid, the volume of water had flattened out the rapid to a flat lake-like scene.

We spent four hours at Crystal Rapid trying to figure out how we were going to get around that big thing. That was really a memorable trip to travel through the whole Grand Canyon in just three days’ time.

Doug: So how do you get past the hole in Crystal?

Wayne: What we did is we pulled over on the right side of the river and we scouted the rapid for all of those hours watching other trips go through and we finally just decided the best way through was to hug the right-hand shore and go right over the tamerisk trees that were being bent over by the river current in the downstream direction. It was actually quite easy to run Crystal Creek Rapid because there was so much slack and slow water up against the right-hand shore. But God forbid that you should ever be pushed out into that current in the middle, because that big hole just got bigger and bigger and bigger as the river volume got larger and larger and larger.

Lava Falls, the biggest rapid on the river we also scouted that. That was not really a concern because these gigantic V waves, as we call them, we're just coming off of both shores right and left, just meeting in the middle. And it was just [so] easy [to] ride the wave train through the great big rapid. That's one of the stories that comes to mind,

But you know. Every time I think about a Grand Canyon river trip, what I think about is how wonderful it is to fall asleep on those sandy beaches, looking up at the darkest sky you've ever seen, pockmarked with 4000 stars visible to you. It's just an incredible experience. I hope, if your finances allow your bucket list sometime down the line, allows that you will put a Grand Canyon river trip on your list. It's really one of the most incredible trips a human being can take on this planet.

Doug: Very good. Thank you, Wayne.

Wayne: Yeah. Thank you, Doug.

Doug: The Behind the Scenery Podcast is brought to you by the interpretation team at Grand Canyon National Park.

For more information and a list of approved National Park River outfitters, google Grand Canyon river concessioners.

We gratefully acknowledge the Native People on whose ancestral homelands we gather, as well as the diverse and vibrant Native communities who make their home here today. Thanks for sharing your homeland with us and being good stewards of the land.

Thanks to ranger Dave for podcast editing. Thanks to Ranger Hannah who will join ranger Dave and I for our ending parody song, with apologies to Keith, Mick and the boys!

Now’s where my guitar?

♫ Guitar and singing:

I saw the river Far, far, below Strong current cold water A powerful flow

Muddy river Filled with silt Frothing, tumbling, buddling A challenge to the hilt

Wild river Just float me away Wild, wild, river I’ll ride you some day

Rapids ahead Dangers abound Horn Creek and House Rock I prey I don’t drown

Hance and Hermit Grapevine and Soap Crystal and Lava Let’s hope I can cope

Wild river Just float me away Wild, wild, river I’ll ride you some day

Sleeping on sandbars Stars fill the sky The thrilling white water A Grand Canyon prize

Inflate your raft Prepare for some fun Let’s do some livin’ On a river run

Wild river Just float me away Wild, wild, river I’ll ride you some day

Wild river Just float me away Wild, wild, river I’ll ride you some day

What’s it like to ride the rapids of the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park? Join noted geologist, book author, lecturer and guide Wayne Ranney, a veteran of over 100 Grand Canyon river trips, as he is interviewed on all-things Grand Canyon river rafting related.

Collaboration on the Colorado River with Rob Billerbeck


Ceili: Hi, I'm Ceili, coming to you from the Phantom Ranger station at the bottom of Grand Canyon. What do Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Curecanti National Recreation Area, Dinosaur National Monument, Canyon Lands National Park, Arches National Park, Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Lake Mead National Recreation area and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area have in common with Grand Canyon and with each other? These places are in three different States and look vastly different, but are inextricably connected by nearly 1000 miles of the Colorado River and its major tributaries. They're also all managed by the National Park Service. In 2022, they welcomed more than 17,000,000 visitors and contributed more than $1.8 billion of visitor spending to local and regional economies. The Colorado River is contentious. Managing 277 miles of it through Grand Canyon between two of the biggest dams in the country is complex. There are hydropower needs, sediment loads, threatened and endangered fish recreation groups, and many other aspects of river management. But because the river flows through such a huge swath of the dry desert southwest, it needs to be managed as a bigger whole system, making it even more complex. Complex enough that coordinating the needs of these Park Service units as they relate to management of the Colorado River is someone's whole job. Rob Billerbeck is the National Park Service’s Colorado River coordinator and I got to talk to him when he was visiting Lees ferry, Arizona, the launch point for river trips through Grand Canyon. The places he works to protect now, the places through which the Colorado River flows, are what first brought him to his home in Denver, CO. Rob: The reason I live here is because of my very first trip west when I was 20. You know, I saw Rocky Mountain National Park. And on that trip, I also met, you know, the woman who would later be my wife because she had a flat tire driving between national parks like I was. And so those were the two big loves of my life, Rocky Mountain National Park and my wife. So that brought me West. Now that I've been in this role, you know, even though I have had some incredible experiences in Dinosaur, I love Black Canyon of the Gunnison, I have spent nights in Canyonlands where you get up in the middle of the night and you can see by the light of the Milky Way, I still would have to say, you know, the Grand Canyon is a place for me that just prompts a really deep spiritual feeling. You know, when you are down at the bottom of the Canyon looking up, you really do feel like you are one tiny piece of a great, huge, amazing natural place and you know for me that experience, that feeling of spirituality in the Canyon makes me have to say Grand Canyon is my favorite spot along the Colorado River. I'm Rob Billerbeck and I'm the Colorado River Coordinator for the Park Service. Ceili: I had not even realized that the Colorado River had its own Park Service Coordinator, and I wondered if any other rivers had their own coordinators. Rob: There are some other river coordinators. There's one for the Mississippi and the Missouri because that's a really huge river as well. That's the only other one that I know that's specific to a river. There are other folks, of course, in our water resources division who cover a lot of different rivers. There's been a lot of work done on the Rio Grande but that doesn't have a specific coordinator. So, for the Colorado River the reason my job exists and has since the year 2000 is because Colorado River is just incredibly complicated, legally, politically. It's been quoted by many as the most complicated river in the US. That's really because it's providing water in the southwest. The dry Southwestern United States. So indeed, it is, you know, water is for fighting over. So, you know, in this arid landscape, the river corridor is incredibly important for wildlife. Even though the riparian areas, you know, make up maybe 1% of the landscape. For wildlife in these arid landscapes, 80% of the species have some critical part of their life cycle that occurs in that river corridor. So, you know, water is life. So, for the Park Service, it's incredibly important for us to interact on these river issues. In fact, you know many of our most iconic and most visited park units are here in the southwest. So of course, the Grand Canyon that we, you know, we'll be looking down towards when we're at Lees Ferry. But you know Glen Canyon National Recreation Area where Lake Powell is has incredibly high visitation. Further downstream, we have Lake Mead and then up on the tributaries upstream of us, you know, we have places like Dinosaur National Monument, Black Canyon of the Gunnison and way up at the headwaters, Rocky Mountain National Park. So for the Park Service, that's a pretty heavily vested interest given the importance of the water to our resources, given how many people want to come and have that visitor experience, then it's very important. And because it's so legally and politically complicated, what was found in the year 2000 was we really had to coordinate between the park units to determine what it is we wanted to ask for, what our positions were. So we had to make sure literally we were all rowing in the same direction within the Park Service. And then needed a coordinator to really interface with all of the partners. So, if you want to do anything on the Colorado River, you have to meet with seven states with a large number of tribes. If you're looking at the whole river, you know that can be as many as 30 tribes. And if you, you know, are talking about doing anything that would alter the flows, then you really have to talk with the Bureau of Reclamation, Western Area Power, about the dam operations. And then talk with many of the users and interest groups on the river, whether those be hydropower, interest groups, fishing groups or, you know, boating, rafting groups. So, a lot of partners to meet with because so many people use or receive this water. Really the water in one way or another gets to 40 million people and produces billions of dollars' worth of, you know, business and enterprise all along the river. Ceili: So many people rely on and care a lot about the Colorado River. Because Rob's role is about coordinating the National Parks on the Colorado River and communicating with the many management partners he often travels to various locations on the river for meetings. On this day, we both found ourselves just upstream from Grand Canyon National Park. Rob: We're at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area headquarters and I traveled here from the Denver Regional Office of the Park Service where I work now to here to meet with some of the park staff and some tribal representatives, and we're going to talk about a set of vegetation projects that we do below the Glen Canyon Dam and the vegetation projects really mitigate the effects of the Glen Canyon Dam on the river corridor. So we were able to get money starting in 2016 for that vegetation project really through the Bureau of Reclamation and the Adaptive Management program that was formed below the dam to comply with the Grand Canyon Protection Act. So, because of that law, we were able to get money to mitigate those effects, like I said, and do this big vegetation project that involves removing invasive plants, replanting native plants, doing some great restoration work, and keeping the campsites along the river, viable by clearing away vegetation from them by working with partners to grow native plants. So, we're really excited to meet with tribes today, talk a little bit more about the project. You know, we're a few years into it, and I've been partnering with them, but this is a good opportunity to walk around, show them some of the work that's happened, some prescribed burning, some replanting. Ceili: It is not always vegetation that projects are focused on. Rob needs to be familiar with all of the many aspects of the Colorado River. Rob: So, you know what has occupied most of my time is has changed over the 12 years I've been in this role. You know, in the past I worked a lot on Glen Canyon Dam operations and what was called the LTEMP the long term experimental and management plan. And you know, that looked at ways to do some occasional high flows out of the dam to rebuild beaches and sand bars that are part of the habitat, part of what protects the cultural resources by keeping them covered, and provides a way to simulate what used to be the natural spring flooding in the Canyon. And that maintains nice sandy beaches that, as people do their lifetime experience, you know, rafting through the Grand Canyon, they can camp on those nice sandy beaches. So, I spent many years on that, have spent many years since then, you know, balancing between working on some Grand Canyon and Glen Canyon issues and some of the operations in the Upper Basin. So how flaming Gorge Dam is operated, that dam is right above Dinosaur National Monument, so that affects, you know, the river corridor, the Green River that goes through Dinosaur and then down into Canyonlands. The Yampa, which is one of the he most free flowing rivers left, that's a major tributary of the Colorado, it meets the green within Dinosaur. So, it's a unique place, kind of a living laboratory in a way because we have this managed river, you know the upper Green coming together with a much more natural, free flowing river and then they flow down together in a semi-managed, semi-wild state down through Canyonlands. So, you know there and on the Gunnison, where we have the Aspinall Unit, a series of dams, you know, between Curecanti and Black Canyon of the Gunnison, we've worked a lot there, you know, particularly our water resources division folks like Mark Wansel, have really worked on trying to maintain those water regimes in a way that's as close to natural that maintains most of the river dynamics there. So, what we try and do at those places is push a lot for big spring peak flows. And that runs counter to some other stakeholders, so, it takes a lot of work, but it's really what's best for the fish, best for maintaining the river channel, the habitat overtime for fish and others, it maintains a wider channel which is better in terms of flooding issues than a narrow densely vegetated channel. So that's what that's what we've been working for in the Upper Basin and working closely with the endangered Fish Recovery program up there. In the last two years since we've had this really major change in hydrology and big drops in the amount of water that's really tied to hotter temperatures, more evaporation and drier soils. And that has meant that even when we're getting close to normal levels of precipitation in the form of snowpack, which is where most of the water comes from for the Colorado River, we aren't getting the normal amount of stream flow because the soils have turned into kind of a giant sponge. They're so dry that when the snow melts, it runs back into the soil instead of super saturating and running off into the streams. So, with that water level drop, Lake Power level has dropped significantly and as that has dropped, it's creating a fish problem for the Grand Canyon and that problem is because there's a lot of non-native fish in Lake Powell. There aren't a lot of non-native fish below the dam in Grand Canyon. So, in fact, that stretch of river below the dam has been the longest stretch of the Colorado River without a lot of nonnatives. So, the natives have been doing really well, especially the federally threatened humpback chub. So, what has happened is as Lake Powell has dropped, there's a top warm layer where the fish, the non-native fish, are now starting to pass through the dam in large numbers down into the Grand Canyon. And that is bad. Especially because it's also passing warmer water. So as that top warm layer is dropping down it's reaching the main outlet for the dam, where the pen stocks are the turbines that generate hydropower. And that water is passing through passing the fish, and then they're now able to breed below the dam. So, we are really worried as the Park Service about what that's going to do to the whole aquatic community that's been pretty protected in the Grand Canyon. Will we be able to prevent those non-natives from establishing a large population and start really impacting those native fish? We're not sure. We're doing some actions, but we really need some other agencies to do actions you know as well and together we hope that combination of actions will be enough. We’re at the early stages of invasion, so I'm excited and hopeful that we can change the course of this. But it really will take a lot of action in these next few years. So that's occupying a great deal of my time right now. I feel like that is the biggest resource change on the river that I have seen, you know, during my career. And so, I am really focused on that with the hope that we can turn that ship around, make a difference there and protect those natives. Ceili: It sounds like things are changing fast in the Colorado River. What should we know about these changes? Rob: The Bureau of Reclamation, you know, is the federal government agency that really, you know, decides how to operate the dams. They've got to work within the law of the river, so, the compendium of different laws, starting with the Colorado River Compact and many other laws that modify that. What is clear is over the last 22 years there has been a greater amount of water used than we have received into the system. So, supply and demand has not balanced for 22 years and that has taken Lake Powell and Lake Mead from almost all the way full, about 95% full in the year 2000, down to where they are now which is about 25% full. So, they're hovering just above the place where they can still continue to produce hydropower. So that overuse is a really big concern. And so, for the public, I think that's something they really need to know and participate in. Right now. There's a Bureau of Reclamation planning process that's evaluating ways to address that supply and demand issue. And I think you know, that's a very important, it's the supplementary EIS for the 2007 guidelines. So, it's a mouthful. But you know if the public really looks at that process and Reclamation is doing a great job of explaining that to the public, then they will understand that for the future, if we want to keep both lakes above power pool, keep them where they can provide recreation, and you know, currently they provide recreational impact in the billions between Glen Canyon, Grand Canyon and Lake Mead. We really need to balance supply and demand. And you know, it's important for folks living in cities to consider how they use water and do water conservation on things like lawns and golf courses and things like that. But the even larger component of this is agriculture, and that's what I think the public doesn't understand, maybe, is how much water in the Southwest goes to irrigated agriculture. And so there are some big, difficult, complicated choices associated with that and would really encourage the public to interact on that planning process and try and understand the full implications of all of those decisions and participate in them, because this is the critical crux moment for the whole system, where either we may fall below these levels at which we can operate the water system well, or we figure out how to balance supply and demand, make some tough choices and really maintain the water system and our national parks for the future. So, I think that's really what public needs to understand. The other thing I would add to that is just the press often reports this as the result of a drought in the West. And based on, you know, the science that we understand as the Park Service we understand this not as a temporary drought but as the result of climate change, increasing temperatures and evaporation, and so a more permanent process called aridification, rather than drought. Drought is are really a temporary reduction in precipitation and that's not really what we're experiencing in the West. So, I think that's another important thing for the public to understand is this isn't going to return to normal. We're on a one-way trend and we need to plan for that. So that we can have water for people and water for beautiful natural places as well. Ceili: Rob spends so much time thinking about the well-being of the national parks and the communities along the Colorado River, and I wondered how it felt for him to see how climate change is affecting them. Rob: Climate change weighs heavily on me, really understanding how this works, and it can start feeling a little pessimistic. So, when I feel that way, of course, what do I do? You know, I go recreate in a National Park. I was feeling kind of at a low point with climate change concerns, you know, last fall. I had to take a day off of work and go take an 11-mile hike up steep hill in Rocky Mountain National Park and just remember that you know the size, the scope of these natural areas is large, and Mother Nature is resilient. You know, many of the things that will be first affected by climate change are human structures, our cities on the coast, things like that. But Mother Nature is, life is resilient. Natural places are large, and I think that helps me feel more optimistic. And the other thing is just, you know in my personal life, like I got solar panels a couple of years ago, I just got, you know, a heat pump for my house so I can stop using so much natural gas. And I feel like the solutions are out there for how we make changes to how we do things that have created this. We have now an electric car, well, a plug-in hybrid. So those combinations of things are available to everyone now. So again, when I feel pessimistic then, you know, it makes me feel just a little bit more in control to know that I can start doing things and maybe be an example to others of how we can change to adapt to where we are now. I think there is a way to turn the big boat around too. Ceili: The future of the Colorado River remains uncertain, but Rob Billerbeck has hope. Rob: I think I mentioned how the Colorado River provides water to 40 million people, that's 1/8th of the United States. This is just a historic time that people will look back on where we made decisions that will greatly impact the future of the Southwest and will even affect the food supply for our country and others. And so, I would really encourage the public to really try and read beyond just the headlines, read beyond just a few news articles and try and really understand what's going on, because this is very significant. We have to figure it out here. This is a harbinger of the future for, you know, the whole rest of the country. This is the drier southwest. So, it's not surprising this is the place where the effects of climate change are first really coming to a head. But how we deal with it here, you know, will be a good case study. Do we pull together as a team? Do we figure out how to adapt? How to be able to balance water use between, you know, cities and agriculture, between different states to get kind of out of our corners and work together? Or do we fail? Because the time scale of this is so rapid. Many of the old ways of doing things where we take 5 or 10 years to figure out a solution just aren't going to work. So, I think we're entering a new time and we're smart creatures. We've got big brains. We can build suspension bridges and sing gospel music together. So, we have the capability of doing this, but we really have to think about it in a new way and think about it on the time scale that matters. That's what I would leave it with is it’s an important time where I hope we become the case study of successful adaptation to climate change. Ceili: What's around the bend for the Colorado River in the face of a changing climate? What's in store for the communities that we all live in? Think of a time your community has pulled together as a team to adapt to a change and take care of each other. These are the stories that will help us move forward together. Jesse: The Behind the Scenery Podcast is brought to you by the interpretation team at Grand Canyon National Park. We gratefully acknowledge the Native peoples on whose ancestral homelands we gather, as well as the diverse and vibrant Native communities who make their home here today.

"This is the drier southwest, so it's not surprising this is the place where the effects of climate change are first really coming to a head. Do we pull together as a team? Do we figure out how to adapt? How to be able to balance water use between cities and agriculture, between different states? Or do we fail?"

Rob Billerbeck is the Colorado River Coordinator for the National Park Service. Rob highlights the challenges facing the Colorado River and why he still has hope for the future.

Your Questions Answered 2


Kate: In this episode, we're exploring all of the different questions visitors ask us here at Grand Canyon National Park.

Brendan: My name is Brendan Oates.

Kate: My name is Kate Hensel.

Brendan: And we have a special guest, Jeremy.

Jeremy: Jeremy Childs here from Interp on the Rim.

Brendan: Yeah. Good to talk to you here, we don't really get to talk to people on the rim that often, so it's good to have you! And we were thinking about it, I think out of all three of us, you've probably answered the most questions if you counted them all up.

Jeremy: Per capita?

Brendan: Yeah, Per Capita.

Jeremy: Yeah- all those shifts working at the VC. Definitely. Yeah, I miss those days, honestly. But yeah, some days we'd have a line out the door all day long from open to close, and so not unusual to do 5 or 6 hundred visitors a day.

Brendan: Wow. And how many questions do you think that would add up to?

Jeremy: Three or four different questions.


Jeremy: Yeah, no it's... It's, you know, first time here, what do we do? And then you go through your spiel. The second most question is where's the glass walkway thing? And then of course, where's the restrooms? Big one too. But literally, I mean. It's whenever someone asks a really good question like I saw this flower and they describe it to you and you're like, thank you. You're my favorite visitor of the day. Because they ask something unique, and it gives you an opportunity to think a little bit. And to expand your repertoire, rather than just your normal spiel like you know the shuttles are free, blah blah blah...

Brendan: Well, Jeremy, we have a bunch of different questions we pulled from a bunch of different sources, usually not as much asking where the bathrooms are, but more of an opinion. And you've probably heard a few of these before. So - Dive right in, Kate?

Kate: Yeah, So the first question is where is the best place to see sunset?

Jeremy: So, this is interesting because we really wanted to get to the bottom of this and so we had Rangers go out to every of the most popular spots; down the Hermit Rd. Down desert view drive, Mather Point, Yavapai Point here in the village, and we had kind of a bracket style, you know, final four type of thing, Sweet 16, where every couple of days. We would put up a new spot and the photograph and then the public, via Facebook or Twitter, would get to vote on which spot was their favorite. And our typical answer over the last few years has been Hopi point. It's the most popular by far, not unusual to get 4 or 5 hundred people out there on a good summer day. But we were thinking maybe there's something else, you know? And so, we use some North Rim spots, Desert view, you know, all over the place. And after all of that. The one that came in first was Hopi point. So, we gave them sixteen options over the course of two weeks, and the public voted, and they still chose Hopi point. So, we can at least say everyone's going to have their own. Obviously, I have my own. It's not Hopi Point, but I'm not going to share my own, because of the -- one of the reasons I love it is because it is secluded. And that's the great thing! You can find those near Hopi Point. You just walk along the rim trail in either direction for 5 minutes and all of the sudden, you're by yourself. And that's the beauty of it. It's really nice. But there's going to be lots of differences, but we tell people now that it has been voted on and decided by the public that Hopi Point is the crowd favorite at least.

Brendan: Yeah, I remember that was, when that was decided once and for all. And but were you part of that bracket? That final Four?

Jeremy: I didn't take any of the photographs, but I was voting for sure, but no, they we had a large amount of seasonals that were here. They arrived in March and literally we had two days of working the visitor center before we shut things down.

Brendan: Oh, man.

Jeremy: They were scrambling for things to do, for projects to do, and that was one of them that they came up with. I thought it was pretty cool.

Brendan: So, the next question is another one you've heard before is how many people visit Grand Canyon per year? I think it depends on the year, especially now...

Jeremy: We had our busiest year ever just two years ago, which was I think 6.38 million visitors. It's a huge number of people. Honestly, that was about what we expected. 2016, we thought it was going to be a big year and it was not quite as big because of the Centennial for the National Parks Service, and then the 2018-2019 season we thought because of our Centennial as a National Park, but it actually ended up going down just slightly from the 6.38 in that year. So, 6.38 million is the most that this park has had, and it has been hovering around 6,000,000 for about a decade now.

Brendan: And would you say we are the most visited National Park? I know, I know that's a tricky question.

Jeremy: So that that, yeah, that depends on who you ask. So, there's a lot of different ways you can look at this. So, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, they get close to 11,000,000 visitors a year. That said, they have a highway that goes through the middle of the park, and it is oftentimes the only way to get from Tennessee to North Carolina and back, and they count every single car that drives down that as like 2.3 visitors or something in their algorithm. So that's how they get to their 11,000,000 visitors per year. Now, how many of those people actually getting out of their vehicles and enjoying the resource? Not sure about that. So Great Smoky Mountain National Park can say they're the most visited National Park. There's also Golden Gate National Park in San Francisco, but they count every single concert, every single boat that comes up to a pier, every single... You know, there's... there's a lot of different ways to look at this, but if you look at people on the ground, boots on the ground, visitors that are enjoying the park in a meaningful and interpretive way, then I would say the Grand Canyon. It's typically about 2 million visitors more than its closest competitor, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion. Those places which average between 4 and 4 and a half million visitors a year.

Brendan: So yeah, and I think we see a very specific view, because you're on the South Rim, but in the Canyon, I think we've had also record numbers the last couple of years. I think the saying goes 1% out of all the Grand Canyon visitors visit the Canyon, but we've had a lot of Rim to Rim or Rim to Rim to Rim runners come the last few days.

Kate: Yeah. And we've also been seeing, as the years progress, that our Rim to Rim or Rim to Rim to Rim season are getting longer and longer, so we're seeing more people that way too. In talking about different ways of getting around the Canyon, can I bike at Grand Canyon?

Jeremy: Absolutely. It's a very bikeable park. There's basically about... I'm going to say 8 miles ish on the Hermit Road and that's nice when it's closed to traffic, because it's only accessible via the buses or walking or biking. For the majority of the year, from March 1st to the end of November, it's shuttle bus only on that road. And that means that you can bike it and it's so wonderful. They do ask that you pull off the road if a shuttle bus is coming, but they only come by every 15 or 20 minutes. So, you basically have it all to yourself. It's a really nice, paved road. You're right on the edge of the Canyon. There's lots of opportunities to stop along the way and enjoy the views. Uh, But it's safe. It's family fun. Uh, we do have the Bright Angel bicycle shop here in the park and they do a lot of tours where they will take you out in a van and they have guides that can tell you that some of the history about what you're looking at, but it it's a, it's a historic road that dates back to the early 20th century and it's since been improved several times. Wonderful ride. There's also a Greenway system that runs throughout the park. So, if you wanted to, you could bike just about the entire village area without ever having to touch a road. And that's important to us because the drivers here, they have vacation brain, they're oftentimes distracted by animals and pretty views. And so, they're not looking at the bicycles that might be on the road with them. So, we've offered a wonderful alternative to riding on the roads with all the greenways that we have here. And you received the map at the front entrance station and all the green dotted lines, those are bicycle friendly greenways. All the black dotted lines, those are pedestrian only, the solid black lines are roads, so we encourage you to take the greenways or one of the roads that are close to personal vehicles.

Kate: Yeah, switching over to the other Rim, so over on the North Rim here you can bike the Bridle Path, which takes you from the Backcountry Office area down to the visitor center. So that's a great way, if the parking lots are really full, and you can park somewhere else and then get down to the rim views near the visitor center that way. And we also have the Arizona Trail that comes through Grand Canyon, so you can bike up to the rim on the Arizona Trail. But once you get to the Canyon edge, you have to carry your bike across the Canyon, and you just told me, Brendan, that you saw some people carrying their bikes this past week.

Brendan: Yeah. No, I actually saw a guy about an hour ago carrying his bike. He started at the border between Mexico and Arizona about 18 days ago, and he was having a good time till it started snowing because he had a lot of snow in the past two days. So, he looked kind of sad because I told him there's a foot and a half of snow on the North Rim, and he has to go up through there. Yeah. But yeah, you have to carry your bike and people do it every year. Rim to Rim with a 30-pound bike and all their stuff. And we have had a few folks who missed the signs this year and ended up biking all the way down to the river. And then they were told they had to haul their bike all the way back up, so...

Jeremy: Yeah, and that's an important point to make for all wilderness areas. And it's not just Grand Canyon, but any place you see a wilderness designation in a federal land, that means that no bicycles, no motorized vehicles are allowed anywhere in those. And so, if you are riding your bike through an area, you will have to carry it through the wilderness area, so as to leave less impact on the territory.

Kate: Could I bring my dog, cat, or iguana to Grand Canyon?

Brendan: Were you there for the iguana at the visitor center a while ago?

Jeremy: Yes. Yeah. I've also seen potbelly pigs. Someone had a parrot on their shoulder not long ago. So, yeah.

Brendan: Oh, I remember that one yeah.

Jeremy: Long story short, most pets are welcome at Grand Canyon. You have to have them on a leash, and I believe the leash cannot be any longer than six feet. There are rules in place, but anywhere on the on the rim of the Canyon is typically appropriate in an outdoor setting, every building has a little different rules as to whether they allow pets inside. That said, just like bicycles, pets are not allowed below the rim of the Canyon, so you're welcome to bring your dogs on the greenways and some of the rim trail absolutely welcome on that. But pets of all kinds are not allowed on Inner Canyon trails.

Brendan: Yeah, with the exception being services, specifically service animals or livestock.

Jeremy: Right. And so yes, if you if you have a horse or a mule that you feel is capable of handling the terrain at Grand Canyon, then, yeah, absolutely. Go for it. Are there any special permits that are required if you're going to bring pack animals in?

Brendan: Uh, so Kate Hensel and I got to do a walk with a bunch of mini donkeys a few weeks ago... it was pretty awesome. I had a donkey named Winky.

Kate: My donkey was Pearl.

Brendan: Yeah. And with... there are certain things. If you're going backpacking with your animal, just like anywhere, you need to get a Backcountry permit from the back country office. But if you're doing a day hike with your donkey or horse, you those are...or mule, you can't. Those are the big three. You can't take goats and you can't take llamas, which are used in other parks. Just let people know because there's also mules and lot of traffic, but you don't need a permit. But it is good to get informed before you bring an animal down into the Canyon cause it's pretty rough in a lot of ways.

Jeremy: It is. Now, If you're going to stay in the corridor, there are special campsites for pack animals, right? That will provide a corral type of environment.

Brendan: Yeah, the stock sites are available.

Jeremy: Great.

Kate: And we have a stock site at Phantom Ranch as well as at Cottonwood.

Jeremy: and we also have them up here on the rim at the campground here. So, you could plan a whole trip around it. Pretty cool.

Brendan: Do you want to the next one, Jeremy? Or anyone... pick whatever you want.

Jeremy: What best footwear...? What is the best footwear for doing a Rim to Rim? Well, I've done a few of them and again that's a matter of personal taste. I've seen a guy do it in flip flops, house slippers, chacos, you know, stuff like that. I would never do that. My feet would get torn up I think doing that kind of thing. Plus, there's a lot of ankle twisters, a lot of opportunities to twist your ankle. And uh, that's no good. So um, the first time I hiked I wore boots with kind of a taller ankle support system in place. They're a little heavier, they're all Gore-tex, and you know, waterproof and everything you know. And that was a mistake for me. Now other people you maybe you have weak ankles. Maybe you have ankle injuries in the past and you need that, for support then I support your decision to do that. For me now I use a trail runner. I don't care if it's waterproof, I'd prefer that it be breathable because 99% of the time you're going to be hiking in a very dry, arid situation. If it's anywhere between March and October, it's going to be hot, hot, hot in the Canyon. So, you want breathable material, lightweight, flexible type of stuff. So that's what I go for now. That's my ideal rim to rim footwear, but again it's personal preference and I support anyone wearing anything they feel safe in doing it. That's the key-- is uh, honestly, a lot of the time when we do search and rescue operations, when we have to extract someone from the Canyon, inappropriate footwear has been an issue in those rescues, so.

Brendan: Yeah, I would say at least in my experience like it is more often big, heavy boots. I would say which end up being a search and rescue or a trail response or a hiker assist. I have seen a lady in high heels, and she did river and back and she was totally fine. I think that's the exception. I don't recommend that, but it is interesting how all the different footwear you do see down here, and I think in my experience I've seen so many different shoes. I'd memorized the tread of a lot of them, but you know.

Jeremy: Right.

Brendan: Maybe that's just says more about my background than anything. Yeah, what about you, Kate?

Kate: I also really like to wear trail runners for their lightness and breathability. They're also nice for doing the corridor trails at Grand Canyon, because it is really nice to be able to just, like, jump into like a Creek to get cool. And that's like the easiest way to stay cool at Grand Canyon is to just get your body wet. It's nice not having to worry about soaking your shoes because you'll know they'll be drying in like half an hour to an hour.

Brendan: Yeah, but today the entire top part of South Kaibab is completely iced over. So, keep that in mind too.

Kate: Yeah, I mean, I normally wear trail runners, but I'm going to wear my nice waterproof leather boots hiking in today.

Jeremy: With traction devices, yeah.

Kate: With traction devices, Yep, you know, wear micro spikes.

Jeremy: Yep, and that's important to remember too. If you are going to be here in the wintertime, chances are even if it hasn't snowed in a week or two, the tops of the trails like Kaibab and bright Angel, they... that ice will stay there for months. And it will be the more it gets compacted down by humans and mules walking on it, it's almost like a Zamboni drives down at every single night because it gets, like, re-iced from the melt from the top. It kind of slicks over, and then the next morning, it's like, really super slick. So, traction devices are really absolutely necessary for going to be here in the wintertime any time after the first snow. Which we just had a couple of days ago.

Kate: I'm a big fan of trekking poles too? Trekking poles.

Brendan: Yes.

Jeremy: Better to have four legs than two. Yeah, absolutely.

Brendan: You're the only thing with two legs down there. Everything else is four, I guess... and birds... whatever. All right, so what is the best trail in Grand Canyon?

Kate: So hard to answer... Of the corridor trails, I think the South Kaibab is my favorite. It's just super pretty. That said, it's like really brutal to be on it for most of the summer. So, you really need to plan what time of day you're hiking and how fast you can hike on that trail. But I really like that trail. Going off corridor, I really like... Like underneath Thunder River area on the Escalante, a layer that's a really pretty trail.

Brendan: Yeah, I would say mine is the Tanner Trail. It was the 1st trail I hiked in Grand Canyon, which is... which shouldn't be your first trail in Grand Canyon. And I got absolutely wrecked and the last mile through the Coconino sandstone, I was taking naps at every end of the switch back switch back so. It definitely impacted me, and it was definitely the hardest I've ever done, but it is a beautiful trail. I have a lot of memories on it.

Jeremy: It is I... Like Kate was saying, it depends on the time of year, and it depends on the time of day you know and it also depends if you're going down or coming up. That has a big effect on which one you should choose as well. Some are longer, which means they're not going to be as steep. But I really like the hermit area that whole the Hermit basin is just amazing. There's several different trails. Uh, the Silver Bell Trail, which is a really, really old trail. If you could connect that down to dripping spring and then come out the hermit area, to hermit's rest. That's one of my favorite day hikes to do down there, but just getting all the way down there to the other spring, Santa Maria Springs and then the, The cathedral stairs. I mean lot of really cool stuff in there. There's a reason that they had a camp at that place for decades because it is so beautiful down there and it's not grueling, it's challenging just enough, but they have rip rap paving on a lot of the trail, so you don't have to worry about twisting your ankle too much. You do get your trekking pole stuck in, between those which I hate but.

Brendan: Ohh man.

Jeremy: But it's still better than getting your leg twisted up in that so, but yeah, the Hermit area is I just love that, that area. That's one of my favorites. And there's very few people. It's kind of off the beaten path that even as accessible it as is you won't see, but a fraction of the visitors out there.

Brendan: Nice. Yeah, and on the other side of it, is there a trail that either of you do not like.

Kate: Beamer.

Brendan: Beamer, oh why?

Kate: It's just you're hiking, and you don't get a lot of different views for most of the length of it, and it's like that weird angle where your ankle is always like, just tilted a little bit and you're just doing that for miles, so.

Jeremy: I have the same complaint. When you go down Grandview, you go down about a mile and a half to two miles. You hit the saddle. That's gorgeous. It's a challenging trail. It's super cool. You're kind of in awe that they used to take little Burrows down there all the time and pull copper mining ore out of there, but then you get to that area between Horseshoe Mesa and the saddle. It's just that straight right off the side and it's it is just slightly slanted and so, you're kind of doing this number the whole-time walking, you know, kind of cocky. And there's not a whole lot of interesting things to look at because you're kind of in a side Canyon and it it's just, yeah, there's no shade at all. And so, yeah, summertime, that's definitely my least favorite couple of miles in the Canyon in this area, at least.

Brendan: I would agree with Grandview because I feel like I always almost get hit in the head by a rock every time I'm there.

Jeremy: There's that too.

Brendan: Yeah, it’s just like clockwork, hit a certain section of the trail. And you hear the sounds of the rocks bouncing, and you're like, oh man, I should just wear a helmet next time I hike that trail. I get, I get this one asked a lot, usually by visitors, and it is what is there to do at Grand Canyon at night? I think what they mean by this is like what do I do like after work? Like what's like, the Grand Canyon nightlife? And I don't think there really is any.

Jeremy: Again, it depends on where you are. But yeah, normally there's a couple of pubs. There's some live music that happens at the Bright Angel Lodge. Sometimes, Rough Riders on the North Rim is a cool place to hang out and kind of you meet the local, you know, mixed in a little bit with the people that are traveling from all over the world. So, it’s - Grand Canyon is kind of like being at an airport.


Jeremy: You know, it really is because you, you get to meet people, you know, 40% of our visitors from foreign countries and that's amazing. You know, you hear dozens of different languages every single day. And there are things to do, you know, the. Bright Angel Tavern, El Tovar, Yavapai Lodge, the Yav Tav. You know that's a great place to go and meet people from all over the world and you share your stories about your hike you did and how tired you are, and you get to laugh at people that are doing the Kaibab shuffle. You know you can, those are the ones that just came out of from Phantom.


There is stuff to do here normally, but even without the social aspect, there are things to do. You can take a drive down Desert View and find a quiet spot and watch the Milky Way come alive, watch the shooting stars, watch the full moon, come up over Shiva temple and stuff like that, you know. So, there's lots to do here at night that doesn't involve a lot of socializing.

Brendan: I think a lot of people have Vegas on the brain when they come out here because Vegas is a pretty major airport to us, yeah.

Jeremy: Absolutely. Absolutely yes.

Brendan: And I would agree most of my evenings are looking at stars or looking at bats. And yeah, not traditional nightlife stuff.

Jeremy: Looking for scorpions with the black light.

Kate: Oh yeah, yeah.

Brendan: Speaking of Scorpions, how many people get stung by Scorpions, and what do I do if I get stung by one? I don't know if you get this question in time, but we get this everyday

Kate: “Is this a scorp sting?”

Jeremy: Yeah, we don't have the scorpions on the on the rim so much so.

Kate: Yeah, we get asked about them pretty often at Phantom Ranch. Because there's a lot of places there that will hang out. I mean in, the Canyon in general. And it's fun. After programs down there, we'll go out with a black light and look at, like the good, sweet spots for finding scorps, and we'll get a lot of questions then about like, what does it feel like to be sung by a bark scorpion, which I've never been stung, but I've heard it described as having, like, a feeling of TV static, just like going up your arm from where you were bit or your foot or wherever. But generally, it's not too dangerous to be stung by a scorpion. It'll be a little unpleasant, a bit painful, but otherwise you don't have to worry too much about it being a life threat. With a few exceptions of really young kids that can get pretty serious quickly, but you probably know more about that.

Brendan: Yeah, with young kids, it's scary. We're hear a few people say they're allergic to scorpion stings, and there's, like, not a ton of research about if you're and you can have anaphylaxis through scorpion stings. But kids will do this weird thing if they get stung by, like, foam at the mouth and stuff, and that's really freaky. But the only danger is if you were very, very young, old, or you know, have an immune deficiency where the scorpion sting can be very serious. That being said, our volunteer down at Phantom, Sjors, said you have about 1 in 1000 percent of 1 one in 1000 chance to being stung by a scorpion, because you have about one sting per week, and there's roughly 1000 people who stay at Phantom between the campground, the staff, and the ranch. But I would say if you get stung, Sjors has told me to cowboy up, or cry and feel bad for yourself. So, you can, you know, go either direction. Really.

Jeremy: And, and both.

Brendan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. They're not mutually exclusive. Yeah.

Jeremy: No, they're not. Kate:

Brendan, what's your favorite snack food to have in the Canyon?

Brendan: Well, I don't have access to restaurants, and I've eaten some pretty disgusting things over my years. I would say the classic is mixing ramen noodles with instant mashed potatoes, which is referred to as a ramen bomb in many places. And yeah, I would say I also don't typically carry a stove in the Canyon. I would cold soak it in like a jar of sorts like a peanut butter jar with a lid. And I think I've horrified several people eating this weird combination of foods, but it has a lot of salt, which is very important in the Canyon and also a lot of calories.

Jeremy: Salt and carbs.

Brendan: Yeah. I would not say that's a good long term nutritional plan, but that's what I eat a lot.

Kate: Yeah, I actually do like to carry a stove because I really like having tea when I'm backpacking in the morning, it's just super awesome to be able to like, sit on an edge overlooking the Canyon and just drink some tea. But generally, for just eating, ramen's really handy to just like have emergency packs of in your bag, once again for that salt. And though it's super tricky to eat in the Canyon I do often go through the struggle of bringing chocolate down in the Canyon and eating it and having it melt everywhere.

Brendan: That's high risk, yeah.

Kate: It is but, high reward.

Brendan: Well, you're now officially in like chocolate bar season where it's not 115 all the time. My Snickers bar froze today, so if that makes you feel better on your hike down.

Jeremy: I like jellybeans. That's my sugar fix. When I'm on the trails that that works real well because they don't, they don't typically melt, but they might stick together a little bit, flavor combination.

Brendan: I know one Ranger where she has a like a pocket where she just loosely stuffs jellybeans and Skittles, and I think she has the caffeinated kind, so she's the fastest hiker I know of in the Canyon.

Jeremy: Yep, plus it kind of keeps your mouth moist.

Brendan: Oh, yeah.

Jeremy: You know, if you have something kind of suck on like that. So even when it's super-duper hot, it's oddly soothing to have something like that so.

Brendan: I haven't hiked with jellybeans, but I'll have to try it.

Jeremy: I like the sour ones.

Brendan: Ooh. Alright. Well, Jeremy, thank you so much for helping us out and answering a lot of questions.

Jeremy: Absolutely. I had fun.

Brendan: Yeah. And Kate, if people wanted to ask questions, what's the best way?

Kate: When the visitor center is open, that's a great place to come talk to us. Down in the Canyon, we have contact stations, so that's great. And you can also reach out to us on Facebook and our other social media accounts. And then you can also call the park for general questions.

Jesse: Behind the Scenery is brought to you by the interpretation team at Grand Canyon National Park. We gratefully acknowledge the Nativ People’s on whose ancestral homelands we gather, as well as the diverse and vibrant Native communities who make their home here today.

Brendan: Hello, I just hiked out of the Grand Canyon, and I smell bad.

What's the best place to see sunset? What do I do if I get stung by a scorpion? What footwear will help me break Jim Walmsley's R2R2R FKT? You ask - we find the answers together! After google-ing what the most common questions people were asking about Grand Canyon in online searches, rangers Kate, Jeremy, and Brendan do their best to answer them.

First Voices - Colleen Lucero


Elle: Welcome to the Behind The Scenery podcast. Today, we'll be chatting with Colleen Lucero, a woman who has played a major role in showcasing the historic roles of Hopi women in the Fred Harvey Company.

Colleen: (Introduction in Hopi) My name is Colleen Lucero and I'm from the village of Hotevilla, and I'm Katsina clan. Yeah, and currently I'm the managing director for the Hopivewat Learning Center. It's a historical project that we revived in trying to create a Hopi cultural Education Center for the Hopi people. The Hopis have been trying to build their own museum / Learning Center for about 40 years. I actually changed careers, I went back to school, and I came back and kind of dusted off the old plans with a group of other individuals, and we asked tribal council if we could revive the project, but with emphasis [that] we would become a nonprofit. So that happened in 2007 - so I'm just happy, and I've always loved history and I've always loved sharing about our culture and so it's just nice - to be - to have what I enjoy fit into a career, so to speak, yeah.

Elle: Absolutely.

Colleen: The Hopi Harvey Project is a traveling exhibition that showcases the contributions made by the Hopi people, and in that is their stories, their oral histories, talking about when they work for Fred Harvey, and then also historical photos that have been shared with permission to share and to show other people that this is who they were at that time. And then also, donated items to The Harvey Project, such as vintage brochures, we have glass plates used to make postcards with a Hopi image on it, and even some restricted items that are not appropriate to share. But a lot of people have been donating items toward the project because they know that family members might not appreciate them later. So, in a nutshell, that's all that's included in the travelling exhibition, and it continues to grow. And then we're hoping to house all this material, the interviews, the photos, the collections material, at the Learning Center someday and let it be a part of that era of our modern histories.

Elle: Yeah, that always makes it very helpful. So, the Hopi Harvey girls Project is something that you did within The Learning Center. Can you tell me more about it?

Colleen: Yeah, well, actually, I did it when I was going to school.

Elle: Oh.

Colleen: I was attending the Institute of American Indian Arts, pursuing my degree in Museum Studies and so we had to pick a senior thesis, senior project. So, I was gearing up toward it. My grandmother, I'm really close with my grandmother, and when we used to go to our town days, like from the reservation to the next border town, she would always tell me these stories about when she worked at the La Posada. And as I got older, I tried to do the research myself, read books that were written about Fred Harvey. But our histories were never in those books. They were always about the other perspective and so, I thought about it, and I said, wouldn't it be great to have - do a mini exhibit about this because Harvey girls are only supposed to be known as white Anglo women, nobody of color? And so, it was kind of hard to believe when you would ask somebody else about it. And then, sadly, my grandmother died my junior year. And in Hopi we respect the dead, and we’re not supposed to talk about them, we're not supposed to bring them up if it's going to cause us discomfort, or, there's just certain cultural protocols about that. So, I thought maybe, I shouldn't do it. And um - but in going through her things, I found all the stuff she would talk about. All her friends, pictures and it kind of just, I felt like it was tugging at me like, you know, you really should just - this is for you now to share with others. And so, I decided for it to be a memoir to my grandmother. And as I started to do more research as to who those people were in there, she wasn't the only one that worked for Fred Harvey from the Hopi community, there was actually a lot of people, men and women.

Elle: Yeah.

Colleen: And so, the more and more I explored, that's when I decided to call it the Hopi Harvey Project and just showcasing all the elders and their contributions to at Harvey Company. And like I said, you know, a lot of stories were told at the other side of the tracks, but never ours. And so yeah, that's how it all began.

Elle: That’s a really beautiful story. Really touching.

Colleen: Yeah, it was hard for me at first, but I know I found strength in the other people who were still alive that, that should be shared also and so they comfort me a lot. And my mom used to say, “All you ever do is hang out with old ladies.”


Colleen: But yeah, it was a lot. There was a time there that I would go see this person, that person, and you know, you kind of get attached to them, and they were happy too that somebody was taking an interest in that time period because, it was way before my time, yeah, I’d only known of it because of my grandmother. Yeah.

Elle: Did you ever find that anyone would push back against wanting to share their story or most or were most people really excited to share?

Colleen: I think at first, that's always the case with native elders because they have a lot of trauma with like people being invasive, people not accepting them for who they are. And so, I think it was important for me to show them who I was, what village I was coming from, who my family was, and most importantly, the story of my grandmother, that kind of helped break down those barriers, you know. I wasn't just somebody who was basically demanding information from them and making them uncomfortable, and I wanted to be an advocate for that. Like, so at first it was just reassuring them that this is what I would do, that what I was trying to do, and I wasn't going to exploit any of the information and if there was something that they didn’t want to be shared, then I would respect them.

Elle: So,do you think that doing this project was kind of a path of healing for you and for you personally with your grandmother, with the loss there and with your community as a whole?

Colleen: Yeah, most definitely. And it helped ensure all our values that we talk about in Hopi and that's that they live on within us. They live on with what we were taught. And so, it just reiterated what I'm sure she probably would have wanted it for me, and a lot of times when we miss people that are gone, we have to kind of look for the different signs and the different ways in the air, or just that feeling of comfort. So, I saw that a lot of the other people that were becoming a part of the project too.

Elle: Yeah, absolutely. So, circling back around to the project itself and thinking about the stories of these women, how did they manage the intersection of working for Fred Harvey with their cultural traditions?

Colleen: The good part was that these women, the locations weren't so far, you know, they were working at Winslow, they were working at Grand Canyon very seldomly, they would get shipped out to like Death Valley or Seligman. And so, these areas were relatively close to home. So, they could go back and participate like when ceremonies would come up. But I also want to mention that you know they were the first, I guess, to really step out and be able to show us that we could balance both worlds by having a working profession and skill. Being a part of our culture and carrying that on, I think it was really important to acknowledge them as them taking that step instead of not trying to make a means for themselves. And whatever they made, they always brought it home and put it towards something toward the community or to help their families. It helped them be more self-sufficient.

Elle: Yeah. When you said like shipped off per se to further away locations, did they have autonomy to choose where they got to work or did they just sign up to work for Fred Harvey? And then they got put where they were needed?

Colleen: Yeah, I believe it was that way. And I think when they got signed up, everybody saw a potential in them and then said there were these other job opportunities and so they would go. Because I never heard anyone of them say, “well, we were forced, and we had no choice but to go.” You know, it was an option for them to advance, they thought of it. So, I don't think there was, I don't think they were forced to go, it was just what opportunities were available to them.

Elle: Absolutely. What started you down this path of research and storytelling? You talked a little bit about your grandmother and your senior thesis.

Colleen: I at a very early age, I went to a museum in New York. And it was a new Native American museum, you know, and we went there, and I came across my tribe, and it was just one little thing. And I told my friend who wasn't Hopi, I told her at the time she was my sponsor, I said “God, you know, there's so much more to us than this.” And so, at a very young age, I wanted to change that narrative. I wanted to be able to tell people about us in a more respectful way because, it's always just like bits and pieces and it's, like I said earlier, it's always demanded what people want of us to learn about our tribe, the Hopi tribe. But it's never what we want people to learn about us, and so, I was only like a freshman, and so I was like, man, I need to work in a museum, change this. And so, for me, it was, been a long time coming and you know, I was already setting this avenue. I had a few setbacks here and there, but ultimately, it always came around and so and now I'm dedicating mostly all of my time to helping preserve these histories, helping to share them. Um yeah.

Elle: That’s an awesome story. It's always fun to be young and -

Colleen: Yeah, it's you know.

Elle: Like, just see it clearly laid out in front of you.

Colleen: And then we just always had a funny saying between me and my friend, like, “well, what do I know? I'm just an Indian, you know.” But yeah, there's truth to that in some sense. That's how we feel sometimes in these spaces, that we're not allowed to have that voice. Yeah, yeah.

Elle: Yeah, with somebody else writing your narrative. What could you know about telling her?

Colleen: Yeah, or totally ignoring you altogether, um, until they want something from us, then being more important again.

Elle: Yeah. Yeah, of course. So, what do you wish that people knew about the Hopi?

Colleen: Uhm, I think I think more, um, there is more to us than black and white photos – uh - Katsina dolls and pottery. You know, we have modern histories ourselves, and we're just trying to maneuver through all the times, just like everybody else. And I want people to be more of a bit more respectful about what we choose not to share. I think that should be more common ground, then what I need to know “I'm going to go search on YouTube” or “I'm going to find a way to find out." Because a lot of that information that people are seeking about our tribe, our culture, that’s earned knowledge that even we have to work for. And so, I just wish people would understand that more and realize that we're not just the people in those photos still, because I think there's a lot of misconception that we still live on the mesas, we don't. We're not trying to build museums, you know, stuff like that. But we're also mothers, we're also fathers, family members, we’re just like anybody else, you know, so.

Elle: Yeah, absolutely. Um, I know that you've been able to travel around in sharing the Hopi Harvey Project, what's been your favorite place that you've gone to share it?

Colleen: My absolute favorite was doing a home exhibit for one of my elders, for one of the ladies that were participating. She was a really shy woman; her name was Dolores Komaquaptewa and she was just so kind, but she was a little shy and she had fell, and so she was kind of scared to go anywhere. And so, she missed the opening. And I said, “Oh, don't worry about it, I'll bring it to you,” because it was a traveling exhibition and that was the main my main goals was to bring it into the community rather than having it at these venues, that was not realistic for any elder out in the Hopi Reservation. They go to dialysis 3 times a week, some of them, and some of them don't have means of transportation. And then they got to dress up and feel, you know, it was just so I brought it home to her home. We set up the exhibit panels, we put it under her TV or the DVD, and she invited her most closest relatives, and they watched it together. And there was also a lot of laughter, giggling about it, but then at the end they talked about their family values, about how their father, who was one of the first chairmans of the Hopi tribe, was always in favor of progression, was always in favor of moving forward and working hard. And so, they just kind of reminded each other about that and, to me, that was really fulfilling because like, you know, nobody ever tries to accommodate them, you know, they're always rushing them around. They're always like, hurry up or like it's a burden. And so, now that she's not here anymore, you know, I have really fond memories of her like that, and with her family. And so now we share them with the next generation, you know, so I think that was far better than any opening you know on opening night where we're all just up and having hors d’oeuvres or whatever. It was just in her home, bringing it to her and letting her take it in for what it was. For them, not anybody else, and that was just like the best thing, the best. Yeah, and I would like to do more of those.

Elle: Yeah. That's amazing. Yeah, that’s a great part about traveling exhibits is they can move around.

Colleen: Yeah, and then we don't have a museum in Hopi. And so, I did it at elderly centers, I did it at schools, I did it wherever I could, wherever there was a place for me to plug in I did it over there and so, I wanted it to come home first, then let it travel out in the public so that way I got, I guess confirmation for me, and then any suggestions that the community had that I would bring that out to a wider audience. And so that's when we started doing more outside presentations at different venues.

Elle: Yeah, absolutely. What was the most impactful story that you heard?

Colleen: Gosh, like I said, you know, it started off as a memoir, but later on, it was so important about how much this topic leads into other dialogue, important dialogues such as commodification of our culture and then the major contributions that the Hopis brought to the railroad. And then, of course, cultural misappropriation. A lot of things were misappropriated at that era, and it's kind of cringe worthy, but like it was what it was. And then how very early on we were already had our foot in the door of cultural tourism. Like, those are some of the main topics, but also like the softer side of things about friendship, about collaboration, and then the resilience of our culture, we were still maintaining our culture and sharing it through a modern avenue of things. It wasn't no longer people coming to the village, it was us doing performances outside, sharing things with the outside audience, at like the Grand Canyon, per say or Hopi House, so those are those different venues. We never stopped being Hopi and we never died out. You know, like a lot of people thought, oh, let's collect all of this stuff and let's you know, recreate this these things because the Indians are going to die out, they're all going to disappear, you know, and so I think that was the bigger picture that this project has brought me. We need to have those conversations on what it was then and where we're at now, you know. What was good about it? What was bad about? And keep pushing forward and sharing that with our younger people and telling them that some things are not appropriate, but we also have a responsibility, because we were also doing the same thing as far as selling our items and how they became tourist items as down the line from like a utilitarian type of art or craft, yeah. I've gotten to know the Fred Harvey family and their grandchildren and it's kind of like, you know, we all connect on the same thing like, but they're like a whole other different family. But like, we relate to what we're talking about and they always say, “Blessings from your Harvey family,” you know, and I'm just like, wow.

Elle: I'm sure.

Colleen: I don't even know Fred Harvey would have even thought that either that his grandkids would be still making those connections with people at Hopi and visiting Hopi and sharing stories. You know, it's just all a bigger picture.

Elle: Yeah, that’s really cool.

Colleen: Definitely, yeah.

Elle: UM, have you kept in contact with any of the folks you interviewed?

Colleen: Yeah, all of them. Until they all passed away. My last lady to pass away was Olive, and she worked for Fred Harvey for 30 years.

Elle: Oh, wow.

Colleen: A long time. And she was just the sweetest person. And she came home to take care of her parents. And uh, she was, she lived up to 100, so a lot of these people have since gone, but I try to keep in touch with their families, and they appreciate it when they have somebody else acknowledge their family histories and that was important thing for them. They were my ladies up until they left here, but I like to think they're still guiding me, especially when I share the funny things that they would talk about and just enjoying each other's company. I think also that’s the thing that we all enjoy within each other.

Elle: Yeah.

Colleen: Yeah, and I'm going to make it a goal, and a personal thing to make sure that all these stories, all the memoirs, all the photos are going to be in an archive, and other people are going to be able to utilize those as a resource when they want and when they need it.

Elle: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Did a lot of these, women know each other before your project, before you started interviewing them - Were they like a pretty tight knit community?

Colleen: Some did some know of each other, but some had only heard of each other because we have 12 different villages out in Hopi, and you know they always know, if they didn't know each other directly, they knew somebody who knew them, you know, and so I think it was safe to say that they were all connected at some point.

Elle: How has doing this project benefited your role in your community and then going on that as well, how has this project benefited your community as a whole?

Colleen: The Hopi community is an oral history community, so a lot of our history, a lot of our teachings are done from word of mouth. But the times that we're living in now, we have to find that in between on how our younger people are learning as to how the older people are learning and finding in between. So, we're hoping that this Learning Center will be a place to do that, and not necessarily take over the traditional roles of the villages and their learning circles, but just be able to house those resources when we need them. Yeah, so I think, there’s just a lot to it with having a cultural Education Center and how we are going to manage our cultural resources ourselves. Because we don't have this place, everybody's doing that for us and it's not necessarily how we would like it or it's not necessarily within our values. I think that's going to be huge. That's the biggest impact because Hopi isn’t about ownership, it's more about stewardship, and the museum's perspective is that while these collections are ours, these collections don't have a life. We manage what we want to do with these collections, not the people that were it came from. Yeah, you know, so, I think that's the bigger impact is just being able to manage our cultural resources on our home.

Elle: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.

Colleen: A lot of times when people want to talk about native culture, native subjects, they're not native themselves, so for us being able to provide our own narratives is a huge goal that we're pushing forward and wanting that to happen more, rather than people researching us and being self-proclaimed experts when they've never lived our life, and they've never endured all the traumas.

Elle: How do you suggest people from anywhere can create tighter knit intentional spaces within their communities?

Colleen: I think we; I think the most important thing is you need to fall back on how your community exchanges knowledge. How is that happening? Take a take a deeper look into that rather than bringing foreign methods, foreign research, into that particular community and it not working out. I think people tend to go by structure all the time, rather than having it happen organically. And so that's just my suggestion that like, you know you have to study how knowledge is being shared first before you try to step into that community and say, well, this is what I want for you or from you. And then not only that, we just need to be respectful. And I'll just, you know, circle back around to, about how there should be a need not to know like, whatever we decide that we don't want to share, that should be respected. Just because of how things have happened in the past. You know, we Hopis tend to be prisoners of their own hospitality. We go in with a good intention, sharing stuff with people so they'll understand that moment and that time of what's happening. But the other person, outside of our community like, “oh well, he shared that with me. It must be okay. And I'm going to write a book about it and talk about it and maybe romanticize it a little bit so it could sell.” You know, I think I think that's wrong. A lot of things have been romanticized about tribal history and you just have to see what's appropriate within those communities first. Yeah, and there's no right or wrong way I thin. There might be protocols, important protocols like forms of release and copyright and all of that, but I think for the most part, some of it has to most of it has to be done organically.

Elle: Yeah, absolutely.

Colleen: And sometimes I even serve cantaloupe a la mode because that was something that the ladies talk about, the different dishes they talked about and stuff. And so, I think to be immersed in something and be able to experience it, we have to have all of our senses involved ourselves.

Elle: Yeah, absolutely. Colleen: Whenever I do that, it’s always a hit.


Colleen: You know, people might not remember the Hopi Harvey Project, but they'll remember that cantaloupe a la mode.


Colleen: So, yeah.

Elle: Oh that’s so funny. Thanks for joining us for this episode of Behind the Scenery. Special thanks to Colleen for taking the time to speak with us today, and for sharing these critically important stories. See you next time on Behind the Scenery. We gratefully acknowledge the native peoples on whose ancestral homelands we gather, as well as the diverse and vibrant native communities who make their homes here today.

Colleen Lucero is the managing director of the Hopivewat Learning center and the founder of the Hopi Harvey Project, which preserves the stories of Hopi elders who worked for the Fred Harvey Company and helped to shape tourism at the Grand Canyon. On this episode, listen as Colleen shares stories about what inspired her robust career and speaks about her efforts to document, share, and preserve familial histories of Hopi elders through the Hopi Harvey Project with the help of cantaloupe a-la-mode.

First Voices - Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps Crew 663


Crew 663: Keshi! (Hello in Zuni)

Dave: Hello. I'm Ranger Dave. And also on this episode is former Ranger Lauren, who now volunteers for the park and works at the Grand Canyon Conservancy, which is the nonprofit that supports Grand Canyon National Park. The Conservancy sponsors many programs. One of them is the Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps. We interviewed this group from Zuni, New Mexico, crew 663. This Indigenous group works on conservation projects. They call each project a hitch this lasts eight days on and six days off. Each hitch is a different park and a different job. We caught them on their last day of work at the North Rim. Here's what they shared with us.

Crew 663: My name is Robert Riley. I'm the crew leader for 663.

Crew 663: Jerick Yuselen King Junior. I'm a crew member for Crew 663

Crew 663: Tyrese Marza. I’m also a crew member of 663.

Crew 663: Hello, my name is Darian Seowtewa, and I'm also a crew member with 663 out of Zuni, New Mexico.

Crew 663: Hello, my name is Brooke Seowtewa. I am from CREW 663 and from Zuni, New Mexico.

Lauren: Great. Are you all from Zuni, New Mexico? Yes, just to make sure. Great. Let's talk about Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps, and just a little bit of background for those who might not know.

Crew 663: We're basically a crew that's sent up to preservation projects, whether that be mortar work, trail work, seed collection as well. It's a variety of different works that a crew is assigned to additional different national parks. Okay. Yeah.

Lauren: So you're at Grand Canyon National Park on the North Rim, have you been on the south rim as well or just for visitation?

Crew 663: Okay. No, not for working.

Lauren: Are there any other national parks you'll be going to.

Crew 663: Yeah, there. There will be plenty, but I'm not sure what our schedule is like right now. But okay, yeah, we're definitely going to be going to different national parks.

Lauren: Great. And then also, like on the North Rim, your finishing up a project here, working with Laura with some seed collection. Can you talk about what you were doing there?

Crew 663: Yeah. So we were collecting seeds for a construction job that's happening. They're going to be working on the road and after the road is done, they want to revegetate the area that has been worked on, basically.

Lauren: Okay, yeah, very cool. Very cool. What's the biggest impact of your work so far that you've seen personally or maybe a favorite moment that you've had so far? While, working for ancestral lands.

Crew 663: Well, for me, I have to say the mental mentality of everybody in the crew, because I think that's one of the main important things, especially if you're going to be on hitch, they’re your next family, they're going to be the people you're going to be living with for eight days. So the way I think of it is when I see everybody's mentality, mentality, high spirited and ready to do the work, get it, get the job done, I see that we can accomplish it even if one of our crew isn't feeling so up and spirits, we could still like lift their spirits up throughout the day just by being together as a family and just being one with the program. Also, so just getting the job done beginning the day and finishing at the end is very accomplishing.

Crew 663: I think for myself, the most favorite project that I've ever did was the first ever local project that we did in Zuni, which was trailhead signs with our partnering project Zuni Youth Enrichment Program, or project that was a really great project because we could actually contribute something to our community that has hasn't been seen, and we kind of paved the way to potentially more projects locally.

Crew 663: We have a lot of land resources that we can help better our community, and I think just that little nudge in the right direction was a good start to kind of better our community. And also being out here at the Grand Canyon, this is where we as Zunis first emerge. Being able to work where our first home is, is really what I feel is in the interest of ancestral lands is in itself.

Crew 663: So those are a few great moments that I have working with this program, and hopefully more will come.

Crew 663: Yeah, my favorite moment with Ancestral Lands was probably last season during when we got the hitch to go out and help with Access Fund in Utah with Canyonlands. Growing up I always used to like watch rock climbers and I actually got to work with them, right beside them, built their trails, and that was one of the favorite moments.

Crew 663: I guess for myself, I think the biggest impact I’ve, I've seen is the people that come into the program. Usually during the first weeks, like people are, you know, they're really shy and like they have like really come out of their shell. But like throughout the whole program, you know, everybody you know, the like Brooke said, it's a family for eight days. You live together, you eat together, work together, sweat together, all that, do all the hard work together. And, um, at the end of the day, and at the end of the the whole season, you can see that everybody really blossoms out and comes out of their shell. And that's what I think I like about the program, is that that's the biggest impact because that was for me, myself, I was really shy, I was introverted.

Crew 663: But you know, this is my third year now, So like, I'm I'm not afraid to, like, express myself and stuff like that. So yeah, that was pretty much. And also the people you meet too in the program and it's really cool meeting like new family members. Yeah.

Crew 663: You see, the biggest impact that this has has for me is like, like the physical, like pushing yourself, like kind of like, can you trying to go beyond, like, what you can normally do, just like that mental and physical, like pushing and pushing yourself and like just trying to be sure to get the job done and all that and pushing yourself throughout the like the hot weather and sweating and all that. And then also like meeting new people as whole too like this is my first season so meeting them is pretty, it's been a pretty fun time and especially with Robert as our leader now too it's pretty fun.

Lauren: Did you all know each other before this program?

Crew 663: I kind of knew Jerick. He was my classmate in high school, but we never really like crossed paths in high school.

Crew 663: It's no, not for me. I’m a little older than these guys.

Crew 663: And this is my cousin.

Crew 663: I've known Brooke my whole life. We grew up together. Yeah, practically sister and brother.

Crew 663: Basically. Yeah.

Crew 663: You should hear them at work.

Crew 663: Going back and going back and forth.

Lauren: Speaking of that, what's the funniest moment you've had?

Crew 663: Oh, with this?

Crew 663: Yeah, with this crew? Well, with basically any crew and ancestral lands. Like I said, we are a family. And a family just builds that bond, that one specific connection that everybody can just laugh throughout the whole day no matter what it is. And that is basically what we are as a crew, no matter how small it is, no matter how silly it may be, even if even if it's like a mistake or a mishap, we still laugh about it.

Crew 663: We still like not to us, nothing is a mistake when it comes to being on hitch. We either make a mistake and we learn from it, and when we learn from it, we just continue to move forward. So with that being said, we just this crew doesn't really have a specific favorite moment, and any second is a favorite moment.

Crew 663: Anything can happen with this. Anyone can say anything and everybody would just laugh. So that one thing with us while we're even, while we're working, we're never really quiet. We're always talking, we're always communicating with each other, keeping, making sure everybody's all right. Everybody is hydrated. Everybody's like, in high spirits. So that yeah, that being said, it's never really a dull moment ever. And with this crew. Any other crew. Cool. Yeah.

Dave: I was kind of curious about being away from home. You know, you guys are away for eight days or maybe more if you're doing multiple these, like, what's that like? What's it like to kind of to get away and to kind of explore these other parks, you know, positive, negative. But yeah, just curious.

Crew 663: For me personally, but me being this is my first year as a crewman and my fourth hitch, my first, it was very, very difficult. I go, I'm a very tight we have a very tight knit family and I've always been around my dad 24/7 never been able to leave his side. But when this job came up and the opportunity of being able to leave home for eight days and visit new areas, not just one specifically, but just different around New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, it was a scary experience at first, but once I got to know everybody, it became more easier.

Crew 663: But it it you get homesick in the beginning, I won't lie, but eventually it just starts easing up and you just forget about home. Not in a bad way, but just like in the, you know, homes home always be there. But being out on the field is a special opportunity. It's a once in a lifetime. I'll live it, learn it, love it, you know.

Crew 663: So definitely there are those hard times that you come across where you get anything and everything from the heat to the extreme cold. But so as long as you have a good bond with your crew members, it makes the time pass. I see this being away for eight days is both good and bad, meaning that you miss out on some family occasions.

Crew 663: You miss out on maybe a concert that you wanted to go to, but at the same time, it's also could be an escape for somebody too from a rough home life and a lot of people back home are facing that dilemma that there is unfortunately, housing isn't really stable. So, this could be an outlet for maybe somebody to get away.

Crew 663: And it is therapy walking out in the trails, doing hard work, getting rewarded with food at the end of each day, even just going to bed tired. It is a really rewarding job being away for eight days. Of course, it's a sacrifice, but again, we get opportunities like right now being able to talk to you two, and being able to meet Laura, Dan, anybody from the National Park Services. It's a real privilege and honor to be in this position. And if you can get through with that mentality, then eight days is practically nothing.

Crew 663: Yeah.

Crew 663: The crews and just the scenery, the whole everything about the program, you know, it just kind of helps. It eases you into the transition of being away from home, basically. So yeah. And then also the crew members just, uh, make make the day because it just, it doesn't really feel like you're away from home because you still have like people from Zuni to interact with you.

Crew 663: So yeah, we, we still talking in our language too as well. So like it, it keeps me, it still feels like I'm home.

Crew 663: Where we are from Zuni, New Mexico it is a very, uh, not very, a very good opportunity place, uh, for us youth. We have to really reach out for good opportunities, especially like this kind. Our community is a very small, close knit reservation, so because it's a reservation, we're not handed the opportunities so easily. Like many people out here, we ourselves as youth, have to make that step for ourselves, forward to push ourselves to have the courage to go for these opportunities right when they're not handed, but right when they're out there.

Crew 663: So when this for these positions came open, applications came in quick for this the these positions. So it's it's like a very I don't know our youth back home are very in like a, I can't say a harsh state but like in the very difficult state right now, especially since I used to work with the program called Zuni Youth Enrichment Program, I work with the kids firsthand and I've been doing that for five years. And I've noticed that. Our kids, our children back home are. Yeah, they come from rough homes. Many of them come from rough homes. Some of them don't have water. Some of them don't have electricity. Some of them don't even have as much money as they can to last a month. So us young ones are we also have so many elderly and our elderly there don't, can't be able to do things that they want to do.

Crew 663: So us being a youth, we have to also provide not just for our younger ones, but for our older, elderlies there. And it's very difficult because it kind of puts a stress on us being away from home, especially knowing that we this is our only income maybe for that specific family and just knowing that it is also hard being away from home.

Crew 663: And yeah, these opportunities are very hard to come by. So it's kind of up to the person in the community to make that step forward, to do what they need to do, to also just get out of the reservation and to make a life for ourselves out there in the world and to also just come back home and teach everyone back there and make sure that not just to make ourselves feel good, but to make our community members prosper and to grow better and to become more educated, not just in the forest area, but also just like in a business wise, just for any of us to get out there.

Crew 663: But yeah, just knowing that it's like a very smart area, you don't really hear, Zunis going out there and making names for themselves. So it is very nice for us to be out here making representing where we're coming from.

Lauren: What motivates all of you. That's what I love to hear. And what do you think it takes to motivate others as well in Zuni as well?

Crew 663: I think what motivates me is just our heritage, our culture, our traditional teachings that we got to be caretakers of the land and I think personally would be my grandfather. His name is Alex Seowtewa. He instilled in us very humble teachings. He taught us a lot. And with that I some day wish to not necessarily be like him, but inspire people to, I guess, make themselves change and see life in a different perspective.

Crew 663: Because one quote that he always said is Life a gift and it's short. Make the best of it. That's not the last part is part of his quote. That's something that came up on the spot with. But it's definitely his teachings and his way of life that motivate me to be the best person that I can, even though it's a difficult time, even though I sometimes don't want to wake up in the morning.

Crew 663: But it's that's definitely the teachings that also motivate me to do better just in life. In general.

Crew 663: What motivates me is, I don't know. I just have this, um, ambition that I feel like I need to do something, you know? And, uh, uh, and I'm just lucky to have the opportunity to be in ALCC because not only that, like, gave me something to do, but like the sites that we visit and the, the places that relate to Zuni, it just made me feel more spiritually connected, more into my, uh, culture as well.

Crew 663: You know, it's, I don't know, it just, it just brought something out. So, like, uh, I feel really lucky to be working at the sites, to be visiting those sites and to be working on them and also preserving them to make sure that they're still here for the younger generation as well. Because I feel like they, they really need to see these things too, as well, to keep to maybe spark, to maybe get that spark like the way I did to keep that, uh, uh, to keep that going.

Dave: You know, I'm wondering, like, what do we hope that this internship and this time spent here is leading us towards? So maybe like what career path, what, what bigger ideas? What else are we thinking about?

Crew 663: I'm hoping that will lead to, um, um, I guess more opportunities with the park for different crews as well. Uh, whether it be just like, uh, like, like what we were doing with seed collecting, maybe there might be trail work or just any other work that, um, hopefully there would be more opportunities to come work here at the North Rim and the South Rim as well.

Crew 663: And also, um, I guess just to inspire the youth that there's opportunities out there for to come out here. Maybe, you know, find something that they like and you know, it could also lead to a career path with, you know, national parks. Yeah.

Crew 663: I think for the for Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps, going off of what Robert said is it paves the way for new opportunities for our youth that they can come out here, explore the world that they live in, go beyond the horizons of what they feel comfortable traveling to and just really getting out there, getting their names out there. And on the on the personal career goal path that I would like to share is I would definitely love to someday come back to Grand Canyon, someday wish to be a national park law enforcement ranger here at Grand Canyon National Park. And hopefully, who knows, that might actually go into different national parks. But for now, I'm kind of just gaining the experience, gaining knowledge of how it's like to talk to people about quick decisions, making stuff that you need, the law enforcement aspect, and also just really finding the core values of what it means to protect and preserve this national monument, National Park.

Crew 663: For me, I, for me, Ancestral Lands is a very amazing pathway, and also it is a stepping stone for me personally to go into the BIA. That is my main goal I want to go into, because what motivates me is not just like, this is a every day thing. I like to motivate myself by pushing myself the way a guy would push himself. I like to do things. If a guy says I can't do it, I will motivate myself to do it. Like I. I like to prove myself not just to anyone, but to myself that I can do anything that I want to do if I push myself to it. So and I know the BIA is a male dominated industry, so knowing that, it just makes me want to think or I want to push myself even more to get into that field.

Crew 663: Because growing up, I've always heard just by people in school that, Oh, you won't do it because you know you're a girl, you can't do it. And you won't be out there. You'll just stay home and cook and clean and be a housewife. But for me, I don't want to do that. I want to push myself, I want to get muscle. I want to, you know, just be out there as one of the dudes and the crew. But other than that, that's my main motivation to push myself as hard as I can, not even to even after I break, I still push myself when I'm all sweaty, when the day's hot on hitch or been working and I feel like I'm going to give up. I’ll be like no! Just keep going. So, we have this saying, It's called (Speaking Zuni), it's just do it, its our Zuni saying in our language. Do it, just do it, no matter if it’s hard, no matter if it's going up the hill or carrying things and our tools or just anything, just do it. Go for it. Yeah. Love it.

Crew 663: I'm not really sure what pathways this will, like, you know, open up for me in general because I'm still like, really not like really? How do you say it? I'm not really smart about like, what, what kind of pathway this would open. So whatever happens, I just hope that it be like a positive impact in my life. So I'm just in it just see what like how far I can go with this program and all that.

Lauren: I think a lot of people don't have an awareness or understanding as to what Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps does. Also, like you mentioned, a lot of people don't understand what Zuni, New Mexico looks like and the culture as well and the connection to Grand Canyon, obviously, it's a very huge impact as well. So maybe if you know one of you or some of your all of you want to talk about the some of the things that you wish that the public, people that you might talk to while you're hitches, your tours, um, you wish that they knew about either Zuni or about Ancestral Lands.

Crew 663: Well, I would like to start off by saying the Grand Canyon is our very most sacred places on this earth. This is where us Zuni from New Mexico have emerged. Arise from the earth. A place called Ribbon Falls. And from Ribbon Falls. Uh, we've migrated from there trying to find the Middle Place. We've traveled throughout this whole canyon, stopped anywhere, lost a couple of people, uh, gained a couple of new people, babies. But through that migration, it was a very, very difficult journey for us mentally. Just going through the desert, just trying to get to where we are. And it's a six hour drive from Zuni, New Mexico to here. So to imagine just a six hour drive, imagine that in days from the Grand Canyon to New Mexico to Zuni Reservation to where our homeland is now, it's I just want the people that visit the Grand Canyon to visit it, knowing that a Native American Tribe has like this is Zuni, New Mexico's home like, you know, this is our home. So being here on Hitch, it just wasn't it's this isn't just a job for us. This is more like we're repairing our house. We're repairing where we came from. We're walking the same forest that our ancestors have walked. And knowing that it just makes us push even harder to preserve what we're doing here. Even if it's seed collecting, you know, it's Native American Plants like these plants belong around here. So knowing that, it's nice to know that we're like moving plants around and helping them grow and stuff like that.

Crew 663: So I think if it's one thing that I want people to know about Zuni is that despite their all that pain and suffering that our ancestors went through to get to the middle place, what we call (Speaking Zuni), that we were very resilient and we will still continue to be resilient even through different hardships. For example, COVID at first it was scary, but knowing that we were a resilient people and we've been we've been pushed to the test for many centuries that we'll still be here. We'll still continue to be here. We'll be here to protect our homeland. Like what Brooke said, this place is very sacred to not only us, but other other tribes as well. You have the Havasupai, Supi, Hopi, the Puebloans and then Central New Mexican area. And I have heard different iterations of the migration journey. And a lot of people get that part confused.

Crew 663: And I would not call it a migration story because a story is something that can be told that is almost along the lines of myth. But we know for a fact that we did emerge here. So we call it a migration journey because we have evidence. It suggests that we did in fact come from the earth, deep within the earth, like what Brooke said from Ribbon Falls.

Crew 663: So with that being in mind, I would really like people to know that Zuni, we are resilient. Same thing with any Native American Tribe. We are resilient. We will continue to be we will continue to strive for our people, our children, our elders for better opportunities in better ways to better their lives as well. Crew 663: I also want to point out there that it isn't just us Ancestral Lands that come out here to the Grand Canyon. We have very important leaders back home that make the journey to come out here to the Grand Canyon, to make the the the journey of a I can say a five day journey, going down the river through the Grand Canyon to Ribbon Falls, just to, not just to go and visit, but to pray like they, our leaders come from Zuni all the way to the Grand Canyon, to pray for us, to give us blessings, to bring blessings from here home. Because this is where we came out from. This is the most powerful place that I could honestly think of. And even though we have our religious stuff and everything back home, this is where it all started. This is where everything began and knowing that important people from our community still come. I can say that because my father is one of those people that come out and make that journey down here to Ribbon Falls and to make the offerings from Zuni, New Mexico to here and to take it back home with us, not just for our community, but for everyone in the world. They hold the world in their hands. And that means that it's just not Zunis aren’t selfish like that. We just don't pray for ourselves. We just don't say or do things for ourselves. We pray for the world to be better. We pray for peace. We pray for water. We pray for the earth. We pray for the ground. We call the Earth the her because she's our mom. She's carrying us. She's carrying everything on her back right now. And that being said, when they come and do their prayers here, they pray specifically for her, especially since we came from her, that to be strong, to keep going, keep going for many, many hundreds of years, not just for us, but for our generations to come, for everyone around the world, It is a very, very important journey to come out here, especially for my father and our our uncle, Octavius Seowtewa. He comes out here also. So is a very important journey. That's what they do come out here, especially to that area.

Crew 663: And I think they said it best.

Lauren: It’s like mic drop, seriously. Consider a career in public speaking. Wow. I got chills.

Dave: We talked a little bit about like especially in my department, we talk in interpretation and so we do talk about some of these. The stories of the journeys, and I know for many, many years the park did not welcome the tribe. Yeah, but I know it's it's been quite a change. Yeah. And I just don't know if that if you've seen impact from that side of things getting better or are they still the same like we, you know?

Crew 663: For me I can say it has worked for the better because our people were not, like you said, quite allowed to come here due to just that being the national park public lands. We as a community, we kind of did not want people to visit Ribbon Falls because that is our very sacred place that we kind of want that for us. But we also thought this isn't just for us, it's just it's for the world to see. It's for you, like people from around the world to come and visit. And knowing that I. I know that because I work, I can't say I work with my father. But when he comes home from his trips from here on his journey, he does talk about Ribbon Falls, the Grand Canyon in an awesome way, like the way he talks about the way he finds new stuff down there every time when he goes.

Crew 663: And they just don't, they just don't come out here to see it or just to pray. They also take new things back, like they take knowledge back that they find at Ribbon Falls, or that they discover they usually keep that to themselves. But other than that, when they find new things, it helps our community, but also helps expand our horizon and our knowledge of all right, okay, so this is where we came from, where else that we go. Like it's the stories written on the walls in the Grand Canyon. Near Ribbon Falls it, it tells so many different stories, um, some specifically about our journey, but for our journey, parts of our people. We broke off down that journey so there could be another community of us Zunis calling themselves different things.

Crew 663: But they are. They're still our people. They're still a part of us, just somewhere else, like in this world or what they said it's down south or down to the Mexico area. So that being said, just and that the knowledge of that, like the plants, it also expands them in the, their ZCRAT stuff because they ZCRAT for them they're mainly mainly targeting Zuni ancestral sites that are connected to us through our stones through our flowers, to our the spiral signature. That's one of our signatures of ours that we know that that is our our stuff, that that is where we came through. So every time we see a spiral that tells us that our people.

Crew 663: She said it best again.

Crew 663: I was just thinking that too. What can I add. What can I add.

Crew 663: I would also like to say that usually the writings or the petroglyphs that we see, they they like to call these stories, but, um, I was recently on a trip with Octavius. We were at, we were at this place called Horseshoe Mesa and a Crack In The Rock, located in Wupatki National Monument. And what he was telling us is that, uh, they like to say that it's, it's stories, but he's, he says that he likes to call it history because it's been written in the stone and left there for future generations to see.

Crew 663: So more or less it's, it's not stories. It's it's our history that's been written on the walls. And for us to interpret ourselves. Take it for what you will basically.

Crew 663: Yeah I think if I were to add one thing is, for an individual I am very grateful that we are able to access these lands in a way that helps us benefit our community, because being away from or getting no access at all is heartbreaking, especially if you know that you do come from the land that your ancestors made this way just to just to, I guess, have other somebody else say you can't go there. You can't go back there and you can't study who you are as people. But with new management, new changes, everything coming along, it's been very beneficial to our Zuni community because we are able to have a say in what these public lands are used for or we have a say in different areas. It's not only just the Zuni tribe, but different tribes, Hopi, Havasu and all the local surrounding tribes. They finally have a say in what what you can and can't do. And they are able to put together their own history as well, their own connections to the Grand Canyon. And with that, I am super thankful and from the bottom of my heart that we are able to access these lands that we were born from.

Dave: Yeah. I mean, any other closing thoughts you guys want to say or.

Crew 663: Thank you guys for talking to us.

Lauren: Yeah, thank you. Yeah, I think to do anything to press the button.

Crew 663: Another, one other unique thing about Zuni community is that we don't write our history down. We don't write things in books, we don't record things on the phone. We don't even write how our language is supposed to be. We don't write how it's supposed to be spelt. But for us, our language is mainly through mouth. It's a it's a hearing learning community and we're not really the type to like, all right, well, write it down here and you'll learn it. No, we're just like the type to learn by voice, learn by our ears. If we say one of our language words wrong we won't write it down to get corrected. We help the other person out and how to say it right or how to say it the correct form.

Crew 663: Because with our language, there's certain ways you can say things like in the sentence, but with our language, it's kind of like we're saying our sentence backwards, you know, like if you're trying to say sentence forwards, for us in our language, it's kind of like saying it backwards. But it makes sense to us because we grew up around that.

Crew 663: Even a young age growing up, just hearing our Elderlies, talk to each other, talk to us in Zuni, which is what we call (Speaking in Zuni). We just grew up with it. It's instilled in our blood. Um, and yeah, it's just something that we gain growing up.

Crew 663: Closing Remarks Elah`kwa (in Zuni-Thank You). Thank you for the time you took to conduct this out of your busy days. Yeah. Thank you.

Crew 663: Elah`kwa (in Zuni-Thank You). Thank you. Thanks a lot.

Crew 663: Elah`kwa! (in Zuni-Thank You)

Dave: We gratefully acknowledge the Native Peoples on whose Ancestral Homelands we gather, as well as the diverse and vibrant Native Communities who make their homes here today.

Crew 663: Delapba! (See you later in Zuni)

The Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps is an indigenous nonprofit that completes conservation projects throughout the Southwest. We sat down with Crew 663, out of Zuni, New Mexico, to talk about the work that they had done, their connections to the Grand Canyon, and to learn about their culture and heritage and what motivates them in their work and their daily lives.

What Does Home Mean to You?


Doug and Hannah:


Home, Home at North Rim. Where the hues and the shades are not dim.

Where great views prevail, and they never get stale.

And the Canyon cries out to please stay. ♫. Wisper “please stay”. Chuckles!

Doug: Welcome. I’m ranger Doug Hannah: And I’m Ranger Hannah D: We are park rangers at the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. H: We have a new podcast for you. A very simple one. A podcast about … home. D: I would like to start out acknowledging the native folks who have always considered Grand Canyon home. We have 11diferent tribes and bands that are affiliated to the park. North of the Colorado River are five Southern Piute groups. From west to east they are the Las Vegas Piute Tribe, the Moapa Band of Piutes, Shivwits Band of Piutes, Kiabab band of Piutes and the San Juan Southern Piute Tribe. South of the Colorado River are three different Pai groups. The Hualapai, Havasupai and Yavapai/Apache Nation. To the east of the park, is the Pueblo of Zuni, the Hopi Tribe, and the Navajo Nation. They each have a strong and powerful connection to this place that they still call home … the Grand Canyon. H: We actually have an excavated Pueblo home here on the North Rim, not to far from the lodge. D: That’s right. That small two-room summer home is actually the inspiration for this whole podcast. H: How so? Can you expand on that for us? D: Well, there’s a really nice foot trail, about a mile and one half long, between the North Rim Lodge and the Campground. It is called the Transept Trail. The trail passes a small home built 900 years before the North Rim Lodge. H: The Zuni and Hopi people today are direct descendants of these early North Rim residents. D: Indeed. And every time I would pass this excavated homesite I pondered what it might have been like to call North Rim home back then. There’s also a picnic table positioned right on the rim nearby, with just a killer view of the Grand Canyon. So last summer I came up with the idea to put a weatherproof box on this picnic table, and I placed a really nice blank hard-bound notebook inside. And I put this prompt on the cover of the notebook: What Does Home Mean to You? H: I remember you had that notebook out there for roughly a month. You checked on this notebook every few days and brought back pictures of the entries to our office. And it had poems, drawings, sentiments, quotes. And all different languages. And with the languages I loved using Google Translate with the photo to figure out what was being written. Many interesting feelings and emotions were expressed in these entries. D: Yes. So you and I, with help from some other co-workers, picked out some of the more interesting journal entries. We said “hey, let’s turn these journal entries into a podcast, sharing the thoughts of our North Rim visitors.” H: Let’s start with a few of these entries. (soft background guitar music playing ♫) Visitor: Home is nature, and nature is the home of our ancestors. Looking out at the vast Canyon, places me back thousands of years; I definitely get the same feeling looking at the Canyon as these people did. Therefore, I feel a connection to our ancient home under the stars. JB Visitor: Thank you, National Park Service, for working towards righting the relationship us “newer” Americans have with the tribes that were here when “we” arrived. It is very complex. US policy towards native people was self-serving and inhumane (genocide actually) so we own them their home – and some. PS: My husband says that’s too strong a word, genocide, but I’ve been reading and learning, and it basically fits. Wendy, of Rhode Island. H: Putting a blank notebook on the rim of the Grand Canyon, then asking an open-ended question like you did, you just never know what kind of random responses you might get. D: That’s right. There’s a risk there, but that’s also the fun part of this endeavor. H: Plus the Canyon itself can be a little distracting as you ponder the question What Does Home Mean to you? D: “In the best possible way” distracting as one visitor wrote. V: We can’t focus on home right now because we’re too focused on looking at the Grand Canyon. V: It’s hard to impress me, and I am impressed! V: I got scammed. They lied. It’s even better than the photos. V: Carol was here and loving the view. Thank you Universe, God, Higher Power, Nature! (says it all). V: The majesty and grand scale make me feel insignificant, in the best way possible way. Better than I ever imagined. In a world filled with ugliness created by man, it heals my soul to be in the presence of such natural beauty. Thank you to those people who protect and preserve this place and all the national parks – John P. V: Grand Canyon makes me remember I am not the creator of everything. Rebecca, from Utah. V: Never set out on a long hike without plenty of water and snacks. Always wear you SPF. Put the toilet seat down. The left lane is for passing and the right lane is for traveling. Whatever you do, take care of your shoes. Put the shower curtain inside the tub. H: Now that last clip was sound advice when traveling or leaving home. D: Indeed H: You know, people leave home all the time, whether to visit Grand Canyon or to set out on a new path. D: Let’s listen in V: It’s a dangerous thing to walk out your front door. You never know where your feet may lead you to, but you do know that eventually they will lead you home again. KH from Belgium. V: Home is a place you miss when you leave it. Signed, MG. V: Such a beautiful place to sit and contemplate about nature – listen to nature and relax – love it! We love all the national parks and are so glad we live in Utah. PS: There is no better place to vacation than National Parks – we feel at home here. V: The West called me, and I responded. It will not release me from its limitless horizons and its purity. Its freshness and opportunity never get tiring. And the distant lightening speaks of limitless power. V: Home is where you sleep sound and deep and safe. Be it a motel room, tent, or canyon floor under the stars. V: Home is a precious thing many people take for granted, until you don’t have one. V: Three weeks ago, I bought a camper and a tow vehicle and packed up the kids and headed West. I can’t believe I’m really pulling this off. I am strong and I am able, and I wish it hadn’t taken me 45 years to like who I am. Young women – Do what makes you love who you are. Sara (PS: Sequoia trees, here I come!). H: Wow. To leave the comfort of home and set out on a new one in a camper … amazing! D: For sure. H: Next, park visitors really responded to the core question: What Does Home Mean to You? V: Home is a feeling not shaped by location but by the heart. It is a sense of ease, of exploration, and contentment that creates “home”. To be home is to be at peace with where you are in the moment. Many see slivers of home at the Grand Canyon. The Valleys shaping our views of what home means. Home is whatever you make it. Oakland, CA. V: The Grand Canyon is a reminder of how magnificent our earth is. So we need to take care of it because this is our home. V: Home is the dirt beneath my feet, the aspens and conifers that bracket my understanding, the air that flows through my hair, the sun that burnishes my skin. It is not where I live, it is not mine alone. It is everywhere, for everyone. V: Home is where I have planted my roots to be a great steward of the earth. V: Home is a beautiful place to gather with loved ones. The canyon is a home to many spirits who we may or may not know. A gathering of kind souls. V: Home is an intangible concept I can create in my mind and embrace with my heart. V: There are so many spectacular places to go in the USA. I’m glad to call this country home. Eric from Iowa. V: (This is recorded 4th of July): If you don’t watch where you are going, you may end up where your headed … Freedom is worth keeping … and fighting for … It is home. V: Home is where the heart is at peace and soul is at rest. Mine is nature. Susan. V: The immensity and grandeur are breathtaking. Every step along these trails reveals a vista that will be seared into my memory forever. Home is any place where you can find peace, serenity, and a sense of belonging. V: Our lives are streams flowing unto the same river towards whatever the heavens lies in the mist beyond the falls. Lily and Johnny. H: The different connections people create for home is cool to see. D: Let’s keep going V: Home can be a person, a place or a thing. For me, I don’t know. I move around a lot so there isn’t a place where I feel fully comfortable. Home for me is where I feel too comfortable to not leave. I haven’t found it yet though. Lotta. V: To me, home is forested domes, small cold waves. Big canyons, small canyons. Porches on islands. Kitchens. Real conversations. Quiet. Homemade pizza, TV and bed. V: Home is dogs, a cat and wife. A good meal. A warm bed. Home is also anywhere that I am with someone or something I love. This is home. V: Home is where I park my trailer with a perfect view. V: Home is where family is. What a wonderful experience to come as a child with parents, and then come again as a parent with your children. Debbie. V: Home is where one reaches a level of comfort such that you can walk around with just your boxers! V: Home is a place that first informed, or imprinted on you, your identity. It is also the place that you care for and nurture. Wendy, Rhode Island. V: Home is where you are involved somehow … where you find work, leisure, love, and a sense of self in a meaningful way … home also is connected to history and roots, but not exclusively. Smith Family, Arizona. V: Home is where I am, for it is all a part of me and I am a part of it. V: Grand Canyon North Rim, Transept Trail. I don’t think I’ve ever felt home. Many have commented here that it’s family/friends. It’s yourself, it’s contentment and/or safety, etc. These things have been elusive for me. I’d like to someday know for myself what home means in my heart. I’d like to find it deeper than this beautiful canyon. Brandy. V: Home is where I can laugh, cry, grow, and express myself in peace, knowing that whoever is downstairs could be there for all of it and still love me as much as I love them. V: Home is where I’m the happiest. It doesn’t have to be a place. It can be any place where I feel like myself and where I’m surrounded by people who I love. Sophia and Jacob, Minnesota. D: Again, many wonderful thoughts and sentiments. H: And one park visitor who has never felt at home. Which means we all find home in our own way. And it can take time. D: Keepin’ it real! And one California couple had a great entry. Let’s share their thoughts. H: And makes a great ending for this. V: Home A place of friend, family and memories shared A place to find rest From all of you cares A place to find warmth And refuge from all of your fears A place to call your own For all of your years. Markley Family, California. D: We truly hope that all visitors at Grand Canyon National Park, can feel home here, no matter where you came from. H: You know, Doug, don’t you think Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz had a great observation about home? D: She did. “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” You know, I sort of feel a song coming on here. H: You and I definitely like to sing some fun songs together. D: Okay. Let’s hit it: ♫(sung) Somewhere, Over Grand Canyon. ♫(sung) Somewhere, at the Grand Canyon Way down low There’s a land that I heard of A land where the sunsets glow Somewhere, at the Grand Canyon Skies are blue And the trails that you dare to hike Really do come true Someday I’ll wish upon a star And wake up where the clouds are far above me Where troubles melt like lemon drops Way above the mesa tops That’s where you’ll find me Somewhere, over Grand Canyon Ravens fly They fly, over the rainbow Why then, oh why can’t I? Somewhere, over Grand Canyon Condors fly They fly, north rim to south rim Why do I have to drive? If happy condors fly, beyond the rainbow Why, oh why can’t I? ♫ H: The Behind the Scenery Podcast is brought to you by the interpretation team at Grand Canyon National Park. We gratefully acknowledge the Native People on whose ancestral homelands we gather, as well as the diverse and vibrant Native communities who make their home here today. Thanks for sharing your homeland with us and being good stewards of the land. Thanks to ranger Dave for podcast editing. Thanks to the many park visitors who were kind enough to write down their thoughts, and to the park visitors and co-workers who volunteered to read the many quotes. Music in this episode is by ranger Doug. D: And you. Don’t forget you. H: Thanks for writing two more parody songs. H: I’m ranger Hannah D: And I’m ranger Doug, D & H: Signing off for now. H: I really think I should be singing off now. D It could go either way. Either way is good. V: Home is Australia, mate. Nice canyon, though.

One day you are walking a quiet trail along the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, when suddenly you notice a small plastic box with a blank notebook inside. On the cover is this prompt: "What Does Home Mean to You?" After collecting over 400 journal entries, park rangers picked out some of the more interesting quotes, comments, thoughts, and sentiments. They are recorded here. How would you answer this question?

First Voices - Daniel Bulletts


Daniel: The name for the Grand Canyon means the world of energy, because it's so vast and big. The Colorado River, we call the big water in the Canyon. And so these, you know, these words, you know, come from the Canyon and they come from a place that that my people, you know, are visiting and still need to visit and still need to remember that where we come from is important, not only to us living, but it's also important to us in our afterlife as well. And if my people are hearing that that they know what I'm saying.

Jesse: Hey, this is Jesse for this episode of the podcast. I had the pleasure of speaking with Daniel Bulletts. Daniel is a cultural resource director for the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians as well as the director for the Southern Paiute Consortium. We recorded this episode sitting at a picnic table next to the rim of the Canyon, so you might hear some wind and other background noise.

Daniel: OK, hello, my name is Daniel Bulletts. I am a member of the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians. I'm also employed by the Tribe. I'm their cultural resource director, and I'm also the director of the Southern Paiute Consortium for the Tribe and.

Jesse: Can you tell me about your duties as cultural resource director?

Danniel: So as cultural resource director for the Tribe, my job is to keep good working relationships with the Department of Interior agencies, the BLM, the Forest Service, the Park Service, even the state on cultural issues that they may have inside their park or inside or inside the state. And to help them problem solve certain things that are culturally sensitive to tribes and to different agencies.

Jesse: And for listeners who may not know what is the Southern Paiute Consortium?

Daniel: So the Southern Paiute Consortium is a group made out of the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, which has five bands in it, and the San Juan Southern Paiutes and that was made in the early 1990s. And that was to give the Southern Paiute People a voice in the Adaptive Management Program that's going on with the Glen Canyon Dam, the Grand Canyon, and the Colorado River. To give us a seat at the table to share our issues and to share our knowledge of things that need to be shared during meetings.

Jesse: And as part of your role in the Adaptive Management Program you participate in monitoring river trips, right?

Daniel: Correct. Under that we do an annual river trip in June. It's one of the hottest months, the hottest trips in in the year and. And that's for a reason. I mean, you know sometimes as Southern Paiutes, you know, we get caught up in this modern-day lifestyle that we need to be brought back down to simple. The simple way of thinking, to the simple way our people used to be and when we're down there in the Grand Canyon monitoring, we're at the simplest that we can ever get. You know there's no air conditioning, there's, you know, no Wi-Fi, no cell service. We're cut off from the real world. So we have to learn to get along and share things and help each other throughout the 10-day trip. It humbles a lot of us that go there.

Jesse: When you're down there, what sorts of things are you are you looking?

Daniel: Under the Adaptive management program, when it first got started, the Tribe was asked, or the Consortium was asked to choose ten sites that are culturally significant to the Southern Paiutes and we couldn't. We said “no, we can't because the whole northern side is culturally significant to us.” The government wouldn't budge and so the elders at the time said “well, since we have to choose, we're going to choose these ten sites that we're going to monitor even though we don't want to. You know, they're providing a way for us to come down each year.” So, we chose 10 sites and that we have been monitoring since the early 90s.

Jesse: And you're just looking for kind of impact?

Daniel: Yes, the impacts to the area and impacts from not only from the natural things but from tourists and human caused things that do happen down there. And natural things. Sometimes the earth does shake and then you know, the rain does flood and it does, you know, erase some of the things that are down there, but you know, in, in a cultural aspect those weren't meant to be shared once they're gone.

Jesse: Yeah, that's really interesting. I think you know you gave a talk to visitors here just 1/2 hour or so ago. And one of the things that that you said in it was that you're, you know, you're able to learn from recordings from your tribal elders, more about your own culture. I'm curious how. Those like records are being used in in your Tribe and in in Kaibab Paiute.

Daniel: So those traditional recordings and stuff are archived. We have an archival place there on the reservation that we house all these things in and they're accessible to tribal members only. And so, if a travel member wants to come, they just go through my department and check out or sign a paper and then we take them there and we have them listen and they can't take anything, but we can make recordings for them to take home. But nowadays, a lot of people don't have the time to do that. You know, fortunately for me, you know I do because that's part of my job. And so that's one thing that I like to do is to go back and rehear past tribal members talk about certain things. And a lot of those aren't in English they're in Southern Paiute, so it kind of makes me want to learn more and understand what they're saying, which I can to a point. Hopefully one day I'll be fluent enough to make my own recordings and share. I always like to go back and listen to my predecessors talk in their interviews and try to keep what they say, “keep moving forward.” Because throughout the years, in the government, they always create the same issue but a different way. And so, we're constantly trying to tell them certain things and bring them back from creating more problems than needs to be created.

Jesse: Learn from the past.

Daniel: Exactly.

Jesse: What a novel concept!

Daniel: Yeah, learn from the past.

Jesse: I'm just curious, you know, your perspective on how the Park Service tells stories and talks about history.

Daniel: OK. You know, in working with the different agencies, you know everybody, even my tribe and all the tribes, I guess, everybody has their own perspective of certain things. So, when you talk to them one on one, you know, you get their perspective. And, you know, I tried to encourage that with with people because when you're talking from your perspective, you're being honest and open and you're comfortable and you're sharing things that you may have heard, or people may have shared with you. And that's things that need to be shared. You know, a lot of times, you know, we're coming from this mentality of that's mine. This is mine. I don't want to share it with you. And we can't be like that. We have to be open and honest and for people to share, they have to be open and honest. And so, I encourage Park Service staff, BLM staff, you know, Forest Service staff to share what they know with people. And then if they do have questions, you know, go to the tribes and say, “hey, I have this question, you know, am I allowed to say it? Am I allowed to share it? What's the answer to this question?” And sometimes tribes will shun you. And sometimes tribes will say, “well, thank you for coming and it means this, you know. It means that.” You know, we want that true knowledge to come out rather than being suppressed and not shared.

Jesse: Can you tell me a little bit about the first time or one of the first times you came to Grand Canyon?

Daniel: Man, that's... let's see, one of the first times I came to the Grand Canyon was probably in the early 80s with my grandparents. And, you know, as we were coming here to the North Rim, you know, we made stops along the roadway at certain spots. And they got out and you know, I got out too, but I was running around and doing kid things and not knowing that my grandparents were actually doing offerings and praying and collecting things as they were coming here, plants and other things that they wanted to use in making things back at home. And so, once we got to the North Rim, you know, walking out to the edge and seeing the colors and how vast it was and the different sounds of the wind blowing. I don't remember too much people back then just, you know, just us. And then my grandpa going off and being by himself and, you know, hearing him sing and coming back, you know, really happy and like recharged kind of like. That's my first impressions of the North Rim.

Jesse: And then as you've grown, and as you've learned more, how has your relationship with the North Rim and the Grand Canyon changed?

Daniel: So, as I grew, you know, things started to make more sense. I started to realize the importance of this of this area and the importance of our traditional Southern Paiute territories and how vast it was. And it made me realize that there was more people than what I thought lived out here. You know, all these people that made these rock writings and things that are here, you know, it's not called rock art. You know, we want to say rock writing because that tells a story. You know when we say rock art to people it gives them the idea of, oh, we could doodle on this rock, or we could paint this rock. You know, we want to stay away from that. And so, you know, as I got older, you know, a lot of things started to make sense. A lot of the stories that I was heard as a as a kid growing up started to make more sense. The circle dances that I know and sing start to make more sense. And just being out in nature, you know, and having that quietness and smelling and seeing and hearing and using all your senses to be a part, to make that connection with this land is very important now to me. And my birthday is tomorrow and I'm actually turning 50.

Jesse: Well, hopefully this is a good, good birthday visit for you.

Daniel: Right.

Jesse: What is important to you about having that connection about that peace and that that feeling that you get when you're here or when you're out in nature?

Daniel: So for me it's more of a spiritual connection and being out here and seeing things that I don't normally see, taking my mind off the fast pace of modern-day life and knowing that there's more to life than just what I see at home. There's more to life than the grocery store. There's more to life than you know than to driving here and there. You know, there's, there's this vastness that all of us as human beings should and need to go out and visit and see and share. All these places in nature have a special place for everybody that visits and that energy that’s there is so positive that a lot of us will get excited when we see those woods and we feel that coolness and smell that fresh air and it's like we want to go here, we want to go there. We want to see this and we want to do that. Slow down you you'll get there. It’s not as fast-paced. Pick up your feet when you walk. You know that type of thing. That's a hiking joke. The hikers joke.

Jesse: Well, Speaking of visiting special places is there one thing that you would like visitors to know before they come to Grand Canyon or as they're visiting the Canyon?

Daniel: So one thing I'd like visitors to know is to come with an open mind and come with the willingness to learn something that you're actually not going to learn by reading. You're going to learn by seeing. You're going to learn by feeling. You're going to learn by hearing. You may even learn by, you know, tasting when these monsoon rains come, and you can taste the wetness in the air. You know, come with the mindset to learn and also with the mindset to share what you have learned with your family, with your friends, and one day they may come out here and experience the same thing. Because it's hard to tell somebody about an experience when they're not there to actually experience it. So, I encourage people to come and experience, make that connection with nature and the land and even the people that are here that are helping provide certain accommodations for us here. You know, talk with them. They're people too, and they'll share. And you'll make that connection regardless of... the weather.

Jesse: Even if the Canyon is filled with fog.

Daniel: With fog or with snow or if it's raining cats and dogs. You'll still make a connection.

Jesse: Many thanks to Daniel for sharing his stories and perspectives. The behind The Scenery Podcast is brought to you by the interpretation team at Grand Canyon National Park. We gratefully acknowledge the native peoples on whose ancestral homelands we gather, as well as the diverse and vibrant native communities who make their home here today.

Daniel Bulletts is the Cultural Resource Director for the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians and Director of the Southern Paiute Consortium. In this episode, Daniel shares his connections to the Canyon, his role in tribal monitoring river trips, and some of his trademark humor!

Dams Part 2: Damming a Sacred Space


Ceili: This episode is dedicated to the memory of Ronnie Cachini. We are deeply grateful for all he taught us during his many years of close partnership with Grand Canyon National Park.

Jan: Every year we would have these big floods that would just cover everything over and make a new flood plain. It's only when you stop the sediment supply did those things start becoming available to see, and that’s the legacy that we're looking at, is all of those things, all of those thousands of years. People living around along the river and every year they would come back. There would be a flood they’d come back, they’d plant, do whatever, whatever you know next year it would flood again, they come back there's a new flat surface because everything was buried in sand again. Everything was an annual cycle and it just kept happening for thousands of years until 1963 and then that stopped.

Kate: What stopped at the Colorado River in 1963 that was so important? Like rivers and bodies of water around the world people congregate around this river. For thousands of years it has been home to multiple native tribes. They watched the river, sat on the bank and listened to the water flowing. For over 100 years Grand Canyon has been protected as a National Park. The mission statement of the Park Service is to preserve and protect this place for future generations, but in the process some people's voices have been excluded. The people who have lived here for thousands of years. Hello I'm Kate, and this is the second episode in our two-part series on dams in Grand Canyon. In today's episode of Behind the Scenery we'll explore how the installation of the Glen Canyon Dam impacted Grand Canyon’s traditionally associated tribes and the sacred and ancestral grounds in the river corridor. One of the reasons I found this story is because in my job I'm a Ranger who lives at the bottom of the Canyon. I work several river miles below the dam. Every day I go on a walking patrol and I say hello to the Colorado River. One of my favorite spots by the beach is an archaeological site of Ancestral Puebloans. I like to imagine the families who used to have the Colorado River as their backyard. They took stones from the heart of the Canyon and beautifully crafted them into pink and black walls. Now we can only see the foundations of the plaza, living spaces, a ceremonial kiva. When the Pueblo was complete people would have been lounging on the roof. From there they would have been able to watch their kids playing on the beach. In today's world there are plenty of people still playing on the beach, but there are also river trips and blue, yellow, or orange rafts, sometimes even a small wooden boat, and they pull into what is now called Boat Beach. Once the dam was put in beaches like Boat Beach started eroding away. The Canyon was not only losing its beaches, but also the archaeological sites along the river became in danger of being lost forever. Jan Balsom was the park’s archaeologist from 1984 through 1995. She was in the field documenting how cultural sites by the river were being impacted. She has since filed several leadership positions in the park, including senior adviser to the Superintendent, and Jan is a lead advisor on cultural resources at Grand Canyon.

Jan: Recreational boaters on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon were sitting on beaches watching the water come up and down because they operated the dam in a way they call a cash register dam. When people turned on their lights they would let more water out and when people turned off their lights they would stop the water flows, so we had wide fluctuations that would be in the neighborhood of 20 to 30,000 cubic feet per second changes in a day. That would result in 10 or 15 feet downstream of stage change.

Kate: 10 to 15 feet is a huge change within 24 hours, especially if you're a boater and it's below where you made your home for the night. If you're new to the Canyon, think about narrow granite walls rising above you. On your side, sandy beaches line parts of the Canyon. You dock your boat and set up camp to sleep. What you didn't realize was the damn caused the river level to rise the height of a one to two-story building while you were sleeping.

Jan: As archaeologist for the park, I was most concerned about looking at the archaeological resources and how the dam flows were affecting the integrity of those properties.

Kate: Unfortunately, the dam was created before or key environmental legislation was in place. The National Environmental Policy Act wouldn't come about until three years later, and it requires federal agencies to complete an environmental review to assess potential impacts of a project. The dam was excluded from this environmental assessment until the Bureau of Reclamation had the need to replace the eight generators that powered the dam in 1982. Scientists, river runners, members of the public, and environmental groups began to push for scientific studies that could measure the adverse impacts of the dam. In 1989 a grassroots project pushed for an environmental impact statement.

Jan: So as the parks archaeologists, I then became a member of the EIS writing team for the Glen Canyon Dam environmental impact statement that was done. In combination with that we had to begin doing the archaeological inventory survey then of the Colorado River corridor. We spent the better part of nine months with the crews working under a cooperative agreement with Northern Arizona University to do the 100% inventory the river corridor that resulted in documenting 475 properties in the near shore environment from the dam down to the lake.

Kate: 475 remnants of homes, agricultural structures, religious sites, and petroglyphs of the people who had lived by the Colorado River. Jan was curious about who these places were important to, the people who felt that these places were in the family. Jan did something unusual for the Park Service and archaeology at the time. She looked at these places and realized that their descendants still live near Grand Canyon. She invited them into the conversation.

Jan: And a piece of that was bringing our tribal colleagues down onto the Colorado River so that they could help us design the research module, how we're going to do this, so that they understood what we are looking for and that we could understand from them things that we may need to be looking for. It was the first time, and I didn't realize this at the time, but it was the first time that we anybody had done a river trip where we had invited the traditionally associated people back into the Canyon and that led to a whole other legacy of the tribes’ involvement. We were doing a project to build a parking lot up on the East Rim and we had an archaeological site there. I knew enough from my studies and working at the state historic preservation office that we needed to contact the tribes. We sent out letters to the five tribes that we worked with, and the entire Havasupai Tribal Council showed up to the superintendent's office. And the Superintendent at the time was a fellow named Jack Davis. He looked at me and he said I think we need to have somebody who does tribal liaison, I guess that will be you. And so I added that to my portfolio of responsibilities. So we started working along the river and we knew that the archaeology was pretty extraordinary, even the limited amount that we knew about. We contacted tribes early on to let them know we're going to be doing this, got them engaged with at least that portion of the project, and also as we began moving towards the environmental impact statement (Luhan identified in 1989 we're going to do the EIS) we started having an EIS writing team. And upon the insistence of a couple of us we convinced Bureau of Reclamation that they needed to include the tribes as part of the cooperating agencies, part of the writing team, because these are resources of concern to the tribes not just to us as the National Park Service, or to the American public who we are all responsible to. But even at that time we knew the Hopi, for example, have significant histories in the Canyon. The Navajo border the river for 60 plus miles. The Havasupai and Hualapai to the West, we knew that they have ancestral areas. The Southern Paiute to the north. So, you know, we worked with Reclamation. It wasn't something they had ever done, and it challenged them a little bit to think about a different way of inclusion.

Kate: Jan found that the best way to assess the cultural impacts of the dam was to consult the direct ancestors of the people who had histories extending back sometimes thousands of years in the Canyon. Archaeologists learned more by listening to the tribes.

Jan: And certainly from a tribal perspective, only you as a tribal member can know if the traditional resource that you are concerned about is doing OK. Does it need help, is it still as functional as it was, are the spring sources that you rely on for traditional purposes still functioning the way they have or have there been changed? And only you would know that. So it's important for the traditional people to be able to come down and evaluate within their expertise how well specific resource is adjusting to this changed environment. When you think about some of the political discord between the agencies, the federal approach to Indian law and policy, the differences amongst the tribes in terms of land base and resources, and a lot of those things. But for whatever reason when you talk about the Grand Canyon everyone comes together because they all have common histories here. There's a recognition that everyone has a vested interest in ensuring that this place continues. So I think that because of the place, and the way in which we included the tribes from the very beginning with the archaeological survey, saying “we understand that this is your history we want you to help us preserve these things,” that it was a general opening to all of them to participate with us, and that followed through into the formal NEPA process as them being part of the writing team.

Kate: Six Native American tribes contributed to the environmental impact statement that was finalized in 1995. That didn't happen without hard work from certain tribal leaders. While Jan pushed or inclusion of tribal voices at a Park Service level, it was a greater challenge for tribes to become involved in projects that involved multiple federal agencies. We have an incredible opportunity to hear from Leigh Kuwanwisiwma. He is a leader in the Hopi tribe and director of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office. For 30 years he's been involved with adaptive management in Grand Canyon. Since around 1989 Leigh successfully led his tribe in playing a major part in the environmental impact statement. His success helping to manage the river had a challenging start.

Leigh: Well, to be frank, nobody came to the Hopi or to any tribe that is currently engaged with the oral history of the dam. I just happen to, I believe back around early 1990, I read in the Flagstaff Daily Sun there was a meeting on the Glen Canyon Dam by the Bureau of Reclamation. I was reading the newspaper and just out of curiosity, I didn't know really what it was about except the picture of the dam up there, but I never realized that it was dealing with the whole Canyon. but that was how I got a whiff of something happening, so I went to that meeting. It was an evening meeting. I sat there listening to it and there was a whole series of presentations on jump starting the EIS. As the initial introductions came around, all the federal agencies of course introduce themselves, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs was introduced from Phoenix. And I learned later that they were representing all 19 tribes in the state of Arizona. An I sat there, and naturally at that meeting I was probably the only Native person there, and I was kind of bewildered. That's when I began to say we've got to learn more about what's going on, this EIS, and so I've got a lot of handouts and some background information. I took home a whole bunch of that and began to read it. And it was indeed about the grand Glen Canyon Dam but what was interesting to me was that the whole issue was, again, the water releases and the effects on the ecosystem. And I said “this has to be of interest to the tribe,” I mean it is an interest to the tribe. And then the next meeting again was in Phoenix, so I went to that one. And by that time I had reasonable assurance that the tribe, meaning the Tribal Council, wanted to actively participate, so I finally had the floor give it to me and I introduced myself. At that that time I was still the only tribal representative, and I said the Hopi Tribe will engage in this whole EIS, but independent from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and their representation of other tribes. We’re, I believe, quite capable of representing ourselves. I went before the tribal council and got a resolution declaring that we could be a cooperating agency. We would have that status. So I remember at the next meeting I introduced that resolution, gave it to them, and they gave me a seat. The chairman wrote to them that I would be the Hopi Tribe’s voting member. So I became the first tribal voting member.

Kate: Leigh had established the Hopi tribe as a stakeholder in the Glen Canyon Adaptive Management Program. Different stakeholders submitted scientific projects that would work on collecting data, monitoring resources, and restoring the ecosystem. One of the solutions was starting river monitoring trips beginning in the 1990s. River monitoring trips were initially funded by the Bureau of reclamation to mitigate the damage that the dam had caused. Imagine that you've created as scientific proposal to study the Colorado River, and now it's your job to float down the river for days or weeks so you can do studies and collect data downstream of the dam. Maybe your study is about how sediments are eroding beaches or impacting cultural sites, or maybe you're studying how the changed ecosystem impacted wildlife populations.

Leigh: In the 90s I was trying to figure out what we're gonna do and then I finally said “well, looks like this EIS is going to require a lot of science, a lot of research, and by golly I gotta determine what are what our focus is gonna be.” And it was the whole gamut of all three sciences, you know, biological, natural, and cultural. Of course, our forte, even though I was just beginning the office at that time, was gonna be culture. Even though I kind of was already thinking they're all interconnected. I believe we have the most extensive scientific reports based on our research design and then later how we identify certain research areas as we traveled from the first time that we started going down there.

Kate: Tribal monitoring trips began to happen every year, and in order to monitor what happened on the river time had to be spent on the water.

Leigh: So by ‘91 I believe around that time we got our funding and we got our first river trip down there. That's about the time I began to know Jan Balsom, too. I think she was just getting started, as well, about the same time. I think she started with the Grand Canyon about ‘88 too, or there about. She went with one of our efforts was to investigate as many archaeological sites down there. Alright, so that was our first attention down there. And from Lees Ferry all the way to Phantom Ranch there's 300 plus archaeological sites. All the way from there. A lot of it clearly ancestral Hopi because the Hopi polychrome and yellow ware down there. It matches our traditions in there because the Hopi, they say they traded with other clans down the Grand Canyon from here, you know. And they say the Wupatki people from Flagstaff, they traded with the Grand Canyon people, you know. Things like that are traditions so when you go down there and begin to learn about archaeology, the archaeologists will tell us “Well, there's evidence of Hopi yellow ware here.” Could be trade items, could be actually visitations by people, probably both.

Kate: The Hopi helped archaeologists gain a bigger picture of the rich relationships that tribes had across Arizona, and the vast trading networks that were connected to the bottom of Grand Canyon.

Leigh: So over time our reputation grew that we knew so much about the history of the Grand Canyon - culturally, the archaeological sites, the petroglyphs we were interpreting left and right down there. Our values in terms of the erosion effects on burials, that causes us to have to now rebury only a partial of a remain, right? That was very emotional. For the old men, of course, we're learning and the Hopi trip just grew. Everybody wanted to be on the trips. After they go through the river trips and learning about what we do down there, and the science we're doing, the cultural resources down there. You know, coming out we have a better perspective on how those are being affected by the dam operations. But they're pretty consistent, and so I think that's an indication that the Hopi culture is this unwavering. You know, our villages are a thousand years old. The Hopi still have a full 12 month ceremonial cycle. Today we're going into the woman's ceremonies right now. So it never ends for us. It never ends, we're always in the Kiva. So, I think it's it reflects the vibrancy of the Hopi culture, and we're fortunate to be able to say that.

Kate: The Hopi people and other Grand Canyon tribes continue to go on monitoring trips on the Colorado River to this day, and this has helped the Park Service and tribes listen to each other's interest and concerns.

Ronnie: First of all my name is Ronnie Cachini. I am 54 years old, and I am the Head Rain Priest for the Zuni Tribe. We are federally recognized as the Zuni Tribe, but we call ourselves A:Shiwi, and I am the traditional leader for the A:Shiwi people. I'm also the head medicine man for my society. I’ve been a medicine man since I was seven years old. I was initiated back in 1972, and growing up with the elders in my society, staying in the medicine house, I learned a lot. I obtained a lot of knowledge that I hold to this day. I hold these prayers. They’re not written in a book. We're not taught with electrical devices like tape recorders and such. All the prayers are taught orally, and if you have the heart, you’ll pick up all the prayers word for word. And it’s really hard for some people because the language is in the old ancient language which our people were speaking in the time when they emerge from the Grand Canyon. Ribbon Falls, Grand Canyon. That’s the place of our emergence. Chimik'yana'kya Deya' referring to the Grand Canyon as the emergence place.

Kate: Although the Zuni People consider the Grand Canyon their emergence place, at that time federal agencies did not realize how central the Canyon was to the Zuni history. Ronnie: And back in the day like in the 50s, 60s at Grand Canyon Park, you know, “why are Zunis interested in this place? They live far away, they live in New Mexico.” No one told them until they started going on these monitoring trips. That's when it opened up the eyes of the park. Kate: At that time many archaeologists had the hypothesis that these people had abandoned the area maybe because of war or a drought.

Ronnie: These people that have left all these sites, their homes, they did not abandon them. They were used time and time again. Archaeologists believe that these were a group of people that came and built these homes and they left and a whole different group of people came and occupied these places and left. Actually, these were the same people on their great migration. All the pueblo tribes were on a vast migration searching for their destinations on mother earth. It was a very spiritual world back then. Spirits showed them things that we hold today as our religion, or our traditions. These places were never abandoned. We’re trying to veer away from using the word “ruins” and “Anasazi.” We’re veering away from those terms because that’s not the pueblo way. We call them “the first people who lived in these homes.”

Kate: The Zuni people started going down to view and monitor these sacred spaces, especially the religious leaders of the tribe. This first fell on Ronnie's grandfather, and when he passed away that leadership passed to Ronnie.

Ronnie: I had never seen the Grand Canyon until 1998, when I took my first monitoring trip down the river. It was the most humbling experience I've ever had in my life.

Kate: On one special site visit, Ronnie was able to look at the rock art and interpret what that history meant to his tribe.

Ronnie: At Tanner there’s 3 larger boulders there. There’s lines going around, zig-zags and squares leading out to places. I was looking at it and I thought “I think this is a map of the Canyon. See this is the river and these are ways to get to certain places, maybe a collecting area or a village.” As I was looking at it, it just came out as a map of the river. Three huge boulders with a constant line going across the boulders, and then there’s other petroglyphs on there that have the 2 individuals with their tails connected together. And in our prayers at the very end, no matter if you’re a Rain Priest, a Medicine Man, a Kiva Leader, all these societies, even the commoners, in our prayers at the very end we say to hold on to each other tight with a bond that will never be broken. Always hold on to each other. And these 2 individuals with their tails connected, that’s that part of our prayer. It’s talking about our prayer. And when we read history, we read it in a book, but our ancestors left it on boulders, on cliff walls, all over the Southwest, all over the United States. It’s not just the Zuni people, it’s other tribes that left their mark.

Kate: Ronnie talked about another rock art panel that is named the Whitmore panel. This panel tells the story of his people's origin in the Grand Canyon. This panel is a popular stop for river trips river runners would hike and narrow path from the river to the cliffs where there was a smooth rock face painted with red figures.

Ronnie: Those petroglyphs are telling us how our people came up from the 4th underworld, and we’re trying to change the name from the Whitmore Panel to the Zuni Emergence Panel. As you know, that takes a lot of time. It has to go through all these channels to make that change.

Kate: Zuni elders noticed that the trail was too close to the panel and people were causing erosion at the site. Visitors were also touching the paintings and the oils smeared from their hands were damaging the paintings. Over time Zunis communicated that this place needed more protection.

Ronnie: We asked the Park Service to move the trail. With the help of the Conservancy group, the Grand Canyon Conservancy group, they found an individual that donated a large portion of money to move that trail. So we were asked to be a part of working on the trail. We were there for, I believe, 5 or 6 days working on that trail, removing all the trail, placing rock along the old trail, then creating the new one down below, then having the stairway go up to a platform area where you could view the petroglyphs. We were there working and they had us planting rocks cactuses (laughter)…

Ceili: That’ll deter people from getting too close!

Ronnie: We were moving rock and we had to dig a trench and place a real big rock and bury it halfway so they couldn’t move it. And then put the cacti in certain areas. It came out really good. It came out really good. People weren’t going up and touching the petroglyphs no more. Park Service did an excellent job with all that – moving the real big old heavy rocks and making the stair steps that go up to the platform viewing area. It really was a great experience for me. I’ve never worked down in the Canyon like that before.

Kate: The story of the Zuni panel is just one example of how monitoring trips helped protect cultural sites along the river.

Ronnie: When you’re venturing into these archaeological sites, have respect. Treat it like you’re in a church. Don’t pick up pot shards and leave them, or pile them up on rocks. If you pick it up, put it back where you got it, or just leave it alone. Take a picture. Treat the place as if you’re in your church, your place of worship.

Kate: How did the Zuni people feel when the dam was put in?

Ronnie: I’m pretty sure that our tribe didn’t even know about it. There was no consultation at that time and once it was built it was built. And now, they come and ask us how we feel about it. I feel a lot of things about it, but what can we do? It’s already there, we can’t tell them to tear it down. And maybe one day they’ll take it back (chuckling).

Kate: Yeah! (laughter)

Ronnie: Yeah, we just need to adapt to what is displaced. It really messed up the whole cycle of the river. The Colorado River don’t reach the Sea of Cortez no more, not a lot. The Gila and the Salt River, they don’t reach the Sea of Cortez no more because of the dams that are built. Electricity is good. Electricity is good, but it has its pros and cons and we do not block our water ways from the headwaters all the way down to the oceans. We can’t, it’s not allowed. It’s like impeding the rains to come, you’re blocking out the rain when you do that. A big dam like that is holding back all the rain from coming in, because all that was supposed to go down to the ocean where our ancestors come back as moisture, as rain, any kind of precipitation that’s our ancestors feeding us with the gift of life, which is water. Building all these dams along the Colorado River is a “no-no,” we frown upon that. But at that time, like I said there were no consultations with tribes. They all just wanted to do whatever they wanted to do. Mother Earth was theirs for the taking, which we don’t see that way. A tribal Native American has never said that “this is my land.” We don’t own it we’re just taking care of it. When we pass away we’re not going to take it with us. We’re not gonna pack you in with your land and send you off to the spirit world. No. And like I said, they didn’t have any consultations with any of the tribes and they were places and now we have to deal with it. We’re helping the Park Service; we’re helping them to make right what they did.

Jan: Each group, each government, each cultural identity is represented somewhere different, but there's a shared understanding of the importance of Grand Canyon as part of all of the traditional landscapes for the native peoples of the area. I mean, Glen Canyon Dam was finished in 1963 so you've got 50 some years now of an experiment essentially, and many of our tribal colleagues will remind me that they’re patient people. They're just gonna wait. Every damn that's ever gone on the Colorado River has been eroded around, we just haven't taken a long enough perspective. But we also as federal agencies have responsibility to preserve in perpetuity. I mean, the National Park Service in particular we’re the, you know, we’re the forever people. You know, these resources are our responsibility forever. As long as the Park Service exists we will see ourselves as stewards for these lands and we’re stewards not for our own selves but for the American people and the tribal groups who have called this, again, this Canyon home for thousands of years. We take their responsibility really seriously.

Ed: When Grand Canyon was designated a National Monument in 1908 and a National Park in 1919, it was done without the support or consent of the people for whom the Canyon was home for time immemorial.

Ceili: Grand Canyon Superintendent Ed Keable.

Ed: Echoes of this painful and inequitable history still resonate throughout our park. We must acknowledge these injustices and face them head on. Today there is much we need to do to heal historic wounds, and we are committed to this work because it is both necessary and right. I know we can achieve these goals as Grand Canyon and the nation grapple with our past and progress ever forward towards building a more perfect union.

Ronnie: The most memorable experience I had down the river is uh, all the time! Everyday stands out. The wind may be blowing. you know. you may have sand in your breakfast, but you're down in the Canyon where our ancestors live, you know? You're happy, you know, having a great time!

Kate: My name is Kate, and thank you for joining us on another episode of Behind the Scenery. We gratefully acknowledge the native peoples on whose ancestral homelands we gather, as well as the diverse and vibrant native communities who make their home here today.

“A big dam like that is holding back all the rain from coming in, because all that was supposed to go down to the ocean where our ancestors come back as moisture, as rain, any kind of precipitation. That’s our ancestors feeding us with the gift of life, which is water.”

-Ronnie Cachini, Head Rain Priest, A:Shiwi (Pueblo of Zuni)

This episode is dedicated to the memory of Ronnie Cachini. We are deeply grateful for all he taught us during his many years of close partnership with Grand Canyon National Park.

Hiking Misadventures with Nalini Ravindranath


Nalini: So I did the Rim to Rim hike at the Grand Canyon, and I hiked it with my sister. My sister it not the adventurous type and this was actually her first backpacking trip. And she came with me out of the kindness of her heart. And I could see how she transformed during the hike as she saw more people who looked like her and she had the ability to interact with them. So we were, you know, camped at the Phantom Ranch area and as we were sort of like hiking out there we met a mother and daughter, an Indian mother and daughter. I am of Indian descent. And my sister really just kind of like bonded with these two. In fact, like started hiking with them and I was hiking by myself for a while. But I think just that interaction made her feel more confident, and I think made her feel more like that she belonged in that space too.

Jesse: Hey this is Jesse. On this episode we’re featuring an interview ranger Jeff Caton recorded with Nalini Ravindranath. Nalini is the author of the blog “Hiking Misadventures.” She’s a great writer and a great storyteller. Enjoy.

Jeff: Alright, well let's just get started with the first question. When we had our preliminary conversation couple weeks ago you talked about how you went from kind of an urban person in Washington DC to hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. Would you tell us about that experience?

Nalini: Yeah, so that is true. I grew up in DC and didn't really do any hiking or sort of like typically what's considered outdoors, any of those types of activity, and I had a like things that were big life changes that were happening. I had, you know, heard about the Appalachian Trail and I had seen a couple of movies and decided you know I was gonna take it on! This was the year that I was going to do it. So I set out on the Appalachian Trail without any backpacking experience and very little hiking experience. And the process of getting ready for that was really interesting. I'm somebody who has to do a ton of research before I take on something, particularly if it's something that I'm not familiar with. So this was a huge sort of, you know, like something really out of character for me, but to me it was also a really courageous life changing decision. So, you know, like my friends drove me down to Georgia and I started. The first couple of days were a little hard they were really really cold. I didn't know how to set up my tent, I didn't know how to make my stove work. So you know like the first couple days I was sort of like, you know, kind of like watching, making sure that this is really what I wanted to do, but I met such an incredibly wonderful group of people and everybody is so willing to help you. A couple of people that I met on the trail help me set up my tent probably about 3 or 4 days in and then I knew how to set up my tent, and then I knew how to work my stove. It was step by step. I learned how to do things you know while I was on the trail and that was a really, really freeing experience. It kind of got me out of my fear because I think a lot of the reason why I hadn't engaged in any outdoor activity was really fear. My family didn't necessarily do it and I didn't really know what it was about and so I'm really glad I had the opportunity to kind of experience the trail in the way that I did. And of course I just you know learned so much about myself and got to see some amazing amazing parts of the country that I you know had never thought to even visit. And, you know, at the end of it I was really proud of myself, and I think my parents who are kind of very traditional in what they think about as success. I think it also kind of helped pull them out of that traditional mode. The day after I had um summited Katahdin and I came back into town I called my dad and said “I summited!” and he was just so incredibly happy and yeah he said “I am just so proud of you. This is not something that I would have thought about doing. I didn't understand it in the beginning but I'm really glad that you kind of, you know, brought me along this journey and helped me learn about this trail as well.” So that was a really really awesome moment.

Jeff: How long did it take you to do the trail? Were you slowed down at all the learning curve or you did it in pretty Standard Time and didn't let any of that slow you down?

Nalini: Yeah I think I did it in pretty standard time. It took me 6 months. When I was planning it in the beginning I had always intended to go slow because I had read enough stuff online that like, you know, if I try to do too much I'll probably injure myself or you know something like that. And that was at the forefront of my head and being like don’t do anything too crazy, much crazier than what I was doing. I was actually ahead of schedule until towards the end when I entered into New Hampshire. I had developed plantar fasciitis on both feet and tendonitis on both of my knees, so just, you know, the act of walking was starting to become painful. I really had to rethink how I was gonna finish the hike, which meant I had to take a lot more breaks and then also you know sometimes do certain hikes as day hikes. So that slowed me down a little bit, but overall I still stayed that on schedule because I kind of like you know I had breezed through certain parts of the trail. So I finished September 17th. Started on March 15th and finished on September 17th.

Jeff: Wow that is so cool you finished up that trail with 2 banged up using 2 banged up feet and then and you still finish on time.

Nalini: I did! It sort of felt like I was like crawling into New Hampshire, right? And I was just like man, like what choice do I have? Am I really gonna go home when I have 2 more states left? And it was like “nope,” I'm gonna figure this out. Which I think kind of illustrative of my entire you know hiking experience, hiking life. Things don't always go according to plan and then my confidence gets shaken but then I kind of often have to sit down and have a talk with with myself and be like “OK, what are you gonna do? Are you gonna walk off the trail, or are you gonna figure it out?” And usually the answer is I'm gonna figure it out, and I figure it out.

Jeff: So we talked before you mentioned that, you know, naming your blog, there's a story there. How did you how did you name your blog? Because you just talked about how some things don't go as planned. Tell us how you how your named your blog.

Nalini: Yeah so, my blog is called “Hiking Misadventures,” and the story really starts from my first…I guess it was my second day on the trail, but the first morning after sleeping on the tail and waking up. I had filtered my water the night before so I could get an early start and I was just you know I had it all planned. Except, the thing that I didn't do is close my bite valve. It was open and I had set my pack unknowingly on top of the bite valve. I had packed everything into the pack and then I went I went to lift the hydration pack and put it in my backpack and it was pretty empty. And I was just like “what happened?” And I was just like looking around thinking there was a leak and then I kind of you know I had to be like “oh, that was a really silly mistake.” And then I re-filtered water, did the whole thing again and in that panicked moment I had taken my camera out and I had set it down. I completely forgot about it, started hiking, and then maybe about a mile in I realized I forgot my camera. I had to hike the mile back and pick it up. In those first few moments I was, you know, feeling like “gee, I'm probably not ready to do this, I'm completely inexperienced. I don't know what I was thinking.” But I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. And then after I came home a lot of people that I would talk to would constantly say, particularly people in my family and other people of color, “I don’t think I could ever do that. I would never know how to figure out something like that, or problem solve on the go.” And when I decided to start my blog after the Appalachian Trail that was really something that was a driving force for me in even starting the blog - to emphasize this idea that you don't have to be an expert to experience the outdoors. And yes, there are some basic safety things that you have to think about, but really most of the time there are things that you can just learn how to do. And if you make a mistake you know correct your mistake and you get to keep going. And that fear shouldn't stop you from experiencing all the wonderful things about the outdoors.

Jeff: So I think a lot of us Rangers experienced those things where some days, you know, the most we get done is like you said putting one foot in front of the other and you don't need to be an expert for a lot of this stuff. You just have to do it and learn and fail sometimes, but continue after that failure.

Nalini: Yeah!

Jeff: So kind of building on that question, how has your you're hiking experience or your time in nature, how has that changed you from when you were starting out there in Washington DC, and now here you are with this awesome blog and all these experiences? How have you changed along that road?

Nalini: Yeah I mean, oh man! I would say the outdoors have given me so much confidence and the ability to believe in myself. Like I said, I was always one of these people who had to plan and really think through something before I did something, and I always kind of play things safe. So I only did things if I knew I could excel at it, so only things that I, you know, had a lot of experience in and I'm very averse to taking risk. And that part of myself has completely transformed. I am willing to experience new things. I don't let fears stop myself from experiencing new things. And I think you know one of the things that I've learned over the years of hiking and, you know most of the hiking that I do is by myself, is that sometimes the fear has to come along with you on the journey, right? And then you kind of go “OK, there's some fear there. That's OK you're coming along with me.” And then you know that can also make me you know stay alert and smart on the trail too, and you know like understand what my limitations are. So fear is not necessarily a bad thing. And then just, you know, I think in general being a more confident person that believes in myself and believes in my ability to do things whether it's on the trail or off the trail. So when I actually came back from the Appalachian Trail I kind of made career change from, you know like I have worked in nonprofits doing research, and then I kind of switched to a different role within nonprofits which was to be a grant writer, which involves a lot of sort of like you know being out front and having sort of like you know being like a face of an organization. And I don't think I could imagine doing something like that before my outdoor experience.

Jeff: You mentioned how your risk tolerance has changed and how you had, you know, those fears but you dealt with them. You let them ride along on your car trips and in your backpack when you were hiking. What were some of those fears starting out, and then how have those fears changed? Or have they changed?

Nalini: You know, I don't think a lot of those fears have changed. And you know one of the things that I would say is that I am not a natural athlete. Athletic endeavors never came easily. And I think a lot of times when you think about what the outdoors is, or what people are able to do in the outdoors I think there's a very kind of like specific body type that we have in mind, and I don't have that body type. I am a pretty tiny person. Really, really short. And so I think a lot of the fears in the beginning, and they continue to be, are just really doubting what my body can accomplish. So if I'm setting off on a backpacking trip I have all these doubts about whether I can carry the pack, whether, you know like I'm a little accident prone, whether I'm gonna do something to hurt myself and really injure myself. And then, you know, find myself not being able to get the help that I need. I think there are also just kind of fears around - a lot of the places that I travel to are rural, and often I hike alone and, you know, there are safety concerns. Those have never ever materialized, but I think those are things that just kind of like live with me or like, you know, that I carry with me. But then when I'm on the trail those things either sort of ride along with me or they kind of dissipate. Like, “oh, you know, this is fine!” And the part about my doubts about my body, or fears that my body will not be able to accomplish something, that is something that just constantly I carry. And then, you know, I will get to the top of the mountain and just kind of look back and go “huh, my body did that. Congratulations!” Like having appreciation for like being able to do this physically.

Jeff: So we talked about the fears that you have, and I think that's a pretty common thing for all of us hikers to have, whether you’re a ranger or, you know, that first time visitor to a National Park. The fears are different but they're always there.

Nalini: Yeah!

Jeff: What has been challenging about visiting national parks and the outdoors, and more specifically, you know, have you perceived any barriers to being in these places?

Nalini: Yeah, I will start off by saying I think where I am now, sort of financially, in terms of job-wise, I'm in an incredibly privileged place, right? Like I have financial resources and a really flexible work environment where they let me take off weeks at a time to do my little adventures. So I would say you know first of all those two things can be an incredible barrier, right, given sort of like you know how far away some of these beautiful, amazing places are. So I think you know just physical access can be a barrier for a lot of people. I think particularly people of color, especially if you're coming from a pretty urban environment where I think you know there's a lot of diversity. Both in terms of people, but also like diversity in terms of like transportation and things like that. So I think those are, if you will, like you know material barriers right? And then I also think one of their fears that I have is that it's not going to be a welcoming place. That I am not a super athlete and so therefore if I'm in a National Park if I make a mistake or you know like have some kind of accident, people are going to be judging me and not really accepting me. And I think over the years it's just going back and going back has kind of you know helped me sort of like temper those fears from the beginning, right, to say “OK, I know this is a fear that I have, but once I'm there I can create my own space.” Yeah, I think more can be done to create national parks to be a welcoming space for everyone, but then also individually I think having the courage to create your own space as you're going through these incredibly beautiful, wonderful places but that can sometimes feel really isolating.

Jeff: You mentioned there that when you, when you're in these in these big parks and you're concerned about you know possibly hurting yourself while you're on the trail and people judging you, would you tell us a little bit more about that? Are you concerned about other visitors, or rangers, the people who would come help you if you did get hurt?

Nalini: Yeah.

Jeff: Tell us more around that, I'm curious to hear.

Nalini: Yeah that so I think my fear is always judgment from sort of like everyone. Park rangers who might say “that was an obvious mistake that you shouldn’t have made. Your pack is too heavy. Why did you decide to carry a heavy pack like that?” Or even like you know other visitors as well. I think you know we live in a society where there are, whether intentional or unintentional, racist reactions, right? And being a very dark-skinned person that, you know, in a lot of national parks, particularly in sort of like in the backcountry there aren't a lot of people who look like me. So often I have this fear that somehow if I do something and I hurt myself like I am not going to get the help that I need because, people are going to judge me. And then I will say so last year I hiked the Wonderland Trail, which circumnavigates Mount Rainier and I did hurt myself. My pack was too heavy. I was carrying my entire like 11 day food supply with me so the pack was a little heavier than I anticipated it was going to be, and I think I was probably also a little bit dehydrated. So one morning as I was like heading out, it was I think you know day 4 or 5 of this 11-day trip, I was coming out of my camp area which was up this very steep incline, and I was coming down that incline and just kind of stepped the wrong way and turned my ankle a little bit. So I sat down for a couple of minutes. The pain went away, and then I was on my way. And I climbed up to the highest point on the trail that day, which was about one and a half mile climb. I was actually feeling really great. I was feeling really strong. And then I had to descend. And as soon as I started descending I knew I had hurt my ankle more than just turning it because every step was excruciatingly painful. And I have to say there were so many people who stopped. Visitors to the park who stopped, and you know like gave me some Advil and ACE Bandages. There was one person who even said “I'm going to the top now, but if you don't make it down, like on my way back I will definitely help you.” And then I ran into a park ranger who was just so incredibly helpful. And I remember like I kept saying “I can walk myself, I can walk myself, I don't need to be carried out of here.” And it was getting really dark and it was starting to, you know, thunderstorm and they kind of had to make the call to carry me out. And the ranger kind of sat me down and said you know “look, you don't have to prove anything to anybody. You have been incredibly strong right now. We're here to help you and this is going to help you, to carry you out.” And that's what they did. And I think it took that experience for me to, and for that ranger to explicitly say that to me, for me to feel comfortable, because otherwise I was just carrying this burden in my head, right? Like, oh they were just going to think that I was too stupid when no one really thought that. Everybody was just, you know, pretty impressed with me that I had been willing to do as much as I could. So feeling like all these people are going to judge me but in reality my experience was not that at all. And even to this day I feel like I owe an amazing amount of gratitude to the park rangers who helped me.

Jeff: Glad you stumbled on a Ranger, that's why we're there.

Nalini: Right! which is what they kept saying! “We are here for this. We are here to help you.” We can sort of be inside of our heads so much that we're not experiencing the reality in the way that it is really happening, right? And I'm just so grateful that he could identify that was the struggle that I was having and would be able to talk to me and say “look, like you don't have to prove anything. We're here to help you and you have done an incredible amount already.” And I think it's something that I constantly about too, like if I am doing other trips too. It's just like “I don't have to prove myself to be out here. I belong in this space just as much as other people.”

Jeff: Yeah, I'm glad you said that you belong in this space just like everybody else.

Nalini: Yeah, I mean I feel like it's not something that I maybe explicitly said in terms of barriers, but I think that's also part of it. I think, you know, the outdoor narrative has for a long time has been the idea of rugged, strong, men conquering nature. And really it doesn't have to be that way, right? You can define what your outdoor space is and how you're gonna interact with that space, and how you recreate in that space in the outdoors. And, you know, that space belongs to you and you have the right recreate in the way that you want to, right, in in in terms of you can take as long as you want when you're hiking up a mountain. It's how you define yourself with the outdoors and I think has to come from a place of you believing that you belong there.

Jeff: So going down that same road, what makes you feel more welcome in outdoor spaces? Or what do you think the Park Service could do to make more people welcome? You can kind of pick whichever question there you want to answer.

Nalini: Yeah, I mean I can probably answer both. I feel really comfortable when I see people who look like me around me, right? I think that's kind of a very human instinct. So I did the Rim to Rim hike at the Grand Canyon, and I hiked it with my sister. My sister it not the adventurous type and this was actually her first backpacking trip. And she came with me out of the kindness of her heart. And I could see how she transformed during the hike as she saw more people who looked like her and she had the ability to interact with them. So we were, you know, camped at the Phantom Ranch area and as we were sort of like hiking out there we met a mother and daughter. I am of Indian descent. And my sister really just kind of like bonded with these two. In fact, like started hiking with them and I was hiking by myself for a while. But I think just that interaction made her feel more confident, and I think made her feel more like that she belonged in that space too. So I think that’s an obvious one for me. And in terms of what can the Park Service do? I think, you know, I think we really have to think about how we can make our national parks more accessible to a diverse group of people. So it's not just maybe, you know, you get your backcountry permit and then you kind of go off exploring by yourself, because that might not be the first thing that somebody who's never experienced a National Park wants to do, right? I was listening to Lonnie Bunch, who’s the secretary of the Smithsonian Museum, a few days ago and one of the things that he talked about was how to make museums more accessible. And one of the things that he actually started doing when he was trying to make the African American Museum, like build it and how to make it a reality, he started sort of putting all these artifacts and making them virtually accessible. So it was it was really a virtual museum before it was actually a real museum. And that was actually like stuck in my head because I think a lot of times when people are not familiar with a certain place or a certain kind of environment, I think if they can experience it virtually then I think they become more comfortable, right? They can see themselves because they're experiencing it. And even for me the Appalachian Trail as a concept didn't really mean anything until I saw a movie about it about with through hikers hiking, and then it became a reality where I can picture it and I could picture myself there. So I think, you know, when we're talking about accessibility it's really offering more virtual programming so that people really feel a connection, feel welcome and they can experience it before they're actually physically there. And then I would also say having a diverse group of rangers as well, because I think that's also a sense of comfort, particularly if you're coming from a place that's probably not very diverse.

Jeff: Yeah, that makes perfect sense. I mean, you see you want to see yourself reflected in the people visiting and you want to see yourself reflected in the people taking care of the park, running the park and enforcing the laws, and making those decisions. Yeah that makes that makes perfect sense. So that's all the questions I have, actually. There's one more thing we wanna ask you though, since we're still recording. Is there anything that you wanted to talk about that that I didn't bring up? What else do you wanna talk about?

Nalini: Oh man, I really think that outdoors is this amazing, wonderful space that really really helped transform who I am. I don't think I mentioned this during our pre-interview but I have I have a bunch of health issues. I'm diabetic, and I also struggle with anxiety. And both of those things I've been able to manage by having this amazing relationship with the outdoors. Being able to get outside and just having the time and space to just like, you know, not focus on anything else, right? It is such an amazing privilege just to be like “I only have to worry about putting one foot in front of the other. I only have to worry today about making it to the place where I'm going to sleep.” There is this amazing freedom in that and I want as many people as possible to experience that. I think it was like the main purpose of this blog that I created and all of that I do with Hiking Misadventures, it's really to kind of emphasize the fact that you don't have to be an expert and that your relationship with the outdoors can be anything. It doesn't have to be that you go you know do a hike like the Appalachian Trail. I live in DC and there is lots of National Park Service stuff all around us. There is the Rock Creek Park, which is just right like you know in the middle of DC which is an amazing park and you don't have to go that far to explore it. And I think those are all outdoors. I will end this by saying, you know, I describe myself as this transformation of somebody who was not outdoors to becoming an outdoors person, but I think that that narrative in and of itself comes from this notion that there is only one way to experience the outdoors. My mom, she taught herself how to swim in the Indian Ocean. She explored woods around her and it was actually kind of like you know a safe place for her when she grew up in Sri Lanka where civil unrest could kind of spark up anytime. And that was kind of the place that was a safe haven for her from that. So there's this long history of the outdoors in my family that we have never really talked about as an outdoor…that we are an outdoor family. As I've as I've become more interested in hiking and taking on more outdoor adventures I am discovering that even my own outdoor narrative is really much more complicated than it is, and that we all do have a connection to the outdoors. Whether it's gardening or you're climbing up Mt. Rainier. There's a connection there. There's a strong history there. And there's a story there and you just have to tap into that to be able to experience all the wonderful things that that the outdoors has to give.

Jesse: Behind the Scenery is brought to you by the interpretation team at Grand Canyon National Park. A huge thanks to Nalini for sharing her experiences with us. Check out her work at hikingmisadventures.com. We gratefully acknowledge the Native People on whose ancestral homelands we gather, as well as the diverse and vibrant Native communities who make their home here today.

Jeff: I'm in another Ranger 's office and I have an iPad that's recording this as a backup in my office. If you could only see our little bailing wire and bubble gum operation over here. Nalini: You gotta start from something right?

"The outdoor narrative has for a long time has been the idea of rugged, strong, men conquering nature, and really it doesn't have to be that way. You can define what your outdoor space is and how you're going to interact with that space...That space belongs to you and you have the right recreate in the way that you want to...I think has to come from a place of you believing that you belong there."

Nalini Ravindranath is an avid explorer and author of the blog hikingmisadventures.com.

Notes from the Deep - Hiker Reflections from Havasupai Gardens


Jesse: Hey, this is Jesse. Today’s episode was recorded before the name change for Havasupai Gardens became official, so you’ll hear it referred to as Indian Garden. Enjoy the episode.

Intro music plays.

Brendan: A While back a green journal was thrown into a backpack on the South Rim and hiked down the Bright Angel trail to Indian Garden campground. From there, it was put inside an old ammo can and placed underneath the shady tree. The only prompt was a request to take a minute and reflect. After two years, the journal very much looks like it's been living in a Canyon. It's covered in red dirt. The cover is warped, and it looks like it's been rained on a few times and has several stains on it, including one labeled ramen broth. Inside, the book is now filled cover to cover with hundreds of names, drawings, poems, and stories. Reading it is like opening a tiny window into Indian Garden. Hikers talk about how nice the Creek is, how much their feet hurt and how they are not looking forward to going uphill. People also share about their lives at home, how much they love their hiking partners and why they traveled all over the world just to see this Canyon. These are thoughts and ideas that are shared amongst strangers and are only found in this worn out log book. So let's look into the thoughts of people who for many different reasons found themselves in the middle of Grand Canyon.

Female Voice: Kind thoughts, kind words, kind actions. This is my favorite place in the world. Much love C L H heart peace smiley face 9/28/19

Male Voice: Thursday, October 10th, Joe, the sublime pleasure of connecting with our planet on such a personal and deep level. I am humbled by this experience.

Beware of the squirrel. They're getting frisky. I'm pretty sure they like men as they only started showing up after we took off our shirts, but don't let your guard down. Don't turn your back. We just barely survived a surprise attack from behind. They distracted us in the front while others moved in for the kill. They're surrounding us. We've thrown almost every rock we can find, but they run low. Their chitters are all we can hear, now. If you can read this run. Escape before they trap you, we won't survive, but maybe you can. Don't let them smell your fear.

My feet hurt, but I am happy.

Female Voice: A love story. 3/15/20. In the late 1980s, Wade and Jill were both on separate camping trips with their friends in the Canyon. The group set up camp close to one another here at Indian Garden. Wade and Jill met and started talking. The next day, Jill took off early and Wade's group missed her. So Wade got Jill's friend's number from the camping permit left behind. He called her, connected with Jill from there, and the rest is history. They had me in 97 and at the age of 22, this is my first time here. What a special place to be. You can feel and start to understand the powers of the earth and sky that made the place what it is. Amidst all the chaos and uncertainty of this point in time, how comforting it is to feel something bigger than ourselves. The river will keep carving its way through, even if we're not here to see it. And life can be serendipitous two East coasters meet in the Arizona desert and fall in love. It is so wonderful to be here with good friends. Love remains in my life. I am grateful for this moment to just take it all in. Love always, Ellen.

Once quatro dos mil y noventa. Hello America, I'm Chilean. Nuestras. Visitas son marvillosa. Nos Encanto estas a venturas. Se vasa Chile desos visitas Torres Del Paines. Chile!

Male Voice: I don't know who dug this hole, but they were very strong.

Day three in Grand Canyon. Highlight of the trip was the contents of my stomach yesterday. Biscuits, gravy, two IPA's, and loaded potato soup. Fuel for a great hike with great guys. Joe.

We took a trip and down, we went into the Canyon, deep. We've stepped and strode and striding stood with every guided leap. We made our way into the depth where water met the land And on the Colorado made our castles made of sand. So out we trekked our legs were wrecked, but slowly step-by-step, We'll make it out and smile about the memories we've kept.

Female Voice: 9/24/19 I'm with my dad and mom, bro. Smiley face . I never hike alone. I'm nine. And if you saw the other page with the people go upside down, don't judge him. He's my bro. I live in Alberta and doing a three-day hike. My dad did a long run. I come from Lefberg. It's really windy. Drink lots of water and eat salty. Stay hiking, stay wild. Little Sis.

Male Voice: 17 January, 2020. First time at the Grand Canyon. This place is absolutely magnificent. So incredibly humbling. I feel so lucky to be here and particularly lucky to get a last minute corridor campground permit from the back country office the morning after I arrived. This little mission was a bit spontaneous. This has inspired me to prioritize time in nature, even higher for my remaining four weeks in your beautiful country. Hiking through here by myself has given me a wonderful opportunity to think and reflect. A thought, which has come to mind is that if we pursue only our own self interests and well-being, we ultimately will not be fulfilled. When we devote ourselves in whatever shape or form to the wellbeing of others and contribute to something greater than ourselves fulfillment and happiness will come. Let our values, our core values, guide our actions. Happy hiking, William New Zealand.

Female Voice: 3/16/20 As someone who is a local and has hiked the Canyon a number of times, it never ceases to amaze. The world seems to be in chaos, but some truths do not change. The Canyon heals your mind and body if you allow it. The Canyon has stood the test of time. You will not. There is more in the grand scheme of things than you and I will ever comprehend. Be kind to all people. Much love.

Brendan: And that was the last entry. There’s more entries we didn't record it, but what stood out is this theme of kindness. People wrote so much about being kind to each other, to the Canyon, to themselves, with everything. Why do you think the hikers all chose to do that? What is a moment of kindness in your life that has stuck with you?

Jesse: The Behind the Scenery Podcast is brought to you by the interpretation team at Grand Canyon National Park. Music in this episode by Cooper-Moore. We gratefully acknowledge the Native People on whose ancestral homelands we gather, as well as the diverse and vibrant Native communities who make their home here today.

In 2018 a journal was hiked to Havasupai Gardens. A prompt asked hikers to take a moment to reflect. People filled the journal with drawings, poems, and stories. In this episode of Behind the Scenery, listen as visitors reflect on their experiences, what brought them to the Canyon, and what they will take away.

This episode was recorded before the Havasupai Gardens name change became official. Visit our website to learn more: bit.ly/3SZETOm

Music in this episode by Cooper-Moore: bit.ly/3mGOKwk

In the Backcountry with Rich Rudow


Rich Rudow: I spend probably 70 or 80 days a year below the rim these days. (Acoustic guitar fades in) Jesse Barden: That’s probably more than most rangers and you certainly get into some really remote wild places. Rich: It was probably 10 years of getting acquainted with the canyon, and hiking trails, and then we started to go off trail from there, and it just kept progressing. Kate Hensel: My name is Kate and you’re listening to an episode of Behind the Scenery, Canyon Cuts. Jesse joined me in interviewing Rich Rudow, a famed canyon explorer. (Acoustic guitar fades out) Rich: Rich Rudow, and I’ve been coming up to the canyon for thirty years now, going places and learning about things. My first experience with Grand Canyon was in 1989 my wife bought my uncle and I a river trip. We launched at Lees Ferry in June with Hatch and travelled down the river for a week and were pulled out by helicopter at Whitmore. Like a lot of commercial trips still are today up to Bar 10 Ranch. During that weeklong introduction you quickly realize, you do these side hikes, and we did all of the typical side hikes that most folks do that are on a river trip. Like going up Saddle Canyon in the Marble area, going to Elves Chasm, and Deer Creek, Havasu, places like that. So I had that customary commercial river trip experience. I was just enthralled with the place. Every time that we would hike to an attraction site I would be asking the boatmen “What’s up there? Can’t we go further?” And I always got this puzzled look. Ultimately at some point in that week the river guides at the time, I still remember them, said “you know you really just get Harvey Butchart’s book and learn about this place. Jesse: Just to give folks listening some context Harvey Butchart is considered the most prolific Grand Canyon hiker in the modern era. He hiked over 10,000 miles in Grand Canyon and pioneered or rediscovered many rim-to-river routes. Rich: And so when I got out of the canyon, my brother-in-law and I both had a real interest in hiking at that point. We were in our late 20s, I guess. So, we just started hiking the trails that everybody hikes. Starting with Bright Angel, and South Kaibab, and doing a rim to rim, down South Kaibab up North Kaibab. And ultimately as you scroll through the 90s I’m reading Harvey’s book about these routes and we started to get more interested in going off trail and doing some of these routes that Harvey had talked about in his very terse prose. Jesse: There’s often a moment when you realize just how meaningful each word in every sentence is for Harvey Butchart. Did you have one of those moments? Rich: (laughs) Oh yeah! I think one time…this is probably 2001, I’m kind of guessing on time frames here, it was close to 20 years ago. My brother-in-law Dale and I had the idea to go off Swamp Point and down Saddle Canyon into the Tapeats Amphitheater and we had never done that. George had actually talked about that trip. Jesse: George Steck connected horizontally through the canyon a lot of Harvey’s rim-to-river routes. Rich: But the idea was to go down to junction of Crazy Jug and Saddle Canyon and then exit this route that goes out of Crazy Jug Canyon up to the esplanade layer. And then traverse the esplanade level towards Bridger’s Knoll but go out this sneak route in between Crazy Jug and Bridger’s Knoll. So we had this grand plan, and it was a mixture of some stuff that George and Harvey had written about. And we were depending on Harvey’s terse prose for the Redwall break to get out of Crazy Jug and then to get up the rim break to get out between Crazy jug and Bridger’s Knoll. So we were following George’s instructions down Saddle Canyon and had a great time and found water. We’re sitting there that first night kind of reading Harvey’s sentence and a half on this exit out of Crazy Jug, of this Redwall break, near the mouth of Crazy Jug. And I was starting to get nervous about this whole enterprise because it was super hot. It was well over a hundred degrees. The thinking was, if we missed we’re probably okay and you know retreating a different way but really didn’t want to do that so we weren't having this debate about the meaning of six words and Harvey put in a sentence and a half. And so we finally decided we would give it a try and we tanked up with 8 liters of water to go up this Redwall break because it was hot we weren't gonna find water we knew once we Got the Esplanade so we found the Redwall break and scrambled up to the top of the Esplanade in a relatively straightforward way, we were pretty pleased with ourselves. But we realized you know that we're down to about 3 liters of water at that point and so we made a run for, we’re on Esplanade level at the edge of Crazy Jug Canyon and we’re going to traverse the Esplanade to a rim break, a break in the Coconino that Harvey had written about and so you know we’re traversing across its 105° probably and I remember its two o’clock in the afternoon we're both down to about a liter and a half, we’re sitting under a juniper tree trying to catch the smallest shade, trying to catch any shade at that point. Looking at the Coconino cliffs and having this debate about what Harvey's words meant because we weren't picking up the break. We didn't visually see the break and at that point it was like, well this is really a big problem if we make a guess at what Harvey really means, and we can get to the base of the Coconino and it doesn't go we’re really in big trouble. We don't have the water to make a try at it and then retreat any place we’d be in big trouble. So, we finally kind of cursed Harvey and decided the safe route would be to make our way around Bridges Knoll and connect with the Thunder River Trail and then go out the Bill Hall Trail to the rim. We did that, the whole-time kind of thinking oh man this is really long way, we could have saved ourselves hours and hours and hours of hiking in the heat had we had we had some certainty about what Harvey was really talking about. So by the time we connected with the Thunder River Trail we were out of water and it's I don't know 6 at night in the middle of summer it's still really, really hot and of course we remembered that people leave water caches on that route. We found a gallon jug of water that had a date that was 2 years old. We figured this one was fair game. We were both just so thirsty we were taken a swig, and the water was so hot water, it was like drinking water out of your shower as it comes out of the hot water spigot. But uh, that saved us, and we topped out of the Bill Hall Trail 9 or 10 at night or something in the dark. The whole time was hours and hours of discussion about what Harvey really meant by those six words. And of course, it bothered us so much that we came back a few weeks later bound and determined to find that Coconino break and we did. And it didn't turn out to be that hard. And so we would go do some of these routes and see more things and learn more things and we would just getting more interested, it was like this place had a magnetic pull that got stronger with each trip that you did. Jesse: It's funny like, you know, there's the puzzle of trying to parse those six words and then the puzzle of looking at the potential route and often in Grand Canyon there are things that look like from a distance there's no way it goes but actually are pretty easy and then the reverses is often also true where it looks like it goes and it's going to be pretty easy but actually doesn't go at all. Rich: Yeah that's right there a lot of these routes that Harvey found that from a distance just look like complete no goes, no way it's going to work, and when you get up and start climbing around -- and that’s how a lot of routes are. I mean, I found some routes in the canyon that are really really fascinating intricate routes that you would think had no way that they would possibly go. And you on these routes and you'll find a stick stuck in a crack or you'll find couple rocks stacked on each other and you immediately realize it was an ancient Indian route and it totally goes. One route in the western part of the canyon it took me four years to put it together and you know just poking at it from the bottom up from the river and poking at it from the top down for the rim. And the crux was between the Supai and the bottom of the Redwall, the rest is pretty easy so if it took about four years and maybe I don't know half a dozen trips to kind of piece it all together and realize that it really could go. And then, of course, you know you figure it all out you start to find signs that you know the Ancestral Puebloans were there and they use the route too. Jesse: Yeah, I think chances are if it goes somebody else has been there. Rich: Yeah, That’s right. (Canyon Wren song) Rich: You know we started doing things where, you know, Harvey would talk about well, you know, a hand line would be great or you know you need a short rope there to lower a pack. And George Steck talked about the same things. So we started doing these routes where you know, that were harder and where there was a little climbing involved and you're using some ropes either as a handline or to lower packs and ultimately we started to get more and more confident with that and started to do some things with short rappels involved and I guess some point maybe 1999 or 2000 my wife got nervous about hearing these stories about what me and her brother were doing. And she thought we were not educated enough to be doing hard things so she bought us rock climbing lessons, which turned out to be just another faster slide accelerating down the slippery slope because once we got some training on what to do with ropes and gear we bought longer ropes and more gear and would go do harder stuff. And so, ultimately, that kind of morphed into checking out some canyons that you know really didn't have good beta or that were hard and involved some anchors and some repelling. You know by maybe 2005 or 2006 I’d become acquainted with Todd Martin and Todd and I had lots of mutual interests and one of them was the idea that there were a lot of slot canyons in the in the Redwall Limestone layers that probably hadn't been seen before. And we got really interested in in these places because some of these canyons we were going into were just stunningly beautiful and so the more we did this the more we got enthusiastic about just finding more of these Canyons and we just kept going and going and going. Any given adventure that we take these days you know sometimes…we did one in October of last year so just about a year ago not quite and I ended up blowing out my rotator cuff on a climb in this Canyon but it was a canyon that hadn’t been done before and we had a 600 foot rope with us. You know it just seems to spiral deeper and deeper into the abyss and you discover the place is so big you never find the bottom. Jesse: A 600 foot rope is a pretty punishing load to be carrying through Grand Canyon. So in all your time exploring Grand Canyon what do you think is the most important thing to know or one of the most important things to know if you're traveling off trail in the canyon? Rich: Well by far the most important thing to know is where to get water. I think that’s the problem in the canyon. There have been instances where I have walked by a water source, you know, a hundred feet away and never knew it was there and found it four years later and like wondered how could I have missed this? But, it’s pretty easy to miss water. Jesse: Yeah sure can be, surprisingly, especially those potholes where there's not necessarily as much growing around it as there would be a spring. You can’t spot it from a distance. Rich: Potholes are interesting on the Esplanade. It’s not intuitively obvious which ones actually dry up first and which ones might have water longer-term. You know there are some clues that you can get but I've actually gone to some really big potholes that are eight feet deep, and you’d swear they have to be holding water for a long time and they’re dry as a bone and two hundred feet away there’s a pothole with 3 inches of water, It's very minor so it's not obvious where those you know where those potholes are that hold water either. Jesse: So you said you've been hiking and traveling in Grand Canyon for about 30 years in that time like what are some of the changes that you've noticed? Rich: The threats to the canyon seem to just increase year-over-year the threats from developers especially. The idea of Building a tram at the confluence of the Colorado River and the Little Colorado River for example. The threats from uranium mining are still ongoing. There’s a mine that has big tailings piles that are exposed to the elements in a bowl basically a breccia pipe bowl that feeds into Parashant Canyon that's kind of an open source sitting there today. And Parashant runs right into the Grand Canyon and into the Colorado River this particular mine goes down this drainage through the Supai and then it starts to cut a Slot Canyon into the Redwall and we call that slot canyon, it’s never been published, we call it Radioactive. It’s a beautiful canyon, it’s stunning, but when you go through that slot canyon you can look down in the water or in the gravels and you can pick up big pieces of copper. And so the mine’s called The Copper Mountain Mine and they first discovered copper there and mined it for copper and then in the 50s realized that there was uranium. It kicked into a full-blown uranium mine and they stop mining uranium there in 1974. To this very day there's been no remediation done at that site at all and so you know if I can look in in the waters and the gravels of this beautiful slot canyon and pick up copper, I'll guarantee you there’s uranium in there too, I just don't know what it looks like. There’re some old wounds, the Orphan Mine is another perfect example. No matter how much money they end up spending you know through the Superfund Site funds you know remediation of something like that once it's gone wrong is almost impossible, it's really hard, and they've been spending millions and millions of dollars at the Orphan Mine over years trying to remediate that site to keep uranium from leaching in the water and it's still an ongoing project. They haven't even started on this site that I'm talking about, probably never will, it's kind of far enough out there that nobody really thinks about it. So certainly some of these threats are kind of accelerating in there I guess maybe in the frequency or the audacity of some of the developers to do things whether it's mining uranium or building a giant retail shopping space and homes in Tusayan where a lot of water’s required or building the tramway at the confluence. The idea that something the size of the Grand Canyon is large enough that it can't be impaired by man is really a folly. We continue to demonstrate that we can impair that place in a lot of different ways. Jesse: So, Rich, the last question we have for you. What do you hope for the future of Grand Canyon? Rich: I really hope that we have status quo for the future. That the various crazy development ideas that come along don't happen you know we don't need more development of a canyon. There are very very few places where you got large swaths of undeveloped wilderness and the Grand Canyon is probably the preeminent place in the lower 48 where you can literally go get lost. And I think there's some real value in that and I think that the public deserves to have a place that lives up to the ideals of the Organic Act and when the Park Service you know, when Grand Canyon was selected to be a National Park and what the idea of the National Park is. So I hope there isn’t any development at the confluence and there isn’t development in any other part of the canyon. And I would hope that someday there's some more balanced ideas around the aviation tourism problem that’s ruining the western part of the park. That is a reversible problem that does not have to continue and I think, you know, if people start thinking about striking a better balance I think that there is a way for the Hualapai Trip to get the economic benefits that they desperately need. So, I hope for the status quo. I don’t want to see the canyon developed or improved anymore. I don't think we can improve it more. There are obviously a few exceptions. I think the pipeline that provides drinking water to the canyon really needs to be fixed. We ought to come up with the money to do some basic infrastructure things because people do have a right to come see the park and enjoy it and then they ought to have a right to see parts of it by automobile or public transportation or whatever. You’ve got to have drinking water as a basic piece of infrastructure that has to exist so certainly continuing to invest and improve the infrastructure of the park has in the corridor area I think it is important, but I don't think we want to have any other big developments in other parts of the part that don't exist today. (Acoustic guitar fades in) Kate: We gratefully acknowledge the native peoples on whose ancestral homelands we gather, as well as the diverse and vibrant native communities who make their home here today. Thank you for listening to this episode of Canyon Cuts, a Behind the Scenery micro episode brought to you by the North Rim and Canyon District interpretation teams at Grand Canyon National Park. (Acoustic guitar fades out) Jesse: I really wanted to get that like dun-dadun-dun-dadun- dun Recorded phone music and message “Your passcode has been confirmed”

Ever wondered what secrets are hiding way down in the depths of Grand Canyon? That curiosity has driven Rich Rudow to spend over 1,000 nights below the rim. On the latest episode of the Behind the Scenery podcast, Rich talks about getting his start in backcountry hiking, canyoneering first descents, and his hopes for the future of Grand Canyon National Park.

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