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!


Looking Down - Kevin Schindler's Time as Astronomer-In-Residence


Dave: Hey, this is Dave. Elle: And this is Elle. Dave: We sat down with Kevin Schindler, the Public Information Officer and Historian at Lowell Observatory, to chat about his time as an Astronomer-In-Residence, and to learn more about the night sky. Elle: While Dave had the chance to sit down with him in person, I phoned in from the North Rim. Please forgive our audio quality, we tried. Oh, that was the most awkward little laugh. *laughing* Elle: In this episode, we'll be looking down on Kevin's experiences as an Astronomer-In-Residence within the Canyon. Kevin: My name is Kevin Schindler, and I'm the Historian and Public Information Officer at Lowell Observatory, and I've been at Lowell for 28 years. Early on in my career, I was in the public program at Lowell, so I started as a tour guide, then ended up managing the program for a dozen years or something like that. And now I'm the Historian, and so I try to document the history, which is not just back then, but now, it's kind of for me it's not history and current, it's the heritage that we've been doing for a long time. So, the heritage of research. So, I do with that I write articles and some books, and give talks, and kind of help with planning exhibits and that sort of thing. And then for the Public Information Officer, PIO, that's the other half of what I do and that's promoting the observatory. So that's largely the media relations, and so if we have a science story or we're doing something special for our public program, or there's an unusual or interesting astronomical event, like we have eclipses coming up so and so I'll do press releases and media alerts, set up interviews with our staff, host tours with media personnel so that people from around the world coming like to check out Northern Arizona, they'll go to the Grand Canyon, to here in Flagstaff, and so we'll facilitate tours up here at the observatory promoting everything so they'll write about it and let people know. Dave: You were a former Astronomer-In-Residence as well. Kevin: Right, I served as Astronomer-In-Residence in May of 2023, and that was just a spectacular experience. Dave: What drew you into the program and why did you apply for the program? Kevin: Well, I've worked with uh Raider Lane, the Dark Sky Ranger and other folks at Grand Canyon over the past - gosh, it's been years now - doing some research, retracing where the Apollo astronauts trained in 1960s, but also other things like, I mean like Bucky O'Neill has always been an interest of mine, Theodore Roosevelt’s role in Grand Canyon National Park, which is a really interesting, politically charged sometimes, topic. And so those were besides, just the dark skies, and I I've been to star parties for years, the Grand Canyon Star Party. So, it's kind of a combination of, you know, working with folks up there, and working on some projects here and there. But the reason I applied was the opportunity to be up there for a full month and really zoom in on this, you know, rephotographing where the astronauts trained because we have a lot of photographs from NASA and the US Geological Survey, they trained to pinpoint where those pictures were taken. It's a lot of fun and it can be frustrating, but it's fun and it means hiking into the Canyon and you know, at one point I was walking back and forth, I think about a half a mile, and just below O'Neil Butte, going back and forth about a half a mile, trying to line up this one rock that was split along the trail and I could see a little bit of the background that wasn't changing much. So, it's just a really fun project, but that's the reason I applied was to try to really spend more time with that. Dave: It sounds like a really interesting project, yeah. Kevin: And then also you know it was kind of a combination of that was the main project, it was rephotographing, but also giving daytime programs on some non-astronomy history and then doing you know star parties at night. I mean what a cool place. And so, when I was there, I did something like 30 programs for the month. Which were a combination of like from a walking tour of the cemetery, a history tour, to talking about Bucky O'Neill and Brighty the Burrow, which is a really fascinating story. And then, of course, the astronauts and the night sky, there's so many different things to do. I mean, you could spend the rest of your life working on so many projects there. Dave: Yeah, I think that's maybe a little bit different about your programming while you were there, was that you did do some daytime stuff. What was your favorite part of your experience? Kevin: I think the people. Because like you mentioned, this is a program with the Grand Canyon National Park supported by the Grand Canyon Conservancy, the financial arm of the National Park, as it were. And it was, it was so fun to be able to get to know a whole cadre of different people that are really passionate about the same thing. I work at Lowell. You guys work at the Grand Canyon, but we're all passionate about the universe around us and preserving it and exploring it and sharing it with others, and the inspiration that comes. So, I think that was the biggest thing, whether it was talking to visitors and showing them views through the telescope for the first time, which is always a thrill for me, or working with the Grand Canyon Conservancy staff. You know they; I was living at Verkamp's store and down below or upstairs and down below is the store and the visitor center. But the staff rotates every day among several different stores in the park. And so, I got to know just about everybody on the retail staff. And then the rest of the team like Clover Morrell and others that work in the office, it was just, it was just great, and you like through this, I got to know you and go to the North Rim and, you know, work with a lot of people I hadn't before. So, like I think that, I mean there's the obvious things of the Canyon. I mean I I've been to the Canyon a lot, but living there is a different experience, but really the biggest thing was the people and sharing the excitement. Elle: Kevin, what would you say was the most surprising part of that experience? Kevin: I think probably that even though I've been to the Grand Canyon a bunch of times and hiked down and done rim to river back when I was younger, and you know, not, you know, maybe not as smart or not, I was in better shape. Like I think, of all that, really still being there for a month, living there, just how connected you are to the universe. I mean, every time I go, my wife and I go, we want to as we're driving back home, we say “okay, let's plan our next trip.” But you know, we've been there for a few days, a week maybe, but being there for a month where during the daytime, you look down and you see these layers of rock, the time that's represented, and at nighttime you look up and you're looking back in time also it's just, you know, you're looking at starlight. I think, I'm not sure - I expected that, but not to that level where I really felt just really so connected to it. I think that was probably the biggest thing because I thought, okay, I'm going to be here for the month, this is going to be great. I'll just do, it'll be more of what I felt before, but it was a new experience. It was just, it was like I was in an alien place because I was there day and night. It wasn't just visiting there. Elle: How did you find those spots to recreate the photos? Kevin: So, we have, we have these photographs from NASA and the US Geological Survey, and there's probably, I don't know, a few dozen of them and some of them, from my experience hiking, they're pretty obvious. Like O'Neill Butte, you know, you see it standing in the background, it’s obvious. And some of the places I was kind of familiar with. Others, I talked to people a lot more familiar with the Grand Canyon than me, Dennis Foster is a local, he lives in Flagstaff, but he's very familiar with Grand Canyon, and Bill Farris and some others that we're able to pinpoint it. Carl Bowman, who’s another expert on the Canyon. So, they helped me kind of narrow down where some of these things were. And then in other cases, it was just you know, I knew, you know there are like a bunch of them are along the South Kaibab Trail, somewhere along there. There, there are a couple that I just bumbled upon, and when I saw them, I thought, my gosh, how did I miss this before? So, it's kind of a combination, of a you know, going on a sleuthing expedition. So, every time I found one, it's really kind of satisfying. Dave: What do you think your favorite one was? Is there a particular spot that you really liked trying to pinpoint? Kevin: Oh, gosh. I'm not sure if I have a favorite one like there's there are several pictures of Neil Armstrong and one of him at the Fossil Fern Exhibit, and I like that one because my background is paleontology. And so, it ties together paleontology and of course the rocks, the Grand Canyon, and Neil Armstrong, who, like me, was from Ohio. And so, I voice, you know, he's one of my favorite astronauts, partly because that besides, you know, obviously what he did and so that one has a lot of personal meaning. Another one down, it's Havasupai Gardens, where the astronauts had hiked up then got mules there, and there's a picture of one of the mercury astronauts, Gordon Cooper on a mule. And so, this one wasn't too hard to find a spot just right by the mule paddock, as it were. But several years ago, I wanted to recreate that shot when I first started doing this and so there was a wrangler there, her name is Tex Parker, and she was riding, and I asked her if she'd pose for a picture. I showed it to her, and she said “sure,” and she did this spectacular pose and just this cute smile and everything, and then after we were done, you know, I showed that picture in different programs I've done. But when I did the Astronomer-In-Residence, I told her I wanted to rephotograph it because her head was cocked once to the left instead of the right. It was really almost like an inside joke because it wasn't that big a deal, but we arranged a time to meet down there and so she brought her wagon train down and she reposed, and she had been practicing. And so, she not only got the head tilted the right way but had the same look on her face. So that was fun because that's something that led to a long-lasting friendship now that we just kind of stumbled on. So that's, I'm getting into a long answer, but those are a couple of the ones that are kind of fun. My gosh, there's, again it involves the people, like down at Phantom Ranch trying to figure out where this one picture was taken, and Sjors I don't remember his last name, but he's a legend in in the Grand Canyon, he volunteered there for 30 years and I showed this to him and he said, oh, that's looks like cabin eight, or I think it was cabin eight. And we walked over there and sure enough, you know, the background rocks and everything have lined up perfectly. And another personal thing with that is that I was when, I had got this lined up that trip, I was giving a talk that night about the astronauts. And so earlier that day, I went back to rephotograph the spot right by the cabin and the people who were staying in the cabin, there's somebody there that were outside. So, I showed this picture and said, hey, you're staying in this cabin, look at this, these astronauts are there, and that's pretty neat. And hey, I’m doing the program tonight, come on over. So, I give the program that and I noticed this one guy looking at me like closer than everybody else. It was kind of odd, and afterwards he came up and said, “Kevin, do you remember me?” And it was a guy I went to college with, he was in my class, and we haven't seen each other in well, and I won’t divulge how long it's been since I was in college, but it was like 3 decades plus. And, Ed White, and of all the things he said every year, he and his friends rent a cabin at the bottom and hike down and stay a couple of nights, and that happened to be the weekend. And so, we reconnected after all these years because of rephotographing, you know the spot, so that that had a lot of personal connection, also. So yeah, I think it just you know, I think to me Grand Canyon is like Lowell Observatory in a lot of ways, that people go to either place and are stunned and they're great experiences, but it's the people working there that interpret and explain and inspire that that put it all in context, and that's what makes Lowell Observatory and the Grand Canyon so spectacular. It's one thing to see them, which is great, but having - whether it's Rangers at Grand Canyon or educators at Lowell - it's having it explained and put in context, that you know, that those are always the best comments we get from people of so and so really helped me see, it or really explained it well. And so that's something I think, one of many things the Canyon and Lowell have in common, you know something exciting for people to see, but also the staff to get people excited about it. Dave: During your experience, you know, we talked about staff and thing, what was the most impactful thing you learned from the Canyon itself? Kevin: I think, I'm not sure if you would say I learned it, but I think so, but it really impacted me by living there and seeing what I was saying before about time, and how we're looking down at the rocks are up in the sky, but the similarities with them. You know, the rocks, you look, they appear to be so stable layer after layer that have been there a long time. The same thing when you look up the sky at night. Every night the Big Dipper is rising, you know, with all, it looks the same. You know the sun rises every day very predictable. But if you look at either one of them closely, you see that beneath that stability is chaos. Like you go to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and the Vishnu basement rocks that are contorted and twisted around. Or if you look closely at the sun and it's, you know, 27,000,000 degrees and these thermonuclear reactions going on that, I just really saw so much similarity in, you know, we're looking back in time in different ways, but they both they both have a lot in common. I think that that really stood out to me more than anything. One thing that I want to do is you know, you look at different layers of the rocks and when they were laid down and then comparing that to something in space whose life started traveling to us at the same time, those rocks were laid down. So, you know, there's a couple million light years away, for instance. Now the rocks in the Canyon were laid down hundreds of millions and longer ago. And so, you look at things in space that are that age, you know, like a distant Galaxy or whatever and it's neat to think that the light that is touching my eye now started traveling when there was no Grand Canyon, these rocks were being laid down. It's magnificent to think of the time it takes for things to happen in the universe. And that's what I think you know, I mean you look at the Grand Canyon, you know you see these layers of rocks and you're looking back in time, but the being, standing on the edge like at sunset and seeing the depth of the Canyon and the hundreds of millions of years represented, and then at the same time, you see stars starting to come out and think. You're, again, you're looking back in time at that light. It was just really such a visceral experience. Elle: It seems like your geology and astronomy interests lined up pretty well on this residency, then. Can you tell us a little more about that? Kevin: Yeah, my background is in geology. I went to College in Ohio, Marietta College, and I focused on paleontology, and I worked at a museum in Florida, the Florida Museum of Natural History, for six years. And so that's always been a love of mine, soft rocks for fossils, and you know the Grand Canyon, that's mostly what it is. It's layer upon layer of fossiliferous rock of one sort or another. And again, it's looking back in time that's just fascinating. I mean, I'm a, I'm a historian and so, you know, at Lowell Observatory, I look back in time in some ways, decades or 100 years at the operations of the observatory are things that happened. But I'm also looking back in time at, you know, when the period of heavy bombardment on the moon, you know, billions of years ago. Or looking back at Jupiter, you know, millions of years ago, but then the Grand Canyon, looking back, hundreds of millions of years, it's all it's all looking back in time and it's just, it's such a neat connection for me. Dave: When you visited us, with us at North Rim, you talked about your upcoming book, and I was really curious about how the progress was going, and what that would look like, and maybe a little bit of an overview of what’s going to be in it. Kevin: Sure, sure! So, the book is called, it's a, it's a series called Past and Present, put out by History Press/Arcadia press, it’s the same thing, essentially. And so, it's a series where they do these past, it's a past and present series that focuses, usually on communities, so it's historic pictures and then the modern counterpart taking the same place; rephotography. And so, my publisher asked if I would do something for Flagstaff, which I might still want to do, but I thought, “how about Grand Canyon?” Because it would be neat to kind of document, you know, what it was like 50 years, 100 years ago to what it looks like today? You know the like, where visitors go to hotels, and trails, and visitor centers and stuff like that. So that's what this is, and it comes out January 1st and it's something like, I don't know 160 images. Again, then and now. So, the cover has a picture of Lookout Studio taken about 100 years ago and then what it looks like now. And so that again was, it was fun and during my time as the resident astronomer, I worked on that some specifically on the astronomy related stuff. So, we were rephotographing the astronauts, but also there are a couple of times like when I visited you at the North Rim, we photographed the Brighty statue. Dave: Right. Kevin: So, I actually had to go back and rephotograph again because the angle. But it turns out that the base, the statue has been moved and so you can't recreate it exactly, it's been moved several feet from the pictures that I have. But anyway, so there's some like that that we're that we're fun to get when I was up there. So yeah, that comes out January 1st and it's kind of fun for me because I've done seven or eight books and mostly about astronomy and astronomy history, but to do one specifically about the Grand Canyon is pretty neat. And so, I'm excited about that. Dave: It's interesting too, because when you think of all these buildings, I'm always like, well, it's historic preservation, they should be exactly the same. But I'm sure that that's just not true. Kevin: Oh yeah, that's right. And then you say exactly the same when because you like, building one at the Canyon that was originally the administration building, there's a picture we have that's in in the book and it has the building as it was originally, but they expanded it and now it has, you know, it's got the garage, it's got another wing. And I think that, you know, at the Grand Canyon, that was typical that buildings, if it went out of use for one thing, it was repurposed or something else. So, there's a lot of buildings that change because they were repurposed. And so that, you know, there is a on the North Rim, there's a, it was a mule paddock that's not being used anymore. But then there is there's a place that at the South rim, that was, I think it was at one time, it was a next stage administration building, now it's the law enforcement building. And so, there's a lot of things that, they get repurposed, so they're going to get modified a little bit. Elle: Kevin, where did you get the inspiration to start recreating all of these photos, you know, of people and buildings, just things that have changed and have stayed the same? Kevin: Well, I you know, when we talked with the publisher and talked about doing something with Flagstaff, I just happened to be going up to the Grand Canyon, and I started looking around, thinking, my gosh, there's a lot of classic buildings. There are so many historic landmark buildings up there, and I knew that there were, you know, the Grand Canyon Museum Collection is just a treasure trove. And so I went and checked that out and talked to the great people there, Kim and Colleen, and they shared with me that their the collections are just vast. And I realized that between mostly pictures there, are a couple from the National Archives and, The Library of Congress National Archives, those are all open-source places as well as Grand Canyon Museum collections. And so, I found that there was a great resource for historic pictures and it kind of grew from there. But it was fun doing it because, you know, like I went to the North Rim and Dave, like we talked there, and we did a bunch of pictures, and it's not really until you get back and can really look at them on the computer, get them full size. Then, I went back and redid several because you know the angle wasn't quite right or because the sun you know was really shadowed in one and you could play with the image a little bit, but it had to be redone. So, there is one, there's an overlook down below the lodge at the North Rim and there's a little bridge that goes to it and so it was really, it was really neat, but I had to redo that in a slightly different angle. And you can't recreate the exact angle because you would be on the edge of the rock that drops down several hundred feet. And that wasn't going to happen. Plus, you know, I want to, you know, the last thing I want to do is be a dummy, that you know went too far and then Grand Canyon has another statistic on their hand because this knucklehead was trying to get a picture. So yeah. Elle: If you had to describe your residency as a color, what color would it be and why? Kevin: Um probably, oh gosh, ask me tomorrow and it might be different. But I would right now, I'd probably say golden, if golden's a color. Elle: I think it’s a color Kevin: But because the most dramatic time of the day to me was sunset and the color; I mean you get these golden red colors, but just the rays of the sun. And to me it was, again, connecting the sky and the land you have the sun setting and just, you know, that afternoon light you get, and I think it would be that, that's what sticks with me the most. I mean obviously there are the color of the rocks that stand out and change depending on the lighting and cloud cover and such, but golden really sticks out to me I guess. And it kind of connects, I think one of the of the most fun nights, and one that sticks with me is, it was late afternoon and we set up a couple of telescopes on the top of the of the John Wesley Powell monument. And so, we had a solar telescope looking at the setting sun and then another telescope looking at the moon rising, it was around full moon. And to see them both at the same time, and it's always, I don't know, it was a day or two short of a full moon, but to see them both at the same time with the golden rays of the sun, and then by the way, there's the moon and standing on the monument to John Wesley Powell, who really kicked off the exploration of the Grand Canyon and has strong connections to the moon. And you know, it was just, it was just beautiful. So, I think the color maybe because of that singular moment of being on top of the monument with the telescopes was it was just so striking that that will stick with me for a long time. Elle: Thanks for joining us for another behind the Scenery Podcast episode. Care to learn more from Kevin Schindler? Head over to our second episode looking up to hear more from Kevin, Dave, and myself about some hot tips and techniques to access the night sky. We'd like to thank Kevin and the whole team at Lowell Observatory located in Flagstaff, AZ, for hosting us and taking the time to chat with us. We hope to have more programming with Kevin and the rest of his crew in the future. 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.

Explore the parallels of time between the stars and rock formations at Grand Canyon with May 2023 Astronomer-In-Residence, Kevin Schindler. Kevin is the Historian and Public Information Officer at Lowell Observatory, where he’s worked for 28 years. Tune into this where Kevin shares about his time as Grand Canyon’s Astronomer-In-Residence, his insights on the night sky, and his experience retracing the steps of the Apollo 11 astronauts who trained at Grand Canyon. Learn more about Kevin's work at lowell.edu

Strength Through Diversity with Superintendent Ed Keable


Ed: First thing I’ll say is being Gay is part of who I am, it’s not who I am... Julia: Hello there! I’m Ranger Julia, and for the last two years, I have been working as a seasonal interpretive ranger on the North Rim at Grand Canyon National Park. In that time, I’ve written a few social media posts in honor of LGBTQ+ Pride month, which takes place each June. This year, the post featured myself wrapped in a pride flag, with a short caption highlighting diversity and inclusion in the parks. While the post received widespread support from other parks, visitors, and our park partners, it was also met with vitriol, ignorance, and hate. People were confused about the post’s relevance to the Grand Canyon, and to the National Park Service in general. In response to these comments, I sat down with Superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park, Ed Keable, to discuss his thoughts on diversity and inclusion in terms of the NPS mission. To explain Superintendent Keable, I need to explain the role of a Superintendent. The National Park Service is a part of the Department of the Interior, and is spearheaded by one director, currently Chuck Sams. Under the director there are deputy directors, each with their own staff and area of expertise. Next down the list are the regional directors, who oversee many parks. Each park in the region then has its own superintendent. For Grand Canyon, that Superintendent is Ed Keable. You can think of him as the person in charge of Grand Canyon; Superintendents are essentially the chief executive officers of individual parks and can be appointed by the Secretary of the Interior. By the time I sat down with Superintendent Keable, he had been hard at work at Grand Canyon for about three years.

Acoustic guitar music.

Julia: Welcome to the North rim. First, can you introduce yourself? Ed: Sure! I'm Ed Keable, I’m the Superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park. Julia: Can you briefly tell me about your path to becoming Superintendent of Grand Canyon? Ed: Sure. So first, this is my first National Park Service job. So my path here is unusual. I spent the previous 23 years as a lawyer in the Department's office of the Solicitor, which is their legal office. And spent seventeen of those years in different executive level jobs, basically in various jobs, and managing the solicitor’s office, and had an area of practice that included administrative also, the nuts and bolts and how to manage federal organizations and then of course I manage the Solicitors Office. So I had that background. The superintendency at the Grand Canyon had been vacant for almost 2 years before I got here. The Department of Parks Service had advertised the job twice- weren't satisfied with the applicants they got, most of which were outside of the National Park Service. I think in either both -- one or both of them, nobody in the Park Service applied because it's a really hard job for lots of different reasons. So the secretary of the Interior has the authority to reassign executives in the department to any jobs they’re qualified to do, and the Secretary of the Interior is - what at the time was David Bernhardt and I've known him for almost 20 years. He was my boss when he was the solicitor of the Department of the Interior and I gave him legal advice when he was the Deputy Secretary and the Secretary. So he knew me really well, and as he thought about the challenges of the Grand Canyon, he thought, after failing to recruit anybody, who could he reassign into the job? And he told me that he kept thinking of my name as somebody who could do this job. So, 24 hours before he called me into his office, I got a call from my boss, my political boss in the solicitor’s office telling me "Hey, I think the Secretary is gonna ask you to be the superior of the Grand Canyon. And he's gonna ask you tomorrow.” So I had 24 hours to think about it and so the secretary did call me into his office on what turned out to be my birthday. And told me, “Hey, I really am having a hard time filling the Superintendency of the Grand Canyon, as I think about it, I think you'd be really good at it. So I'm going to ask you a question and you can say no” because the deal is with the senior executives in the federal government is, if the Secretary of the Interior asks you to take a job, to reassign you to a new job, you either have to say yes or you have to resign. Julia: Wow. Ed: That's part of the law that established the Senior Executive Service. So the secretary knew that I knew that because I'd given him advice in the past on how to reassign executives. So he prefaced his question with “you can say no,” but he asked me, would I take the job and I, having thought about it for 24 hours, I said yes. Julia: What was your first thought when you were told you would be asked that question? Ed: Wow! You know, I had been to the Grand Canyon twice as a tourist. The first time was in 1994. My husband, he wasn't my husband at the time, but my husband and I were traveling the southwest and we stopped at the north rim. And you know, I had one of those iconic Grand Canyon experiences where I walked up to the rim and was just awed by its grandeur and its beauty, and and had that sense of the divine that this is really a special place. And shortly after that I had a random thought: “This would be a really cool place to work and to live!” And 26 years later, the secretary of the Interior asked me if I would become the Superintendent of the Grand Canyon.

Acoustic guitar music.

Julia: Ed Keable's tenure as Superintendent started just after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, so he is no stranger to working through new and complicated challenges. What are you most proud of accomplishing during your time as Superintendent so far? Ed: There's a lot to choose from. We're doing just amazing work across multiple issues and fields. I think if I had to pick one - by the way, this question is a lot like, you know, who's your favorite child? - But if I had to pick one, it would be the work we're doing around the welcoming Indigenous people back into the Park. Grand Canyon National Park, like so many other federal land units, certainly National Park units, was established over 100 years ago against the will of the people who lived in this place from time immemorial. And the Park Service then, like other federal agencies, for 100 years kept them away from what they still today view as their home. And that's caused all sorts of challenges within Indigenous communities; dispossessing them from their home, keeping them away from their home for 100 years. I believe it's created social and economic challenges that tribal leaders are dealing with today. And so this park, before I got here, began working really hard at trying to welcome Indigenous people back. We have an initiative to create the first Inter-Tribal Cultural Heritage Site at Desert View at our east entrance gate on the South Rim, and in order to really accomplish that in a meaningful way, the park established an Inter-Tribal Working Group; representatives from the 11 Associated Tribes to the park have formed to work with the park to help give us guidance on how to really effectively welcome people back. And that process has taken time to mature because there was distrust between the tribes and the park, but the park has been really mindful to work that process well. So we work with our park partners, the Grand Canyon Conservancy, to fund a facilitator who themselves are indigenous, not from the 11 associated tribes from other from another tribe, but that's really important for our tribal partners to have a facilitator who understands their perspective generally. And so, the park is a part of that dialogue. We're not leading that dialogue, and in fact, in many ways, we're working with the tribal leaders to lead that process. We're taking our lead from them. So at the Desert View Inter-Tribal Cultural Heritage Site, the Tribal leaders of the Inter-Tribal Working Group have established a strategic plan, we’re following that strategic plan. They've established a theme, which is that “we are still here.” It's important to them that that not only our visitors, but the park, understands that this is their home, and they are still here and so that has informed how the Park Service is engaging with them. And when I got to the park, that work had been going on for a number of years and within a couple of weeks I went to Desert View, got the briefing on what's going on there, and my only question walking away from that briefing was “Why are we doing this only at Desert View? Why aren't we doing this throughout the whole park?” So we've made sufficient progress with Desert View and we're following that strategic plan. We're now engaging with the Inter-Tribal Working Group to expand what I call the Desert View Vision to the rest of the park and we're having really meaningful conversations with some of the associated tribes to identify co-management opportunities and we're beginning some long term plannings on how to implement co-management effectively including infrastructure issues. So if we want our Indigenous partners to come into the park and work with us, for example, they're going to need housing. So as we manage our housing program for the future, we're building into our future housing needs opportunities for our Indigenous partners to come to and live into the park. Julia: This might be similar to that last question, but what are you most looking forward to working on still? Ed: So I have three main priorities as I'm leading Grand Canyon, I've identified 3 priorities. You know there are lots of other work that we're doing and it's all important, but in order to be an effective chief executive officer, which is essentially my role as Superintendent, you have to have a clear sense of priorities, and so my number one priority is this Indigenous Program that I spoke to earlier. My second priority is climate change. The Grand Canyon National Park is part of the Colorado River Plateau. The Plateau has been going through drought for 23 years. It's called the Millennial Drought. It's had tremendous impacts across the basin, including in the Grand Canyon. And so I'm working with the scientists in the park and with other federal partners and other stakeholders in the region to help shape key policies around water allocations, particularly water distributions, through the Glen Canyon Dam that come through the Grand Canyon to get to Lake Mead. And so we're doing a lot of work in that space, I'm personally doing a lot of work in that space. And our third priority is deferred maintenance. Like so many other parks in the system, this park hasn't maintained its infrastructure for decades, and the infrastructure is falling apart. Just as one example, the Trans-Canyon Waterline, which draws water from the Canyon to the rims, breaks. The water lines break on a fairly regular basis. Last year, there were thirteen major breaks in the water line to the South Rim and there were three in August. And it takes the water utilities crew time to fix them and to reprime the pumps. And through August, we weren't for the most part of August, filling the tank farms in the South Rim and so as we used water in the South Rim during that period of time, the water levels in the tank farms dropped and they dropped sufficiently close to the level that we require for structure fire support in the park that that I was within, I would say, two or three hours of shutting down the South Rim in September. Julia: Wow Ed: And so fortunately, the water utilities crew, which does amazing work, fixed the last break and primed the pump in enough time that we started filling the tanks farms before I signed the order, so we averted disaster by the skin of our teeth. That's just one illustration. We've got 4 wastewater systems in the park, all of which have not been invested in and are failing. We've got an electrical grid that was designed and built in the 1970s for a park in the 1970s, and we're moving into an era where we're building infrastructure that requires electricity, more electricity than we currently have, and we're looking to support our visitors, who are increasingly bringing electrical vehicles to the park and we're redesigning the park's fleet to be more energy efficient and going electric with our fleet as well, including our bus fleet. So we need more and better and reliable electricity, so we're in the process of changing the entire electrical grid in the park, so -It's - we'll be spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the next four or five years, doing the work that should have been done regularly, consistently for the last 40 or 50 years. Julia: Right. What is your favorite Grand Canyon story; either a personal story, a story you've heard... what comes to mind? Ed: Yeah, you keep asking me to name my favorites... Julia: A favorite story? Ed: So I think that this might be a cop out, but my favorite story of the Grand Canyon is the way the staff and our partners pull together to really work to make this an amazing place, right? So our mission in the Park Service is to preserve the natural and cultural resources of the park and to make it available to our visitors now and into the future. And you know, that's a remarkable mission, especially at a place like the Grand Canyon, which is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and a World Cultural Heritage site, and one of the icon parks of the National Park system and the staff here is really incredibly talented and dedicated, and there are multiple disciplines that have to work together and this is not an easy place to live. I mean, while we dedicate ourselves to that mission, we’re remote, we have internet connectivity challenges. The developed areas in on the North Rim and the South Rim both have limited resources, right? There are no doctors here, no dentists here, there's no movie theater here, there's no cinema. For the South Rim where I live, I have to drive an hour and a half to see my doctor or my dentist, or go to a movie, or do any of those things that people in the United States oftentimes take for granted. You know, add the Internet connectivity challenge, especially for our younger employees who grew up with a special relationship to connectivity, it makes it a hard place to be. I mean, fortunately it’s also the Grand Canyon, you get to be out into the resource, you get to hike, you get to recreate and that is a great compensation, but it's still a hard place to live. But the staff here is, as I said, they're really talented, really dedicated and being a part of an organization where we work collaboratively across disciplines to accomplish that mission of preserving the natural and cultural resources and making it available to our visitors now into the future is in and of itself it's a remarkable story and I'm proud to be part of it. Julia: Yeah, I definitely agree with you on that. This is also my first Park Service job and I get the feeling that I'm being a little bit spoiled by starting at the Grand Canyon. Ed: Well, you just, you just have to never leave the Grand Canyon! Julia: Well, exactly so it's it's almost like a double-edged sword because it's such a great experience, but nothing will ever compare to this, even with all the challenges. Definitely agree with that.

Acoustic guitar music.

Julia: Moving on to the questions of Pride and diversity and inclusion, I have noticed working on various Pride projects for here and Zion, that people often ask what does this have to do with national parks? Why are you posting about this? Why not just post pretty pictures of the Grand Canyon? So why do you think representation is important to national parks? Ed: The National Park Service excels at telling the story of America. And we tell the whole story. We haven't always told the whole story, but we are committing ourselves to doing that. And the United States is largely an immigrant country, so diversity is one of the great strengths of the United States, and so it's important for the National Park Service to tell that whole story in order for all of us to understand that underlying strength of the country. And it's it's easy for us to lose sight of why diversity is important and how that makes America strong. And so the park service’s efforts to tell the whole story of the country is an important service that we provide to the country and I know that there are some people who think that, you know, if you tell particular stories, like LGBT stories, that that is divisive, but I think given the nature of the culture of the United States and how we have come to be, that each of those strands of narrative are threads in the fabric that make this country strong. And so it's important for the Park Service to tell those stories. Julia: So the second question that I have is pretty similar to the first, but more specifically about Pride as opposed to general representation. Does Pride, LGBT Pride, have a place in the National Park system and what do you think that place is? Ed: Of course it has a place. Gay people are and always have been, an important thread in the fabric of the country and our story, I'm gay myself, our story is important to tell, and it's as important to tell as any other story. So I think it's great that the Park Service is telling that story. Julia: How do you think we can best create an environment where everyone is welcome and safe and free to tell those stories? Ed: It's a really good question, especially given the history of the National Park Service, which has not been always as welcoming to that narrative; that broad narrative. The National Park Service currently has an initiative underway, called RISE, which stands for respectful, inclusive, safe and engaged National Park Service, and RISE is an effort within the Park Service to help across the system to create that environment where every employee, regardless of their background, feels respected, included, safe and can engage. I think that's a really important initiative because not everybody has felt that welcoming environment and not everybody has felt included. Not everybody has felt as safe and so not everybody has engaged. And so we're working on a number of initiatives to create that environment for all employees and as I've told employees in the Grand Canyon, it both in -in my e-mail communications and when I talk to them individually and when I talk to them in work groups, from my perspective, the linchpin of the rise initiative is the R, respect. If every employee treats every employee with respect at all times, the inclusion, the safety and the engagement will follow. It's not always an easy thing to do because people are people, right? We all have personalities. We all have likes and dislikes, we have people we don't like. We have stress on our in our work lives that sometimes lead us to be not our best selves, and it's easy to lapse into behaviors that can be disrespectful and that can be corrosive to relationships and to cohesion in work units and ultimately to the success of the park. So I work at stressing for myself and encourage others to stress respecting each other at all times, and because that's not easy, it's not always easy, it's important to remember that respect isn't just a matter of me communicating respectfully or behaving respectfully towards you, but also me respecting you as you're engaging with me. You know, allowing sometimes for you, or you allowing sometimes for me to have bad days, or allowing you to have whatever dislikes that you have acquired over the course of your life or you allowing me to have whatever dislikes I have and trying to figure out how to navigate as we engage with each other how to how to work through those differences. If I like some things and you don't, or if I have a communications practice or pattern that doesn't resonate with you. I'm 62. It's going to be hard for me to change my communication strategy and however old you are, I'm not going to ask, it's not really appropriate for me to ask you to change yours necessarily. I mean, maybe around the edges we can work around our communications, but fundamentally we are who we are and we need to learn to respect who we are. That gets back to that strength of diversity. When all of the diversity that we bring to the table starts working in an environment where we can respect each other. We learn different things from each other. We learn different insights about the work that we're doing, and it makes us a stronger organization. So the key is trying to navigate that respect in a way that doesn't diminish the need for each of us to be valued. I used to have, well I worked in the Army before I took a job in the solicitor's office and I manage the park and along these ten lessons that I learned in the United States Army. #8 on my list is that all of us are valued and none of us are irreplaceable. And I think that's a really important concept and principle. Certainly for me, it’s proven to for me to remember as I work with people, I really do value everybody I work with and learn from them. So I need to respect them, but I also have that same need. I need to be valued, I need to be respected and and so I think we just need to keep working at that and the RISE initiative that the park service are promoting, I think creates the framework for that. Julia: You mentioned the fact that you are a gay man, you have a husband. I was wondering if you'd be willing to talk about if your identity has affected your experience in this position or in general through your positions in the government. Ed: I think it has. So I'll say, the first thing I'll say, being gay is part of who I am, it's not who I am. Julia: Yes. Ed: And I have had the great fortune of not being discriminated for being gay, whether it's in the Army, in my professional capacity, whether it's in the Army, in the in the Department Solicitors Office or in the National Park Service. I have been discriminated against in my personal life and that has given me an appreciation for people who have also felt discriminated against and so that context has given me an empathy that I think is important, as, you know, as particularly as we do things like implement the rise initiative to be open to listening to what people's experiences have been, so that we can try to identify solutions to creating a more respectful, inclusive, safe, and engaged workspace. So, I think that's been helpful for me to have had those experiences. I didn’t like them at the time, but you know every every positive and negative experience in a person's life helps shape who you are. And so, I think those experiences as, as I said, have given me empathy, and that's helped me to be, I think a better, more inclusive leader. Julia: I think that the fact that you mentioned that being gay is a part of who you are and not all of who you are is very important. I wrote the Pride post for Grand Canyon this year and it's a picture of me wrapped in a pride flag and a lot of people commented saying things along the lines of “imagine if your sexuality was your whole personality!” Which is silly because that's not true for anyone, I don't think, but I feel like there tends to be this idea from a lot of folks that if you mention being queer in any way, that that must be your whole shtick. And so I think it's important that we talk about folks who are not straight as just being people, people doing great work, like all the things that you've mentioned, that you've been working on at Grand Canyon, it's... has nothing to do with your sexuality, but then, like you were saying, the empathy that you get from that experience does have to do with your job, so I think that's a very important thing to bring up and I appreciate that a lot. What advice do you have for the next generation? Broadly or for young LGBTQ folks, what comes to mind? Ed: Be who you are, proudly. I served in the Army during the “don't ask, don't tell” era. And it was difficult hiding who I was to my friends, it felt dishonest. It was dishonest. And when I left the Army and told my friends that I was gay, none of them cared. And I committed at that point to live my life openly and honestly and I've never looked back. So you know, as a general rule my, my, my approach to life is to move forward and that's what I'm doing and I encourage everybody to live your life proudly and openly and honestly. Julia: And the last question is which side of the Grand Canyon is your favorite side of the Grand Canyon? Ed: All of the Grand Canyon is my favorite side of the Grand Canyon! You know, there are,. I just encourage our employees and our visitors both to explore all parts of the Grand Canyon. The North Rim is a special place, to be sure it's the it's the place I first saw the Grand Canyon, so it will always have a special place in my heart, and it's just a great place. But the South Rim has a lot to offer too, especially in the Desert View area. The Inner Canyon, hiking into the Canyon, especially some of our less traveled trails where you can be a little bit more remote, are great experiences. And of course, the river experiences are remarkable. I get on the river twice a year as Superintendent, have really come to value those experiences. As Superintendent, I try to I try to travel to as many parts of the park as I can because I believe I need to really be in as many parts of the park to really fully understand it. So I encourage that of all employees. So you need to get out in the park more! Julia: I know I got to go down to desert view for a week and help out them down there and I was thinking, wow, this is really cool! You know, it's so different! The views are so different. But then it was like 95 degrees and I was like, I'm going back to the North Rim, Ed: Yeah. Julia: It's too hot! Ed: One of my one of the lessons I learned in the river is you have to embrace adversity in order to enjoy the experience. Julia: Yeah, definitely. Is there anything else that you would like to add or talk about? Ed: No, I just want to thank you for inviting me to join you for this discussion. It's been fun and hopefully for your listeners, it'll be a little educational. Julia: Yeah, I hope so! Thank you for agreeing to come talk with. Ed: Sure, it's been a pleasure. Acoustic guitar music. Julia: Many thanks to Ed Keable for sharing his stories. Musical interludes in this episode were created by MrSnooze. 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 homes here today.

"I know that there are some people who think that if you tell particular stories, like LGBT stories, that that is divisive, but I think given the nature of the culture of the United States and how we have come to be, that each of those strands of narrative are threads in the fabric that make this country strong.”

Join us for a conversation with Superintendent Ed Keable to hear about why the NPS celebrates Pride, how Grand Canyon is becoming more inclusive, and which side of the Canyon is his favorite!

Down to Bedrock with Kevin Fedarko


Kevin Fedarko: The Canyon is, can be incredibly harsh and cruel and it's very difficult place to move through and it will strip away all of your, all of your arrogance, all of your preconceived ideas about who you are and what you think you have and how much you think you know. And it will leave you staring at what's left, which in my case was not a lot.

Jo Baird: Hi, I'm Jo. And today we have the honor of speaking with Kevin Fedarko. A renowned writer and adventurer whose work has captivated audiences with its vivid descriptions and immersive storytelling. Kevin is perhaps best known for his critically acclaimed book “The Emerald Mile,” which chronicles the daring journey of a small group of river runners through the Grand Canyon during a historic flood. Drawing on his background as a journalist and his deep connection to the region, Kevin's latest endeavor promises to take readers on another unforgettable journey. Set to be released in May, 2024. Kevin's new book, “A Walk in the Park” promises to be a captivating exploration of the natural world and human experience. Well, thank you so much for being here today, Kevin. Can you just briefly introduce yourself for us? Kevin: Sure. My name is Kevin Fedarko, and I make my living writing books, mostly about the Grand Canyon. Jo: OK. Thank you. And just to start off here, can you provide us with an overview of a walk in the park, your newest book and what inspired you to write it? Kevin: So this book chronicles a journey that I undertook. Back in 2015, so almost 10 years ago, with one of my best friends and also a kind of professional collaborator, a National Geographic photographer by the name of Pete McBride. And I latched onto this project when Pete came to me with an idea. The year before we launched, the idea was that it might be fun to set out, to walk the length of Grand Canyon National Park from Lee's Ferry in the East to the Grand Wash cliffs in the West. A journey that the Colorado River, it takes the Colorado River about 277 miles to travel, but the catch on this particular journey is that there is no trail in Grand Canyon National Park that will take you along the length of the park. And that in order to cover that distance, you need to wind into and back out of so many tributary canyons, and you need to climb up and down vertically between so many different layers of rock that that 277 mile journey that the river takes gets stretched to something between 600 and 750 miles, depending on the route that you are traveling. So Pete came to me with this idea, and Pete and I have a history of kind of collaborating on magazine projects that have taken us to some rather exotic parts of the world over the years. And what all of these stories have in common is that they're incredibly bad ideas concocted by Pete, which get us into an enormous amount of trouble. And you know, despite the trouble that we got into in a whole variety of places, from the Horn of Africa to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the Caucasus Mountains over the years. And even Everest Base Camp, nothing compared to the amount of, the difficulties that we encountered, the suffering that we endured and the embarrassment that was inflicted on us by the Grand Canyon over the course of this journey. So this book is a chronicle of that experience, the good, the bad and the ugly, all wrapped between two different covers. Jo: Yeah, and you've collaborated obviously with Pete McBride on a host of past projects. Can you share a little bit more about your dynamic and how your relationship evolved over the course of this traverse through the canyon? Kevin: As I alluded to a moment ago, it's a pretty dysfunctional relationship. If any of your listeners out there, happen to have a friendship that forms a part of their lives, and at the center of that friendship is the knowledge harbored by at least one of those people that maybe the friendship itself is not very good for them. That that characterizes what Pete and I have shared over the last 20 years. We have, I think it's probably, it's fair to say that all of the trouble that we've gotten into over the years in the course of doing these magazine assignments and then later the Grand Canyon really boils down to a kind of a hubris and an arrogance that we both, well, particularly Pete suffers from, to a lesser extent myself, in thinking that we have more ability and prowess and physical strength than we actually have. And that we can do these things and that that we set out to do, and not encounter too much in the way of problems. And so that level of confidence and hubris. I think is part and parcel of and lies at the core of everything that we have done. I would say that Pete brings more of this to the table than I do. I'm a -- in some ways we're not – we look similar, but we have a lot of differences in terms of our personalities. I'm a writer, I'm accustomed to working alone, I kind of embrace solitude. I'm somewhat socially dysfunctional and rather shy, and Pete is the opposite of all of those qualities. You know, Pete works in the medium of light as a photographer, and that's kind of a metaphor for who he is as a person. He's incredibly social. He loves to sort of flit around like a butterfly, just meeting new people and encountering new things. He embraces challenges and people and experiences in a way that I do not because he's an extrovert. And so it's the interplay and the dynamic and the tension between those two personalities, that kind of drives much of the interaction between us as we embark on these adventures. Jo: And I can fully appreciate the humbling aspects of the canyon that you touch on. I think everyone who has hiked and ventured into the canyon experiences that in some way, shape, or form. Can you tell me about what that process was like for you and how you came to that humbling sense? What point in your journey, or if it was a continuous progression throughout the traverse for you? Kevin: Yeah, for sure. I mean, it probably starts with mentioning something briefly that we can go into in greater detail if you want later on in this conversation, but you know, I started this hike thinking that I knew more than I actually did about the canyon and the reason for that is that I many years ago wrote a book about the canyon. A book called “The Emerald Mile,” which chronicled a very different story. It was the story of three river guides who in the in the spring of 1983, put a little wooden Dory into the Colorado River at Lee's ferry with the intention of using a historic flood, an epic spring runoff to propel themselves through the canyon, to catapult themselves through the canyon so fast that they would hopefully break the standing speed record for the fastest boat ever to traverse the length of Grand Canyon. And the name of that boat was the Emerald Mile and the name of the book was taken from that boat. That book was researched over the course of a decade in which I kind of apprenticed myself as a river guide at the bottom of the canyon on the Colorado River, in order to kind of learn about the culture of river guiding, in order to absorb everything I could about that environment. For people who come to the canyon for the first time, what they typically do is they move to the rim of the canyon and they spend minutes, or hours, or sometimes days staring down into this abyss. Very few people actually venture down to the bottom of it. And so I wanted to tell the story of those people and I spent years learning about them and learning about the environment itself, the rock, the light, the hydrodynamics of the river itself. And I came out of that having written this like 416 page book, or whatever it was, convinced that I was kind of like an expert on Grand Canyon, you know? And I had sort of covered all the things that needed to be covered. I kind of thought of myself as a bit of a bad***. To be totally and bluntly honest about it all. And so when I agreed to do this hike with Pete, I didn't think it was going to be that big of a deal. I had done, you know, couple dozen river trips. I'd been through the canyon. I was familiar, I thought I was familiar with the basic frame and structure of the chasm itself. And I didn't think that it had all that much to teach me that was going to be new. And so that's really the sort of baseline fact that governed the start of this story. And to answer your question like I think within the first 48 hours, I was brought up face to face with the depth and density, and scope of my own ignorance. One of the things that Grand Canyon does to any, to all of us who are who are familiar with it, connected to it, and spent time in it, is it -- the place itself does what time has done to the rock. It abrades and strips away everything down to bedrock, and it leaves the canyon with this, it's a revelation of what lies at the base of, underneath all of the dirt and foliage and the tapestry of life that that covers you know the landscape in most other places. Well transfer that to a person. The canyon can be incredibly harsh and cruel and it's a very difficult place to move through and it will strip away all of your arrogance, all of your preconceived ideas about who you are, and what you think you have. And how much you think you know and it will leave you staring at what's left, which in my case was not a lot because I had so much to learn, not so much about the world of the river, at the bottom of the canyon, this ribbon of water that you know is responsible for having carved and polished and created and honed the canyon itself and the kind of the, the lush foliage that lines its banks on a very thin margin. What I needed to learn about was everything the wilderness of rock that extends from the edge of that riparian zone, all the way up through this, this kind of vertical wilderness of cliffs and ledges and side canyons between the edges of the Colorado River and the rims of the canyon. This is a place where very few people go because of what I mentioned a few moments ago. The fact that there is no trail on the north side of the canyon, on the south side of the canyon there's a trail for like 15% of the distance that you can take. Which will usher you along through this environment and the rest of it is just, it's a place that you have to sort of figure out how to move each and every step that you take. You have to think very carefully about, and that's the South side. The north side of the canyon, almost 95% of it has no trail. So this is the world that I realized within the first 48 hours of entering with a backpack on foot having left my boat behind that I was unprepared to enter, knew very little about, and was about to get an extended lesson in the complexity of during the course of this journey. Jo: So it sounds like you had been stripped and kind of had that bedrock moment as you speak of within 48 hours. What was the plan from there to reinvigorate the trip and continue on? What happened after that moment? Kevin: Well, you know, I'm embarrassed to say now like the initial plan -- I mean, in addition to Pete and I being pretty arrogant and suffering from quite a bit of hubris. I don't know if I can swear on this podcast, but we are capable of, we have a flair for quite a bit of bull**** and one of the things that we did was we talked a group of -- We're pretty good at fast talking -- And so we convinced a group of very, very experienced canyon hikers who were embarking on their own through-hike to let us tag along with them for what we thought would be the first segment of our hike. This is maybe a moment where I should just sort of explain an important difference. So if you're setting out to hike through Grand Canyon, you can do it in one of two ways. You can start at one end or the other and hike all the way through without stopping, and that is known as a continuous through-hike. There's another way of approaching it which is more like a puzzle and what you do is you hike the canyon in sections. Those sections can be very short or very long. They can take a couple of days, they can take three or four weeks, it doesn't matter. But when you're at the end of that section, you come out of the canyon, you rest, you reprovision, and then you go back in. And you string together a sectional-through-hike, like kind of like pearls on a necklace, if you can imagine that. So these hikers that we were tagging along with, we're doing a continuous through-hike, which is like an order of magnitude more difficult than a section-hike, and we just thought to ourselves, we thought, well, gosh, we can tag along with these guys for the first segment and we'll learn everything that we need to -- the few things that we don't know about, we'll just pick them up along the way. It'll be super easy and then we'll come out of the first section of the hike as like total experts. And also, Pete told me, we didn't even need to get in shape for the hike because the hike itself would be the thing that would get us in shape for the hike, and so at the end of this first section, we would emerge as like these bronzed Adonis-like you know through-hikers. What ended up happening is that we were spanked so hard that first section was supposed to be about 12 days, and it would take us all the way from Lee's Ferry to a really important crossroads inside the canyon that everybody who knows about the canyon reveres. This is the place where the largest tributary of the Colorado River inside Grand Canyon, the Little Colorado, meets and merges with the Colorado itself. It's a place known as the confluence and it's about 66-67 miles downstream from Lee's Ferry. 63 miles according to some people, and that was our goal. We were so inept that we only survived five days. Within five days, Pete had succumbed to a condition, a heat related condition, called hyponatremia, which is kind of the opposite of dehydration. Where you end up ingesting too much water instead of not enough and you throw off the balance of electrolytes inside of your bloodstream, you undergo muscle cramps. If it gets really bad, you slip into a coma and then you die. Meanwhile, my feet had deteriorated so bad and had so many blisters that it felt like I was stepping into a bucket of broken glass with each step that I was taking and on Pete's advice, I had wrapped my feet in duct tape. Applying the duct tape directly to the blisters to create like these duct tape booties, which were then creating a kind of like terrarium environment. Moist, warm, nurturing environment for bacteria and so my feet were literally rotting. We were in so much pain and we're holding back this team of through-hikers. This like crackerjack team of through-hikers that had this schedule that they had to stay on in order to achieve their dream. For which, by the way, they had been preparing for years like this is what you're supposed to do when you hike in Grand Canyon. You set out to learn about hiking slowly and increments and you devote years to doing small hikes and then more ambitious hikes and gradually you know, you learn about water, you learn about the different layers of rock. You learn about how to pack your pack. You learn about how much weight you need to carry. You learn about land navigation. You learn about where to camp and you acquire all that knowledge in increments, and then you apply it to a through-hike instead of what we did, which was just like -- It's the equivalent of like jumping to the front of the line when you're waiting in line to get through the front gate of the park on a hot summer day. We just figured we'd show up and jump the line and so six days after on the sixth day of our what we thought was going to be our initial segment of the hike and less than half the distance from Lee's Ferry to the confluence of the Lower Colorado and the Colorado rivers. We had to pull the ripcord and request an extraction from some friends who would who came in with some additional supplies and escorted us out of the canyon. We retreated back to Flagstaff with our tails between our legs. Word had already leaked out that these two wildly incompetent National Geographic journalists had failed on their initial bid to through-hike the canyon, and that was the reality that confronted us. At the at the very beginning of our project. Jo: So it seems like you relied heavily on the support network of friends, acquaintances along the way. Can you kind of explain more of how they helped you and Pete actually complete this traverse across the Canyon and in what ways they helped? Kevin: You know, that's such a great question because it touches on a truth that we were not aware of at the time but gradually came to learn about and appreciate. Which is that, you know, for many of us, when we think about wilderness and going into the wilderness for a whole variety of reasons that go back to like Henry David Thoreau, a lot of Americans like to imagine that they experience wilderness alone, solo. This is an American archetype to move into the wilderness as a lone, rugged individual, learn some lessons, overcome a set of challenges and emerge alone but enlightened from that experience. My experience in Grand Canyon is very different. My experience in Grand Canyon, one of the things that the canyon has taught me is that the canyon is so enormous, and so complex, and so formidable in terms of its harshness and its brutality and its ability to just, like, kill you within hours if you don't know what you're doing. That in order to move into it and through it successfully, most people don't do it alone. Most people do it either in the company of others, or if they're not doing it in the company of others, they're doing it alone, they're doing it with knowledge that was acquired by others and shared with them and provided to them. Grand Canyon in many ways is not a solo experience. It is a recognition that there is a community of knowledge, and participation, and values that drives and sustains each person moving through that environment. And so what we discovered, Pete and I discovered, is that after we'd been spanked so badly on the first leg and we had to abandon the canyon and come out. And by the way, we came out thinking we were not going to go back. Like we came out so horrified by how hard it was and how badly we hurt that we were on the verge of calling up our editors in National Geographic back in Washington, DC, and basically saying like, look if you guys want this project to continue and this story, you're going to have to outsource it to like some college students or some rodents or some life form that's capable of moving through the canyon. The only reason that we didn't do that is because the through-hiking team that allowed us to accompany them. And by the way, were the only reason we could even make it for five days. You know, they like taught us so much and they helped us so much. And then in addition to that, when we exited the canyon, they used their DeLorme, a communications device, satellite communications device to reach out to their friends in Flagstaff who are part of a community of people who care about and are connected to Grand Canyon. And when these people learned that, you know, there were two journalists who were trying to make their way through the canyon to do a story for National Geographic. It was going to talk, among other things, about the threats that hang over the park, how fragile the park itself is and how important it is to preserve it. They kind of, like, rallied. And they made contact with us. They met with us. They listened to us tell them that we weren't going to go back. And then they told us the opposite, they said no, no, no, you are going back and you're going back with knowledge that we're going to give you. What they did was they essentially put us through like a hiking boot camp over a month and, you know, they redid our nutrition program. They dumped our packs out on my living room floor and threw a whole bunch of gear away. And then they gave us some more gear that was much lighter that we could use. They re-planned our route through the canyon. And then they appointed from among themselves, some people who are basically going to go in with us and be like babysitters and minders. To see us through the canyon, to kind of like pull us through the rest of the canyon like a locomotive pulls a caboose. All of which gets back to this point I was making a moment ago, and this long winded soliloquy I'm in the middle of right now, which is that in addition to like everybody who's hiking solo, you know, hiking on the shoulders of a body of knowledge that has been given to them by others. Our experience of the canyon, we experienced the heart of the canyon, the heart of the wilderness of the canyon, in the company of others. And we were brought face to face with something that I think is an important truth to acknowledge, not just about Grand Canyon, but all of our national parks, all of our public lands, all of the spaces that we own collectively as Americans and that we care about. In part because they belong to us and that we are responsible for as stewards. And that is that perhaps the only thing that's more fulfilling than doing this archetypal American solo journey of going in alone to wilderness is experiencing wilderness in the company of others. Experiencing the wilderness in the company of people we care about. What do we do with our National Parks? So many of us, we drive to them with our families. We take our kids into them. We're taken into them as kids by our parents. Sometimes our grandparents come along and what we do inside of these spaces is we experience wilderness, we're touched by beauty, but we are also given an opportunity by the natural world to strengthen the connections that bind us together as human beings. And this is an unrecognized and unacknowledged and under celebrated aspects of what our National Parks are, and the gifts that they hand to each and every citizen of this country. And so one of the gifts that canyon gave to Pete and I over the course, yes, extraordinarily difficult, but also very kind of revealing an important learning journey that we had was -- I mean it, it strengthened our friendship. We'd been together, we'd worked together for so many years, but we emerged, we went in as friends, we emerged as brothers and that is a story that I think almost everyone who comes to the canyon experiences, in one form or another. Jo: So your previous works have touched upon the rich history and cultural significance of the Grand Canyon, including the enduring presence of indigenous communities. Can you discuss for us how your new book specifically explores indigenous perspective of the land and how their voices and experiences are woven into the story itself? Kevin: Yeah, I can do that. And you know, I need to do what I just did. I need to do it all over again, which is to go back to this baseline of cluelessness and ignorance that I...that I had. At the start of this hike, despite having written an entire book about Grand Canyon, the book that I wrote before, as I said a moment ago, it was focused on the river. It was focused on the world of the river. It was focused on the culture of boating and river guiding. What I didn't mention is that one of the many, many things that that book did not touch on, or really involve much thought about was the history of Native Americans inside the canyon. I was mostly interested in, like, the history of white people and the history of boating inside the Grand Canyon that really started, at least the written part of that history, in the summer of 1869, with the legendary journey of John Wesley Powell and a crew of nine men in four wooden boats who completed the first traverse we had in written history of the Grand Canyon, which itself was part of a much larger boat journey that they were undertaking. It was a journey of exploration, if you define exploration as the series of encounters that the descendants of white Europeans had with a landscape they viewed as wilderness in the American West over the course of a couple of centuries. So I didn't really know much about or had thought very much about the Native American presence inside of Grand Canyon when we started this hike. One of the things that occurred over and over again over the course of the year that we spent moving from Lee's Ferry to Grand Wash Cliffs in segments with breaks in between is that as I mentioned a moment ago, we were concerned about and interested in learning about, and writing about, and covering for National Geographic, some threats that loomed over Grand Canyon. And what we began to realize over the course of this year was that each and everyone of these threats had a tribal component to it. Because, and the reason for that, is that it's really impossible to think about the landscape of the canyon itself and the history of that landscape without taking into account the fact that prior to the arrival of white European, of the descendants of white Europeans, this landscape was occupied by a matrix -- an incredibly rich matrix of tribal people. There are 11 Native American tribes whose ancestral lands either abut or lie directly inside of what is now Grand Canyon National Park. And when we created this national park, and other national parks, one of the things that we did at the time was we completely ignored the presence of these tribes, we told ourselves as Americans, we congratulated ourselves in creating a National Park system and having the sagacity and the wisdom as Americans to identify, and set aside, and put a fence around, and protect some of the most beautiful parts of this continent. And what we never bothered to do because we didn't value it at the time was to recognize the importance of these people. We actually disenfranchised them. We pushed them out of the parks, we exiled them from their own homes, and then we rewrote the history into what is kind of a fairy tale, really. At the heart of the story we tell ourselves about what our national parks are and how they came to be. And there are some wonderful aspects to that fairy tale. But there's a lie at the center of it. So in Grand Canyon, as I said a moment ago, there are these 11 Native American tribes. Each and every one of them was pushed out. Their histories were written out of the canyon. The thing that you begin to realize if you spend time in the canyon, and you begin to wrestle with issues that loom over the canyon, this sounds like such a obvious thing, but it came as a revelation to me when I learned it; These people who were part of the canyon in the distant past -- Who occupied this space literally for thousands of years prior to our arrival, and who were then pushed out, they are still here. They are still here, living in this space, connected to it and every aspect of it is, is still present in their culture, it's encoded in their language. It's encoded in their rituals, in their culture. And in their values. So all of the tribes: the Hualapai, Havasupai, the Zuni, the Hopi, the five bands of the Southern Paiute Tribe. I mean all of these people still have a deep and incredibly important connection to Grand Canyon and by virtue of the connection that goes back so far into the past, that white people like me find it difficult to even begin to imagine, they have things to teach us about this place. They have a body of knowledge about what it is, how it's laid out with the plants and the animals, the richness of the plants and animal life inside of it, how human beings might think about conducting themselves inside of this space in a responsible manner that is connected with thinking of themselves not as consumers, but as stewards of it. These people have things to share with us. That we would do well to listen to, that we could benefit from learning about. And so over the course of this journey, Pete and I had a series of encounters with Native Americans, with members of the Navajo tribe. The one tribe I just didn't mention a moment ago, whose lands abut the entire eastern portion of Grand Canyon. Encounters with the Havasupai Tribe at the very center of the canyon. With the Hualapai in the west. With representatives of the Zuni and some of the Southern Paiute bands and the Hopi. And these encounters first of all made us aware of all this stuff I just talked about a moment ago. The fact that these people have this incredibly important history that has gone unrecognized, that they are still here. And then they began to educate us and enrich our understanding of how to view threats that now loom over Grand Canyon National Park, many of them in the form of industrialized tourism. And industrial industrialized tourism like air tours in the in the western part of Grand Canyon or a proposal at the time to build a tramway from the eastern rim of Grand Canyon to the confluence of the Colorado and the Little Colorado rivers. This spot that I just mentioned a moment ago. Which I said was very important in everybody who is connected with the park, knows about and reveres. What I didn't mention is that place, that confluence of these two rivers, is viewed as sacred by each and everyone of these tribes in the canyon. And the idea of building a tramway capable of delivering 10,000 people per day, to a raised metal walkway, at the edge of the river that would lead to an observation deck and a restaurant? That would serve hot dogs? Overlooking the confluence itself. That project represented an offense, a sacrilege in the eyes of some Native American tribes. Some members of Native American tribes that illuminated an entirely new way of thinking about the canyon and the space it contains for me and for Pete. So what I'm really saying in a super long-winded way is that the journey that we undertook was a education. It was a physical journey that involved moving like 650 or 750 miles from east to west, but it was also an intellectual and emotional, and if you'll forgive me for sounding a little bit woo woo here, a spiritual journey. That that journey paralleled the physical journey. And that was a journey of education and awareness and enrichment. Here's a metaphor for how to think about it. It's how I thought about it. The canyon itself is defined by these layers of rock, 26 of them that are stacked one on top of the other, and the oldest layers are at the bottom, and each layer as you go up is younger than the layer below it. It is a kind of a time machine. The canyon contains rock, an enormous amount of it, and distilled within the folds of rock laid out in layers is something, is what geologists call deep time. When you begin to -- when you reach the point where you begin to, really, your mind begins to wrap itself in, around, and embrace the connection between rock and time. You're moving towards a pretty rich understanding of an appreciation of Grand Canyon. Well, encountering the history of the tribes in the Grand Canyon, those tribes are just like those layers of rock. They add layers of richness and meaning to the physical environment and they take you to a different place mentally and spiritually, when you begin to allow your mind to open itself to that history. And perhaps the most marvelous part about it all, it's what I mentioned just a moment ago, by virtue of the fact that these people are still here. Your listeners who are listening to this podcast like they can have this experience. These people are here at Grand Canyon, inside of this park. They are selling their art in the form of jewelry and baskets and rugs that are representations of their culture. That contain knowledge and understanding of the canyon itself and you can have encounters with these people. You can meet with them. You can speak with them and you will come away from those encounters with a far more meaningful understanding of the space itself than you would have if you just stood at the edge of it and looked at the colors. I've completely lost track of what the question was. Jo: I do want to talk about another journey that we haven't touched on, which is the writing process for you. So this book seems to be a bit different than your previous in that you're writing it all in the first person. Can you talk about what that journey was like, writing it, and what you learned about yourself from that writing process and journey? Kevin: You know, that's a tough question and it touches on one of the kind of central challenges of this book. So I mentioned at the beginning part of this conversation, I'm kind of a, you know, instinctively shy person and an introvert and you know, most of my writing, a lot of it, not all of it, but a lot of it – and certainly the books that I've written have all been in what we call third person, right? It's the pronoun that you use when you're not referring to yourself, when you're focusing the spotlight on others. And I enjoy and feel comfortable telling the story of others, which is what I did in this book called The Emerald Mile. You know, it's a story that has nothing to do with me, except for the fact that I had to go into the canyon to kind of learn about it. But I actually took maybe an inordinate amount of pride in the fact that in that entire book, you know, I think I said a moment ago is 416 pages, the first person singular pronoun, the word I, occurs only once in the footnotes when I'm explaining how I had to meet one of the protagonists in the book. Otherwise, you will never find me anywhere in that book and I love that about it. What this this book, “A Walk in the Park” required me to do was to step out of my comfort zone. And you know, place myself at the center of the story. And in so doing, to speak and write with a level of honesty. Sometimes, brutal honesty about what – just what I've been doing in this conversation to talk about my shortcomings, my hubris, my arrogance, my propensity to take shortcuts, my failure to do enough homework. And the extent to which the canyon put me, and Pete, through an incredibly brutal and painful process of education. To use myself as a proxy for somebody being taught things by a place and the people whose history inside of that place extends far deeper into the past than my own history because I'm not from this part of the world. And so the process of writing this book involved peeling back layers of revelation, self revelation. I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable revealing all the stuff about myself that I did in this book, and frankly, a lot of it is not very flattering. But that's one of the things that you do when you write nonfiction that has to include yourself. And it may be one reason why, you know, this is the 4th book that I've written. I wrote two books that were, I ghost wrote books for other people. I wrote a book touching on Grand Canyon about other people. This is the first book I've ever written about myself and it took it took one year to research and six to write. That's twice as long as any other book that I've ever written, and I think it's because I was struggling with all of this stuff and it wasn't fun. The only thing that was less pleasant and more brutal and more painful than the hike itself was the process of writing the damn book. Because I did not enjoy it, and I'm really glad that I'm at the end of it. Jo: Oh my goodness, such a good answer. So you did mention how you aren’t from this part of the world being Northern Arizona, can you share with us how your background and upbringing influence your decision to not only move westward, but how that transition has shaped your perspective about writing and landscapes and cultures of the Western United States? Kevin: You know when I kind of imagined in my mind like the ideal person to write a couple of books about the Grand Canyon, one that profiles the river at the bottom and the other chronicles what feels like to move through the world of rock on foot. I kind of imagine that like the ideal person to write those books would be someone who was born here. Who in either the strict literal sense, or the metaphorical sense is indigenous to the land. Someone who's values and aesthetics and physical prowess, those were shaped by a relationship that began at birth and I'm the opposite of all of that. Like I grew up, I grew up in a place that's about as different from Grand Canyon and a National Park as you could possibly imagine. I grew up in the city of Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania. One of, if not the most, industrialized landscapes in America. I grew up in a city whose name is synonymous with the manufacture and production of steel, and my family's tied to it. My grandfather spent his life in a coal mine, working at digging coal and later as an electrician in the mines that supplied the coal that fed the furnaces of Pittsburgh. And so when I grew up, I grew up in a landscape that had been transformed by and polluted by and tainted by, and changed irrevocably, and in some ways, forever by industry. And my impressions of what the world was were filtered through the prism of all of that. Now, this isn't to say that -- like western Pennsylvania prior to you know the 19th century was one of the most gorgeous landscapes on Earth, and parts of it are still very beautiful. But I grew up with a sense that I was living in a landscape that was defined by loss. And that there was a profound contradiction and difference between what that landscape= was and what it had once been, and that between those two points were a series of acts, sins if you will. That my forebears, including my grandfather, had committed against the natural world and the environment and the beauty that once defined western Pennsylvania. And when I started to read as a young man, I stumbled across the books of two authors who, oddly enough, grew up very close to where I originated. My family grew up on the eastern end of the metropolitan area of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And less than a 15 minute drive from our house was the birth place of a writer by the name of Rachel Carson. And those of your listeners who are familiar with a book called “Silent Spring” will know that Rachel Carson during the 1960s, Rachel Carson really started the modern environmental movement with a set of books she wrote first about the oceans and then about pesticides and pollution that opened American’s eyes to the idea that in pursuing prosperity through industrialization, we were killing ourselves and the land we depended on. And her ideas were radical enough, and new enough, and courageous enough that they transformed the way that not everybody, but a good portion of the population, thought about that kind of stuff. And in the opposite direction from Rachel Carson's girlhood home, about 1/2 an hour's drive away from where I grew up is the birth place of a writer named Edward Abbey. And again, your listeners who are familiar with Edward Abbey will know that Edward Abbey grew up in Pennsylvania but came west. He embraced, celebrated, and became in some ways a spokesperson for some of the most gorgeous landscapes of the American Southwest. Unlike Rachel Carson, Edward Abbey's ideas have not aged well. Not all of them, but part of the weirdness of writing is that those ugly truths can kind of sometimes coexist within the same work. With beautiful writing about in Edward Abbey's case, landscape. And for those of us who were influenced by him early on in our lives. We have been faced with the task and the challenge of going through Abbey's writing like you might wander through an apple orchard and picking the fruit off the low hanging branches and leaving the rest of it behind. Anyhow, I grew up influenced by these two writers who wrote about and connected with and provided a frame for seeing and understanding land. And as a result of all of that, I realized at a certain point when I was in my late 20s or early 30s, working for a news magazine in New York City, that the life I was leading was not the life that I wanted to be leading. It was not the life I was meant to lead. It was not the life that was going to make me happy, and that if I wanted to explore those things, I was going to have to leave behind the landscape of the East and move West. And so I moved west to ostensibly to take a job with a magazine called Outside, which wrote about the outdoors, but really more than that, I wanted to be part of this place. I wanted to see it and smell it and touch it. I wanted to be touched by it. I wanted to spend enough time in it to see the seasons turn. And the years rotate and to start to read its history and get to the point where I felt like I might be able to say with a level of honesty that I understood it at certain level and then maybe to write about it. So that's all of what took me west and that kind of transformed the arc and the trajectory of my life. And it was further transformed when I, you know, had the stroke of luck or the misfortune, depending on how you want to look at it to see the Grand Canyon for the first time. Because what happened to me happens to many people who are struck by the Canyon. It sinks its teeth and its claws into you, and it refuses to let go and anyone who has worked at the park and spent 20 years or 40 years of their career here knows this to be true. And the canyon got its hooks into me. And I just...I can't imagine that this point ever not having it be part of my life in some way and part of the beauty of it is that like I can move now, and it'll still be a part of me, because that's what it does. It opens up a space inside of you. It creates a little like miniature Grand Canyon inside of you. Then it pours all these ideas into it. Some of them have to do with Native Americans. Some have to do with natural beauty. Some have had to do with, like, the joy of boating. And you carry that with you wherever you go. That's what landscapes do. That's what stories do. Again, I forgot what the question was. Jo: I think you nailed it. Thank you so much again for your time today. Finally, what is one thing you'd like visitors to know about the Grand Canyon? Kevin: Oh. You know, there are a bunch of things, but here's one that I feel is like really important that I would want to share with anybody who's coming to the canyon, and it doesn't matter if it's for the first time or for the 100th time. And it's something that's important to say in the context of all the blabbing I've been doing for the past hour. Especially blabbing about like this super long 750-mile journey, this place, this landscape, this iconic natural feature of the earth is so beautiful and so powerful you do not need to spend 14 months carrying a 50-pound backpack from one end to the other and suffering pretty much every step along the way. Nor do you need to spend two or three weeks inside of a boat, you know, moving through 160 or however many rapids there are at the bottom of the canyon to touch and be touched by the most extraordinary parts of this park. There are many places inside the canyon that are secret and hidden that have been gazed upon very infrequently by human beings. They're not any more special than what you can see from the rim of the canyon itself. One of the most profound and profoundly radical and most radically transformative things that you can do is to allow yourself to do more than what the average visitor does at the Grand Canyon. Jo, you can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think there's a study that's been done on how many minutes the average visitor spends at the rim of the Grand Canyon. And I think it's like 40 minutes. One of the most radical things you can do is as a visitor here is to expand that outward, move to the edge of the canyon. And allow yourself to be in its presence, move along the edge of the canyon. There is a paved pathway that runs along the rim of the canyon for I forget how many miles you can walk along it. You can roll your grandmother in a wheelchair qlong it. You can rent a bike and bike along it. You can experience sunrise and sunset and all the hours in between and what the canyon looks like under the light of the moon without ever stepping foot inside of it. Stepping foot inside, venturing down one of the trails is a beautiful and wonderful thing to do, but if you do not have time, you can still have an extraordinary experience here, and you can embrace that experience in the knowledge that the people who have gone deeper into the canyon, spent longer inside of the canyon, accomplished more impressive things in terms of athletics. They don't have any better experience than you do. That's how powerful and special this place is. And what it requires, however, is allowing yourself not just the time, but also the quietness of it. I think I'm going to say something else. It's important not just to be at the edge of the canyon, but to kind of step away from a large group, if you're with family or friends to move with them, but to do something that so many of us do not often enough, which is to stop talking. To ourselves and others, to stop listening to what we have to say. And to be silent enough to listen to what this thing spread out in front of you has to say and allow whatever message that might be to kind of loom up out of the canyon and wash over you. And I think that is something that I would just want to share as one of the most special parts of this place for somebody who's coming here. And again, if you're coming for the first time, allow yourselves that experience. If you're coming for the 100th time and you've never actually done that, conduct an experiment and embark on that experience and see what it does to you. So that would be the one thing that I would share about something super special about Grand Canyon. Jo: And if people want to find out more about you, your works, where can they go? Kevin: Oh, I'm in the process of building my website for the very first time, but by the time this podcast airs, I think it will be up and running kevinfarko.com and you will be able to find information on the books that I've written and lectures that I give and anything else that you might be interested in learning about. Jo: Great. Well, thank you so much for your time today. Kevin, we really appreciate it. Kevin: Thank you so much and thank you for your time. Jo: 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.

"The Canyon can be incredibly harsh and cruel... It will strip away all of your arrogance, all of your preconceived ideas about who you are, and what you think you have, and how much you think you know. And it will leave you staring at what's left, which in my case was not a lot." In 2015 Kevin Fedarko and Pete McBride set out to hike the length of Grand Canyon. Find out what Kevin learned about himself, the Canyon, and the people who have lived here since time immemorial. Learn more at kevinfedarko.com

Canyon Connections with Amy Martin


Sunny: I know there’s a river down there. Amy: There is. Sunny: I know there are different kind of places there. Amy: There are. Sunny: I know there, there is very fish down there. That trout. Amy: Yeah Sunny: that's rainbow trout. Amy: There are rainbow trout. Behind the Scenery Intro: Grand Canyon. Where hidden forces shape. Our ideas, beliefs and experience and experiences. Join us as we uncover the stories between the Canyon’s colorful walls. Probe the depths. And add your voice, add your voice. For what happens next to Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon. Hello and welcome. Kate. This is Jesse. This is Grace. This is Emily. And this is, this is Behind the Scenery. Hannah: To quote one of my favorite little humans, Sunny. Hello, everybody. I'm Ranger Hannah, and I'm excited to share this conversation I had with Amy Martin. I met Amy in my second season here at Grand Canyon summer of 2022, where she presented a photography project she did during COVID, where she talked about her connection to the canyon and how she uses photography to display that. That program is where I fell in love with her work and got to meet her cute kid, Sunny. I was ecstatic to learn this year Amy was coming back to present more of her work and that I could chat with her about all of it. I started writing questions I wanted to ask her and Sunny because Amy’s connection to the canyon started with her family, and I was curious what Sunny thoughts were about coming to Grand Canyon and being out in nature. So, without further ado, I'll let Amy introduce herself with my first question. Hannah: What are a few things people should know when meeting Amy Martin for the first time? Amy: I think a few things they should know. One is that I have a deep love for Grand Canyon, and I feel very lucky that I have been able to spend so much of my time here over my lifetime doing many different things and getting to know it and strengthening that connection of place. The second thing is that I'm a mom. I have a beautiful, spunky three-year-old daughter named Sunny, who I wish was here today. She was supposed to be, but things didn't work out. And so, yeah, I think those are two things about me. Hannah: Yes! So, what draws you to Grand Canyon? Amy: What draws me to Grand Canyon? Well, I think there are so many things. And I think that it's really that, like, combination of all those different things that really draws me and some of them, you know, it's such a challenging place. It is challenging physically and mentally. And I think that keeps drawing me back because you couldn’t explore it in ten lifetimes. There's always something to come back to that draws you back. And it's a place for growth because when you're challenge, you're always growing. And so I feel that pull. Another thing is that the space, right? So I think we're getting less of that open, quiet space where you feel small and humbled. You know, in our fast contemporary society. Hannah: Yes! Amy: And so it's that place that you can go to and you know, and have that connection to everything else. You know, you see that you're just a small piece of this. You know, greater landscape and greater world. And I think that brings out mystery and intrigue, also that sense of who we are, you know, in this universe. And so that brings me back as well. Hannah: What is your family's story of why they started coming to Grand Canyon? Amy: So my family, my dad grew up in Arizona. He was outside a lot. Adventured a bunch growing up. And his brother actually was a ranger at Phantom ranch and he was a boatman as well, a guide. And so my dad started coming to Grand Canyon with my mom, actually, they hiked me down when my mom was six months pregnant with me. Actually, my mom hiked me down, they didn’t. But then they hiked me down again when I was 6 months old and with my sister who came with me. So there's pictures of us feeding the mules and, you know, exploring Phantom Ranch and that just kind of yeah, that just kind of had that staying power. And I think that they were drawn there for the same reasons that I am. You know, it's of course, the adventure, the challenge, the place of growth, the place of peace, you know, all of these things all wrapped into one. Hannah: So and having that connection of having a family member formerly working at Phantom Ranch, do you think that influenced you to become a canyon ranger here? Amy: I think it did. You know, I never yeah, I never saw my trajectory this way. I always was going to go to medical school. And so.. Hannah: Oh dang Amy: Yeah I know and so I have a, you know, I have a pre-med degree. I always was thinking that. And so when I graduated, I was like, I just want a little bit of time. So I got my EMT still in the line of medical. Yeah. I worked PSAR for three years, doing a lot of medical work, both in the ambulance and on the trails and doing all the heat related illness. And so I never yeah, it never was the plan. It just kind of happened that way. And that's the same with my photography career too, really. But yeah, there was never a plan to become a ranger. It just, it just kind of happened and then I fell so much more in love with Grand Canyon, and it kept drawing me back season after season. And then there was the opportunity to work in the canyon. To work at Manzanita Ranger Station. Hannah: Yes! Amy: Used to be called Roaring Springs, so it’s hard for me to say Manzanita, but yes, at Manzanita I was there for three seasons, April to October and yeah, so that I think it was just my draw to place even more than it was to you know career. Hannah: Yeah. Amy: That brought me. Yeah. I think that had the staying power here. Hannah: Mm hmm. So came back every season because the canyon kept drawing you back. Do you think that affected your relationship with the canyon of how it kept bringing you back and how you were planning on doing a medical career instead? Amy: Oh, absolutely. It I mean, it's like getting to know the canyon more and more. You know, you realize that there's, that you could never like I said, you can never explore it like ten lifetimes. There's so many teachings that it has for us in all these different facets of life. It just kept getting deeper and deeper with the canyon, but then deeper and deeper with myself and when I went away, so I actually did leave. I was here for five seasons and I was like, okay, like I have an adventurous spirit. I never thought I would be in the same place for so long. Hannah: Yeah. Amy: And it's, you know, the Grand Canyon is what really kept me here. And I was like, I need to I need to get out. I need to do these other things. Still thinking in the line of medical work. So I went into the Peace Corps, got very far away from the Grand Canyon. I left for two years. During that time, I had dreams, like dreams almost every night. These reoccurring dreams about Grand Canyon, about the river, about coming back. And so when I was done with the two years, I was like, I need to figure out, like, what this is that's talking to me and see what it is that, you know what, like part of my relationship with the canyon, I need more of to be fulfilled. So what there was left for me? Amy and Hannah: Yeah. Hannah: So sounds like even after leaving, you kept coming back. And I know this next question is going to jump probably further in the future, but last year during your program, you talked about how you had lost part of your connection with COVID. So I'm curious how that affected you not being able to be at the canyon. Amy: Yeah. So, you know, that was really interesting. It was kind of very surprising too. So, you know, after I'd went to the Peace Corps, I'll just do a quick. Yeah, like catch up. So I came back, you know, I started working again. I worked another season down at Manzanita and I started doing a lot of other work too. Doing a lot of, like conservation work, doing fisheries work, and working on the river. And the year after my mom passed away and she was just a really she loved Grand Canyon so much and it was just a very, you know, hard like tumultuous time. Right. And the Grand Canyon had been this place of healing for me. So I felt this even stronger draw to be here. And so the year after she died, I spent I think 155 days or something like that down at the bottom of the canyon. Doing different things, mostly working. But also I was down with my dad fishing, and just hiking, and on the river and all sorts of things. But that really helped me. It helped me in so many ways to kind of grieve my mother, like to come to terms with, you know, her death. You know, I think a lot of it is that like, you know, finding our place in this in this greater, you know, world. And I never, I wasn't brought up with religion at all, like kind of structured religion. And so there weren't a lot of, you know, like readily available answers to me about that. And we in our society, we don't talk about death and dying, you know, and I think still grieving is very lonesome, you know. It's like, yeah, it's very, you know, kind of push it a little bit to the side of society. And so the canyon, like, just gave me that space to be able to really heal. And I will forever be grateful to it for that opportunity. And so that kind of brings me to COVID. So it was kind of crazy times for me. I was pregnant. I had my daughter, so I had a newborn during like when COVID started. Hannah: Yeah Amy: A lot of stuff, you know, there was so much just universal uncertainty and universal anxiety everywhere in the world, right? Like these times, none of us knew how to navigate them correctly, right? Lots of stress. And so I had planned to bring my daughter down in March of 2020 and into the canyon to be with our friend Della Yurcik who is just an amazing ranger Hannah: Yes! Amy: I've known her for, she and I and yeah, have been really good friends for a long time. She's just amazing. But so I was going to be her down even, you know, COVID happens. I couldn't get down into the canyon and the canyon was closed, you know, for a while. And so I was feeling all these like these things that I couldn't really deal with, you know? And so I took Sunny, my daughter, up to the south rim, you know, where I could go. We actually camped out at the Rainbow Rim, you know. Hannah: Yes! Amy: So we could at least look into the canyon and have that. But it really, I really knew that I needed to be like down in the canyon, especially during this time. So I was really fortunate to get a couple of trips over the winter of 2020 and the spring of 2021 to get back in to the canyon and that just, just walking down like I, I could feel like, you know, kind of that anxiety lifting. Like there was a sense that everything was going to, you know, that there's this these laws of nature. Hannah: yeah, Amy: And everything has an order to a certain extent. I really didn't feel like that at all, you know? Hannah: Yeah. Amy: During yeah, the anxiety of COVID. So yeah, and during that time I did a, a project, the photography project that kind of reflected what I was like going through. Everything was, you know, kind of foggy also as that, you know, as a new mom so wasn't getting much sleep too. There's like that fog, like all the change that was happening there, the worry about my daughter, like coming into this world where, you know, everything was totally a mess. Hannah: Yeah. Amy: And so my photograph project from those from those few trips was reflected that by being kind of crazy and dark and dreamy and blurry. Yeah. So it really did. What COVID did for my relationship in the Canyon was it really just like secured the fact that it is this place of healing, even in these the craziest times you can imagine, you know. Hannah: Yeah. Amy: That it still is this place and we need it. Like all of humanity needs it to be able to go to, you know, to help us get through some of these challenges. Hannah: Absolutely. Amy: Yeah. Hannah: So after the canyon being closed with COVID, how did it feel to bring Sunny to the canyon finally? Amy: Yeah. So that was so wonderful that experience. As I said, I had taken her to the south rim, you know, just looking when she was real little. And then we took her out over that summer, 2020, out to the rainbow Rim in the forest. And finally we were able to hike her down to Phantom Ranch. And it was just amazing to see her, you know, interacting with the space. I think the couple of the things I remember, she was able to feed the mules and that was so sweet. The other thing is she had just learned how to walk and I put her down on boat beach, you know, down at Phantom. Hannah: Yeah. Amy: And she just, like, walked as fast as her, like tiny little one year old feet could get her, like, towards the river. And part of me was like, oh, my gosh, you know, there's so much of me in her and like, I'm so drawn to water. And water is so important in this environment. And the other part of it was like, oh my gosh water so dangerous, cold and quick and everything. So yeah, it was like all those different realities all at once. But yeah, it was, it was beautiful. I feel so lucky. I feel so fortunate that my parents exposed me to these spaces when I was growing up that really created the space that I could go back to time after time, you know, for all of these different needs, you know, that I had, you know, that we have as humans. And I hope that I can give her, you know, a space to go to as well, because I feel, yeah, everything is just seems like it's speeding up, you know, in our society. And there really aren't a lot of spaces. And just to be quiet and reflect. Hannah: I'm excited that you have this space because I know we're really lucky to be in a space where we get to work here at the park or enjoy these spaces where a lot of people don't know these spaces exist. And I'm excited that your parents and now you're passing this on the Sunny, and I'm looking forward to hearing Sunny's answers and her experience while exploring Grand Canyon and other places with you. And I want to thank you for your time. Amy: Thank you so much. Thank you. Hannah: yeah Hannah: Now, after hearing Amy connection to the canyon, let's listen to some of Sunny's thoughts about Grand Canyon and what she likes about being in nature. Sunny: Hey, everybody. Amy: Okay can you tell me your name? Sunny: Sunny. Amy: Sunny, and how old are you? Sunny: There and three fourths Amy: You're three and three fourths. Is your birthday coming up? Sunny: It's tomorrow. Amy: It’s tomorrow, That's pretty exciting. We're going to talk a little bit about Grand Canyon today. Can you tell me a little bit about what you know? Sunny: I know they have different kind of layers and there's a river down there and is this kind of humpback trout in and there’s rainbow trout too. Amy: Yeah. Well, that's awesome. Do you like going to Grand Canyon? Sunny: I like see the humpback chub. Amy: Yeah. Sunny: When you go in the forest to be quiet. Amy: Why? Why do we be quiet, Sunny? Sunny: You can hear the nature. Amy: You can hear the nature out there. What are some of the things that you hear? Sunny: Birds. Amy: Yeah. Sunny: And the wind. Hannah: I want to express my appreciation to Amy for taking the time to sit down and chat with me. And thank you, Amy, for recording Sunny's audio, because her voice adds to her story and your story of how you both are connected to the canyon. We gratefully acknowledge the native peoples on his ancestral homelands we gather, as well as by diverse and vibrant Native communities who make their home here today.

Each person connects in different ways to special places in their life. Photographer Amy Martin’s connection to Grand Canyon started before she was even born. Her parents hiked to the bottom of the Canyon when her mom was six months pregnant with her, and again when she was six months old. She’s continued that tradition of going to the canyon with her daughter Sunny.

What’s a special place in your life that you hope to share with past and future generations?

Studying Grand Canyon with Dr Larry Stevens


Larry: If we we're to start a first Church of the Earth, Grand Canyon would be the temple. And the story that Grand Canyon reveals about the tremendous expanse of time, life's role and change through that, through that process is the material reality that we have here and to drift off into other belief systems just takes us away from appreciation of this incredible green planet that we live on.

Behind the Scenery Introduction (multiple voices): 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 Behind the Scenery Luke: Hey Ya’ll, I’m Luke and Interpretive Ranger here on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. For this episode of Behind the Scenery I got the chance to sit down with Larry Stevens whose life and career has been heavily intertwined with the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. I was curious to hear Larry’s perspective on the changes and development of the river and its ecosystems and where he sees us headed in the years ahead. Larry would you be willing to introduce yourself, please? Larry: Sure. My name's Larry Stevens. I'm the director of the Spring Stewardship Institute. Senior scientist for the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council. And I've got a Ph.D. in zoology from Northern Arizona University. I've been working in Grand Canyon since 1974. But in the landscape since 1970. Luke: Would you be willing to expand off of that and describe maybe what you're currently interacting with the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon with and maybe your past interactions as well? Just a brief discussion of your career. Larry: Okay. So in 1974, I became a biotech here at grand National Park, working on all manner of fire issues and insect life and bird life. Yeah, here at the park, back in those days, it was a pretty deep focus on natural history. And so as a biotech, I guess pretty much free roam of the collections and wandering around the park looking at the various organisms, did that for a year, went off back to my family farm in northern New Hampshire, uh, for a while and got a call from the Museum of Northern Arizona from Steve Carruthers, and he was looking for somebody to do an insect inventory of the Colorado River corridor. Knowing that I had that interest, he called me in and I said, Well, yes, I'm interested. And, uh, pursued the interview with him in which he asked, Do you want to do science or do you want to eat? And I said, Science, of course. I'm a scientist. So I spent two and a half years collecting, analyzing the insect fauna of the river corridor, and in that time period, learned just a huge amount, including how to row on the river and did that job as he has, he promised, I had $4.10 to my name, so I walked around Flagstaff to try to find somebody who would be willing to hire a kind of a mendicant boatman and stumbled into a company that was willing to hire me. And it launched my commercial river running career. I've done more than 400 trips on the Colorado River, commercially guiding, doing research, taking thousands of people down, many scientists, who really opened my eyes to all of dimensionality of the place over the last 50 years. And, uh, went on to get my master's and Ph.D. funding myself by doing commercial River guiding, uh, during the summer months, worked on issues related to Glen Canyon Dam. So how Glen Canyon Dam has affected the Colorado River Corridor has been a real focus of that research. Um, became the ecologist for Grand Canyon National Park in 1989, worked there for five or six years in that position, then moved on to work for the Bureau of Reclamation, Department of Interior, etc. and primarily working on dam management issues. Co-initiated the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council with Kim Crumble and Kelly Burke in 1998. Maybe so 25 years ago an effort to preserve the natural ecosystems and native species of the landscape. And that work has culminated just in the last, this last month with, uh, with completion of protected land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. Work isn't completely done because kaibab national forest is not... the Teddy Roosevelt's authorization of that as a game preserve has not been reauthorized and that this is the last piece of the puzzle of trying to protect the area around Grand Canyon. Anyway. So it's been a 25 year effort to get that protection done. My typos show up in the enabling legislation for these national monuments, which is kind of strange, but good. And that's one of my one of the achievements in my life that I'm most proud of. Um, pursued many, many different topics, continuing the, you know, the biggest source of macro biodiversity of Grand Canyon is insect life. And my, my goal is to actually get a compendium of the insect life of Grand Canyon done, want to try to make as much headway as I can while I'm on the planet with that. With that effort, um, I started the Spring Stewardship Institute in part because of my interest in managing the Colorado River and all the different stakeholders that deal with it. And I serve as an environmental advisor to the Secretary of the Interior on management of Glen Canyon Dam through the Adaptive Management program. It takes decades to make headway in that program because there's so many voices and so much controversy about about the Colorado River. And in part in response to that, I began thinking more about springs, which are little points in the landscape that are incredibly influential biodiversity wise and have been widely ignored as conservation targets and so trying to bring attention to springs and better management of springs around the world. I work with about 100 different collaborators around the world who are studying the ecosystem ecology of springs, and I'll be headed to Italy in November, December to pursue a global think tank on Springs ecosystem ecology. And where we're going to go with that science. Luke: you mentioned several times now that, you know, either a focus or an interest in the insects of the environment. Is this just out of curiosity and just a passion of yours, or do insects play an important and vital role in understanding, you know, the Grand Canyon and the health of the ecosystem. Larry: Not just insects, but invertebrates in general. Remembering that the karstic terrain here is largely composed of decomposed invertebrate life. So our life has influenced Grand Canyon, you know, in ways that we scarcely think about. but the trillions and trillions of invertebrates that compose the kaibab limestone, the redwall limestone, and provide the concrete for things like the of the Coconino Sandstone And the amount of life that's gone into shaping this landscape is just incredible, very poorly known modern insect life. We don't we don't have more than one. Well, there are maybe half a dozen places on Earth where we actually understand insect biodiversity in detail. Great Smokies is one place where there's been pretty good headway made on that. But so I'm trying to bring that science up to snuff for Grand Canyon because it's such a tremendous landscape for biodiversity. We have so many poorly known species that are distributed in funny places, you know, three dozen species that are endemic to caves, for example, in Grand Canyon that we know of, not that we've explored more than a few of the thousand caves that we have in the park in terms of invertebrate life. But, uh, and then the meadows up on the north rim here support unique tiger beetles and just the list goes on and on and on. And so bringing attention to that level of biodiversity I think is important because these are pretty charismatic and sometimes just incredibly gorgeous creatures to understand. It is a passion, but it's also the role that insects play in our world is much underappreciated. Luke: I feel like I've heard a lot of times when it comes to insect understanding and knowledge, just, you know, a data deficient species is pretty frequent. Larry: Yeah, we're at, you know less than five. We know probably less than 5% of what we need to know about the insect world, for example. Some whole families of snails and, and mites and other critters, we might only know 5% of the species. Luke: Have you, have you found your research, your research into, you know, the insect invertebrate life around here, aiding you in other elements as well, like, you know, in your protection of springs or in, the ecology based around the Glen Canyon and its effect on the water. Does this, does this new amount of data that you are collecting go into furthering any other research or. Larry: Sure. Two examples of that. One is I discovered a previously unrecognized species of spring snail on the Hualapai reservation, went to the tribal council to make sure it was okay with them that I, that I named the species. The logic there is that this is an aquatic snail living at one spring in their landscape, but as a species that they can appreciate, especially because I named it after the tribe Pyrgulopsis hualapaiensis with several colleagues. Uh, that species can help protect not only that spring, but the water resource for the whole tribe. And so, uh, the tribal council agreed with that, and we went ahead and went ahead and named the species. And, um, that's one example of how a species can help protect water resources. It's been a huge controversy about insects in the Colorado River, in the post dam Colorado River, and why we don't have all these great critters like stone flies and Mayflies and caddisfly living in the Colorado River in post dam time, lots of them, lots of kind of murky uncertainty because we didn't do any surveys of the river before the dam. I didn't arrive in the scene until the seventies, which is, you know, ten years after the dam had been created. So by studying insect life upstream in, uh, in Cataract Canyon and, and Desolation Canyon and looking at the tributaries in Grand Canyon, we get a sense of what's not in the in the Colorado River. And these, these key groups of mayflies stone flies and caddisflies which are dominant in some of our cold water tributaries like Tapeats Creek. They don't actually occur in any kind of functional number in the in the Colorado River. caddisflies are kind of increasing in the lower most canyon. But that's a kind of an anomalous story there. So that kind of level of interest has sparked millions and millions of dollars of research on the part of the USGS to try to try to understand how to increase insect life in a river for fish as fish food base. The water that comes out of Glen Canyon Dam is cold, clear, fairly quite constant, you know, relative to the pre dam past. Luke: No. Yeah. Not what it would have been before. Yeah. Before dam construction. correct Larry: So now Glen Canyon Dam is acting as a spring in a way. The nearest natural analog to what's coming out of Glen Canyon Dam is Tapeats Creek. Water temperature is the same as what comes out of the dam in most years with enough water in the reservoir clear water, relatively little, relatively low flow fluctuations, order of magnitude, maybe about the same as the dam. And so I went into Tapeats Creek to understand why it's so richly endowed with aquatic insects in comparison with the main stream. And we did a flow fluctuation simulations to see if fluctuating flows were what were keeping insects out of the out of the picture in the mainstream, and also lots and lots of analyses of the sediment structure and whatnot. The story is actually quite simple in that the mainstream is managed for sand, for recreational beaches, for shoreline habitats, for for things like birds and whatnot. Whereas Tapeats Creek is a gravel based system, lots of interstitial space. And so that interstitial spaces is essential for aquatic insects and is not available in the mainstream. And it never has been simply because, you know, over geologic time has built a sand transporting river. So the answer is pretty simple. You can't have you can't manage for both fine sediments, sandbars and aquatic, you know, aquatic insects that are attractive to fish and useful for fish food. Luke: So the aquatic insects benefit from having more space between the gravel, which creating the space, but they. Larry: They need that under many of them are kind of full of negatively phototrophic they, they avoid sunlight, come out at night and so they hide under the in the interstitial surfaces. They can also answer some really just wonderful questions there. They can actually detect flashfloods coming in and sink down into the gravels. That story is only known for a couple species, but quite intriguing. Luke: So the original Colorado River ecosystem, would it have been more of a gravel structure because all of that sediment would have been moving downstream that's now collected behind the dam or? Larry: So that the dam did three things to the Colorado River, Glen Canyon dam did three things for the Colorado River. It pretty much stopped sediment transport. Sediment transport that was on average about 60 million tons per year. That's equivalent of a of a five ton dump truck going by every two and a half seconds. That much sand moving through the system, not a gravel based system, the biggest floods could certainly move rocks and cobbles, but the flecks of fine sediment coming through was just tremendous. There's always been sand moving through cobble, kind of a river system. Luke: So at this point in time, with the data you have, do you not believe the early Grand Canyon in the Colorado River to be a heavy insect life that would always have been based more around those creeks and streams that were, were tributaries of the river itself. Larry: Yeah. So the pre dam river was sediment laden. No sunlight reached the floor of the river and the level of the river fluctuated. The stage of the river fluctuated really wildly orders of magnitude, of course, over the course of a year. So therefore, literally no opportunity for plant life to develop on which the invertebrates feed and then the support fish. In July every year at Lees ferry the river water temperature reached 89 degrees Fahrenheit every year. That means on a low flow of summer year, the water going through Grand Canyon, by the time it reached the end of Grand Canyon, it might have been 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Really, really harsh. Luke: Extremely warm water. Yeah. Having been on the river recently. Larry: Yes. It is not that temperature now. Larry: And so the turbidity and water temperature were both, you know, affected by a Grand Canyon that we have more or less constant water temperature increasing now because of drought and the climate change a little bit. But nothing like the pre dam past conditions that would pretty much prevent anything insect life from living in the river, the fish in the river are all opportunistic feeders, and most of them spawn in the tributaries. But we have records of Colorado Pike Minnow running all the way up to Grand Falls, for example, in the little Colorado River and for humpback chub breeding quite successfully. And the other suckers are as well speckled dace all through the system, but spawning in the tributaries and returning to the main stream during the winter. Luke: So the constant source of insect life is more important to those introduced or invasive species that we have added to the river. Larry: Yeah, we’ve certainly changed the whole structure of the ecosystem, the river, the aquatic ecosystem really dramatically by introducing 20 non-native fish species turning the river into a clear water constant environment. That's what humans do is we turn our ecosystems into simple, simple systems. And so clear water, sunlight reaches the floor of the river, a whole raft of aquatic species, aquatic macrophites now live on the floor of the river that support some insect life. Midges mostly, but the sand moving through just prevents these more important aquatic invertebrates from being able to propagate in the river. Luke: Going back to something you had mentioned previously, you mentioned, you know, working with water resources and this the snail I believe you mentioned in your interactions with the Colorado River and seeps and springs how have the indigenous cultures that are associated with the Grand Canyon, have they been a support system for you? Have you had a lot of interactions with them? Can you go in a little bit of detail about that? Larry: Sure. Yeah. Pretty much every culture on earth except our own regard springs as sacred spots. Even Western Europe springs are places where miracles happened. There are places with revered historical significance, the socioeconomic value of them for subsistence existence of really farming, ranches, whatnot, are all very much reliant on springs water all throughout the world, all throughout the world. We just finished a paper on a conservation assessment of the springs of the world, and it's the same story everywhere that these are really important features of the landscape that have been pretty broadly overlooked by Western cultures, but are totally revered, revered by the by indigenous cultures. I have worked with the Havasupai, the Hualapai, with the spring snail story, the Zuni, Hopi, Apache, and Yavapai tribes on springs. Significance of water, especially in these arid landscapes, is just off the charts important to their to their cultures. Been a real pleasure to be able to work with the tribes on some of their spring related issues and doing restoration on quite a few of them. Luke: the Colorado River more so maybe than ever before is part of the zeitgeist these days, right? it's drying up. If you went on Google News and you typed in Colorado River pretty much every day, you're going to see brand new headlines popping up with more information and new media presence. Has this had an impact on your efforts, whether that's you know, you've been you've gotten more funding, less funding, anything. Has this had a significant impact with its new presence in the media recently? Larry: okay there's two sides to this sword. One is that we have shifted our national attention to the environment, to climate change, and rightly so. It's terribly important issues, vexingly complex, difficult to manage and, you know, really kind of conflict laden. But what we've lost is paying attention to the details. The spring's conservation work is an effort to bring attention to small points in the landscape that are incredibly influential regionally. We regard springs as keystone ecosystems, little patches of ecologically, highly interactive patches of the landscape that, uh, that influence the entire surrounding area. Here you go to Cliff Spring, for example, on Cape Royal there. It's a very, very isolated spring. Every bird in the landscape comes in there to water, many of them every day. I was there once we saw 35 species of birds come in for water in less than an hour. And so these little points in the landscape are playing a role not only internally within as it's kind of these small ecosystems, but also in terms of the overall landscape. And simply if that water wasn't there, the birds would not be there, literally couldn't be there. So all kinds of challenges with understanding the role of these little points in the landscape, but the way that the focus of national focus on climate change has shifted our attention away from the need to manage it and manage the pieces, as Aldo Leopold said, and not lose these pieces of the landscape while we're, you know, running around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to worry about climate change that we really functionally can't do anything about, springs are manageable. We can understand what's going on there, understand how to protect those aquifers. And there, you know, many, many tens of thousands of aquifers that are that are feeding and feeding these millions of springs around the earth. Pay attention to that at that scale, as well as well as the global scale. It's also much easier to manage springs than it is global climate, of course, uh, much less controversial because everybody wants their springs to be functional for the future. What's good for springs is good for all things we say. So there's that kind of side of the story of the sort of how focus on climate change has influenced our work as it shifted attention away from, from the real, you know, kind of on the ground detail that people can actually appreciating and accomplish things out. The other side of it is, yes, organizations like U.S. Forest Service is now taking up a national interest in Springs. We've given them, we stimulated some of that by providing them with trainings about springs and through Springs Stewardship Institute, provide them with tools, and we manage all the data on springs from the National Forest Service on a national basis. So we're trying to encourage other agencies to take up that, take up that task as well. Park Service is a very divided organization, so individual parks one by one have come to us and we've interacted with them. But as a as an agency, Park Service has a Springs program nationally, but it's not very well integrated. What we're trying to offer is an integrated way of looking at springs. So you do understand that wet meadows are springs and that, you know, gushets pouring out of the cliff walls like Thunder River are springs that there are many different types of springs and it's expression of groundwater that is the key feature of these ecosystems that integrates the below ground of the underworld really with the above. Above ground. Yeah. Uh, part of the landscape is that linkage is, critical to the springs function. Luke: Is your spring stewardship program largely designed to help educate and bring knowledge about springs or are you also playing a data collection role with that, that particular organization? Larry: So, uh, the mission of the Springs Stewardship Institute is to improve understanding of springs as ecosystems and to help people manage them better and to do with the management part of it. We've developed a free, online secure and incredibly user friendly database for springs information as being the programs being used by more than 1500 users, agencies, counties, tribes, researchers, NGOs, etc. And the database contains information on more than 160,000 springs in West, mostly in Western U.S. But we're bringing in all the springs data for the for the U.S. into that system. You might think that because springs are often mapped on USGS topo maps that we actually know where they are. That's not true. And many, many springs are not mapped. Many springs that have been mapped are either dry or headed or were so mismapped that we can't even, you know, can't even figure out what they were talking about. And so bringing that kind of more accurate information together and this springs online database springsdata.org is a relational database as we're compiling information that we can't even ask., we don't even know which questions to ask about yet. For example, in many landscapes we've worked in, if you go to 50 or 100 springs, you detect more than a quarter of the flora in those settings in the province of Alberta. And for example, we went to 56 Springs and came up with a list of one quarter of the flora of Alberta of the province of Alberta. Total area we looked at was only about ten acres of habitat, but we came up with a quarter of the flora for the entire province. So we developed this relationship between the geographic data and all these species of invertebrates and fish and vertebrates and all kinds of things living at springs, snails, whatnot. And we can begin to put together stories of and relationships between things like slope aspect and elevation for literally thousands of species of plants. So in terms of understanding climate change, every species of plant has a relationship between elevation and aspect of ponderosa pine, for example, dominant plant here on the Grand Canyon. It occurs on south facing slopes at the highest elevations north facing slopes at lowest elevations, just kind of funny leech shaped spiral range as it wraps around from north facing to south, facing slopes across elevation. Every plant has its own relationship to that story and as climate change happens that shape of that relationship will change to a very funny geometry to try to put together to model. But it gives us a way to understand because elevation is such a key driver of climate, that we understand that if you want to understand what climate change is going to do, warming climate, just go down slope a thousand feet. Right? And so this is one example of a question that we are just were beginning to explore here. But we can begin to understand what climate change will have effect on, on pretty much all the species in the landscape, all the plant species or just a great many of them. Trees, shrubs follow this pattern very clearly. Wetland, vegetation, some of the species like helleborine orchids they have cutoff points. Strange cut off points, 6000 feet or so for helleborine and orchids, which are found only at Springs here in Arizona and in the southwest. So why is that happening? So those are questions to be to be answered. Is it a pollinator issue? Is it you know, what happened? Can you take a helleborine orchid and grow it at 8000 feet? We don't know. But some of our rare plants are, you know, very constrained elevationally. Many many questions like that within this relational database we haven't even begun to explore water quality relationships to plant diversity, for example, or to invertebrate diversity, trying to characterize the habitats of spring snails or fish based on water quality collected across, you know, many, many different springs all put into this relational database. We're getting there. And these are these are really exciting questions scientifically to be able to pursue. Luke: You mentioned, the ability to kind of at least get a rough understanding of what might happen as climate change continues to progress. And, you know, you go down downslope to kind of discover what will happen upslope as things warm and dry out. Has there been any other interesting or unexpected discoveries that you have had along this path, and along this changing data collection you've had that you know, we know climate change is a negative. It has a lot of negative impacts. Is there something else that came up that was unexpected? Larry: Yeah. There's a lot we don't know about climate change. And at these high elevations, the growing season has been quite short for you know under natural conditions as the growing season extends its duration. That's a, it's a big question. Um, another really big question is how to predict climate change impacts on, on discharge, groundwater discharge. Um, with climate change reducing the amount of snowpack, increasing sublimation, which is the transition of ice crystals straight to water vapor without going through the liquid. Hydrologically is this transition from ice out of water vapor without melting and a very common phenomenon in our snowpacks here we lose snow through that process. And therefore, not only is climate change kind of reducing snowpack overall, but it's increasing the loss of that snow through sublimation. So that will have an effect on surface flow. Uh, springs are contributing, you know, uh, many, many river systems are fed, base flow fed by springs, any river. For example, Colorado, 53% of the Colorado River is groundwater coming out of springs, not the base flow of the Colorado River. Yes, snowpack and rain contribute to it, but the base flow is 53% Groundwater at least. So it's climate change influences on discharge of springs is something that is statistically quite complicated. Hydrologists have traditionally wanted, you know, 30, 50, 100 years of data to be able to predict what's going to happen with groundwater withdrawal and an effect on streamflow. That's not the right approach we're beyond the envelope of understanding normalcy in climate and therefore smaller timeframes that are more reflective of current conditions are probably a better way to go and it's been a little bit of a little bit of statistical research in this, but, you know, intervals of 20 years might be more accurate for actually predicting what's going to happen in the future. There are big adventures to be had with understanding how to approach the study of climate change. Um, and some of, some of these are very basic questions that we have to, you know, devote more attention to. Having monitoring data on springs is essential for that simply because, we have to understand these statistical patterns over time and we don't have very much monitoring data on springs. Very, very few springs are monitored. You know, uh, Vasey’s Paradise [spring], for example, in Grand Canyon has gone dry during these dry years. This year it's really gushing really splendidly. Um, but the only way we're getting flow data there is occasionally passing by and evaluating how much water is coming out. So not very, uh, not very precise monitoring data on that very important site. That is the second highest concentration of land snails of any point in Grand Canyon, Thunder River, having the highest concentration. Yeah, many patterns that are kind of baffling and really kind of cool. Luke: I think that that gives us an excellent place to, you know, kind of wrap up and move forward. And I think I've just got one last question for you, and that is with all this understanding, right, you're developing and you’re continuing to develop further and further understanding more data leads to more discoveries for you. And you've had quite a significant career on the canyon as well as with seeps and springs. Knowing all of that, putting all of that together, is there something or maybe multiple things that give you hope for the future, that give you hope for the continuation of healthy ecosystems and healthy river ecology and seeps and springs in this area as well as beyond? Larry: Couple of things here. I'm a scientist. I take the charge of being a scientist very, very seriously. Uh, and uh, and hope is not necessarily part of science. Our job is to provide information that can contribute to a better understanding of the physical reality of the world that we live in. I'm going to launch into a little bit of a diversion here because, um, Carl Jung talked about peeling back the layers of the unconscious to, to really reveal the depth of human experience. And, uh, David Hinton talked about the yin yang issues with the fertile void and the material world splendid book called Existence, that I totally recommend reading, as well as the work of Carl Jung. Carl Jung is kind of an unraveling the union of human consciousness is something he wrote as an introduction to the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Both of those approaches fail to grasp the dimensionality from us going out into the rest of the universe and failed to take that into a serious enough context that this dimensionality that we live in, we see ourselves in the center of kind of a heliocentric or anthropocentric kind of perspective of the universe. It goes in both directions, both into our personalities and out into the universe. And by taking thousands of people through and many, many researchers who are focused on individual research topics, spiders, plant physiology, whatever this array of kind of people that have come through my life, through Grand Canyon and guiding on river trips, research river trips and, sometimes just as passengers, has just brought incredible insight into this dimensionality. As a scientist, I have to deal with the material world which both of those philosophies kind of ignore. Um, uh, the continuity of life on earth going back 4 billion years to the present that brought us here. To be able to appreciate Grand Canyon is just absolutely extraordinary. You know, we look at the canyon and the humbling effect of look of being able to see the place, understanding that our contribution to the universe is less than a grain of sand in the context of Grand Canyon is humbling. And, uh, and, and has given me a perspective that, you know, I can make my contributions in this life. They won't be very much, but I can try and that's kind of my job as a scientist keeping to the material world that I can study. Uh, is the, is the responsibility of science. A lot of people claim that science doesn't provide a moral compass for humanity. I beg to differ. Trying to stay open, open minded, and pay attention to the facts and be willing to change your mind about reality. If the data point in that direction is a tremendously important lesson for humanity. Um, if I could change anything, it would be human nature in this, in this landscape to get to take us away from a I me, mine kind of perspective towards compassion for the for the life, for the health of the earth, for the incredible insight that I'm being able to see. And appreciate each organism that we have that we come across each organism tells us so much about the world around us, uh, its own life and the path of evolution. If we we're to start a first Church of the Earth, Grand Canyon would be the temple. And the story that Grand Canyon reveals about the tremendous expanse of time, life's role and change through that, through that process is, uh, is the, you know, the material reality that we have here and to drift off into other belief systems just takes us away from appreciation of this incredible green planet that we live on. Luke: Well, I appreciate it, Larry. I think that is a wonderful way to sum this up. And I really appreciate your focus on learning to accept and appreciate change. I think sometimes we as humanity struggle to do it even though we're so very good at it ourselves. We can change on a dime. But we don't love to talk about it too frequently. Yeah. So anything else you'd like to share? Larry: Sure. Just to wrap up that question of what gives me hope. You give me hope. Luke: I appreciate that. Larry: Yeah. Luke, this has been a really great opportunity to speak about some of these things. I don't get that much chance to spout off on this, uh, this kind of philosophical, uh, perspective very much. And Uh, and the more we can teach the youth about, about this place, the better. And so this effort, I think, is really worthwhile. Luke: Well, thank you, Larry. I appreciate that. And I appreciate you taking the time to speak with us and being willing to record your thoughts on this. Larry: Totally. My pleasure. Thank you. Luke: Many thanks to Larry Stevens for sharing his stories and perspectives on the canyon. 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 homes here today.

Dr. Larry Stevens has spent over fifty years as a boatman and researcher trying to understand water and life in the Grand Canyon. In this time, he has explored much of the change in important river and spring ecosystems within the desert. On this episode of Behind the Scenery listen as Larry shares observations on insect life, healthy seeps and springs, and the role hope plays in science.

First Voices - Gerald Lomaventema


Gerald: It's breathtaking. Yeah, it's so big, you know, vast and especially in that area by the desert view. That's where we have shrines, and we still observe those shrines during our important religious activities that we have here. It's still, you know, connected to us. Every part of that Canyon is a very important part of our religious activities. Jesse: Hey, this is Jesse today on the podcast, we're featuring an interview that Phantom Ranger Ceili Brennan recorded with Gerald Lomaventema. Gerald is an award-winning silversmith, a mentor to young Hopi artists, and a runner. He's also the great grandson of Olympic medalist Louis Tewanima. Louis won silver in the 10,000 meters in the 1912 Olympics and set an American record that stood for decades. He was also a spiritual leader in his community. In this interview, Gerald talks about his art, his cultural connections to Grand Canyon, and running and Louis's legacy in the Hopi community. Enjoy. Gerald: My name is Gerald Lomaventema. I'm from Shongopovi, and of the Bear Clan. Our history, the Bear Clan, what the archaeologist say is that if was first inhabited here by the Bear Clan in 700. And I’m from that family, the lineage, and I've lived here all my life. Although I went to boarding school as well, in Riverside. My mom was deceased when I was very young so my grandmother raised me. But you know, throughout the time, boarding school and afterwards I went to trade school and then a few two years of community college, and then I had a family. So, I returned home and there was a silver smithing class that was offered by the Hopi Co-op Guild here in the early 90s and so I took that class and so now I've been doing it for a long time. And now we have our own shop. And I've traveled internationally talking about, you know, fake and imitation of hope art. Ceili: When is the last time that you were? At Grand Canyon. Gerald: I think in 2019, I think when they used to do the artist demonstration at the Desert View Tower. Ceili: OK, right. Yeah. So a couple of years ago. Gerald: Yeah, you know, I also mentor younger Hopi. They invited us, so there were a few of us that I took. And the good thing about that was they provided the housing, so we stayed the whole weekend, and it was like a free vacation for us. Ceili: Yeah, that's so awesome. And what was that like bringing the people that you mentor to Desert View? How would how'd that go? Gerald: I think they had their first experience, you know, how to talk to visitors about your artwork and a little bit of history that's involved. We tell them about how the Hopi Started doing their jewelry work in ancient times. They had adornment. They had turquoise, they've always had turquoise and shell and colored stones and hematite. So adornment was always part of our culture and even copper bells. Yeah. And the Grand Canyon is a spiritual place to us. We can't just go into the Canyon for some of us and we have to make preparations if we're going to do that. Ceili: Yeah, what was it like the first time you saw Grand Canyon? Do you remember? Gerald: No, but every time I see it, it's breathtaking. Yeah, it's so big, you know, vast and especially in that area by Desert View because that's where our spiritual… we have shrines down in there and we still observe those shrines during our important religious activities that we have here. So, it's still, you know, connected to us. Ceili: Actually, that's a good segue. You're an award-winning artist and you teach your art, you mentor. I'm wondering how your art is influenced by your home and you know the landscape around you. Gerald: You know, as an apprentice, when I was in my late teens the elders used to tell us that, you know, we can't just make jewelry with lines and circles and whatever. It has to have a meaning, so we get the inspiration from our culture Ceili: Right. Gerald: And our landscape. So, we're taking part of our culture and putting it into, you know, what's acceptable, into the jewelry. Ceili: Right. Gerald: And there's a line there that we don't cross. Some stuff that we don't talk about publicly or international, whatever. So, we all know that line that's not, you know, we can't cross because some of our culture isn't open knowledge, even to other members. You know it's not that tricky to know you know, I mean if you’re Hopi you know what that line is. Everything comes from our culture and the area we live in, even the Grand Canyon, so when we do our religious ceremonies, I tell our students that, you know, we have to pay it back. And so that's how I guess I feel better about, you know, sharing some of these stuff. When we participate in the ceremonies, some of them which are physically demanding, you know, and then fasting and all that, you know, so that we sacrifice our bodies for some of the ceremonies. But to me that's our way of paying it back. Ceili: You know, a lot of that sounds so physical. Like you said, you're paying things back with your body. So, I'm wondering about what your relationship is to running, and what the relationship is with running and your community. Gerald: Yeah, you know, we just had a ceremonial run this past weekend. Ceili: Oh, really? Gerald: Yeah. And I was excited because my nephew came in third. Ceili: Wow! Gerald: And I know that course and I used to run it when I was younger and some of those young guys like it's, you know, like practice to them. You know, they can sprint up that Mesa and some of them are pretty fast. But in relation to what we're doing here, you know it's part of our religion. You know, we're probably weaklings compared to our ancestors, because, you know, even though the Spanish brought the horse, you know, for transportation, they didn't readily accept the horse and the cow. They didn't like cows. But they like the sheep. Oh yeah, yeah. And so to me, that part for me is kind of like a therapy. Because it wasn't always like this for me. You know, I wasn't always like out there, you know, exercising or whatever. I tell my students that, you know, there's jewelry making, and there's our Culture, what we have to observe, and then there's our fields, and our family. And then the running is up to an individual. And if you could combine all that into your daily routine, there's no room in there for alcohol or drugs. So that's what a lot of us are vulnerable of, you know, to doing in our younger years. Some of my students were offered scholarships for their running. Ceili: Really? Gerald: Yeah, one of my students, I saw him run in state and he relaxed right at the end and he got beat. Ceili: Oh Gerald: So I told him “well, I saw you relax, you know, you thought you had it, but you didn't,” you know, and this guy just ran right in front of him and won. So anyways, I think running is a crucial part for me today. Although, I ran the Louis Tewanima a few times. I got two medals. I guess in my age category. Ceili: Ohh wow, that's pretty awesome. Gerald: Yeah. So I was surprised at that, but I had to push myself, you know. Ceili: So you mentioned the Louis Tewanima Run. Can you explain that for listeners that don't know what it is? Gerald: Oh yeah. Louis Tewanima was our great grandfather. Although my grandmother was adopted by her aunt, who has Louis Tewanima’s, was a wife, so she inherited the house that I grew up in after my mother's, when she died and my grandmother, you know, raised us in that house. Although I never met Louis Tewanima, I think he died in the late 70s or early 80s after a ceremony in the winter. But the reason why he went to the Olympics was because back in the 1900s, the early part of the 1900s you know the government had that forced assimilation of Native Americans. And one of the Presidents, I can't recall who, you know, said this but they wanted to “kill the Indian and save the man.” So throughout America, they were just, you know, separating kids from their families and sending them to boarding school. So he was one of them that, you know, they couldn't catch him so, you know, they had to use horseback to catch him. Ceili: Because he was too fast. Gerald: Yeah because he was fast. And him and another some other kids that were, you know, didn't want to go. And I believe that there were faster individuals here, but they weren't caught because, you know, they used to run to Winslow, which is almost 70 miles one way, 65 maybe, just to watch the train and be back for dinner. Ceili: That's amazing. Yeah. I was thinking about that when I was driving from Winslow. And I couldn't believe it. Gerald: You know the highway that's a longer the route, but there's a shorter route that you pass through a few springs. Ceili: Oh that's helpful. Gerald: Anyways, back then, I guess they were very strong. You know, because they were the last of the ancestors, I guess. That's the reason why he ended up going to Olympic because he was a resistor and he got arrested. They made them walk from here to Fort Wingate in New Mexico about, you know, in a car, probably 2 hours. Ceili: Yeah. Oh my gosh. Gerald: And then they put them on the rail on the train. And some of them got sent to Riverside, California, and some of them got sent to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and he was sent to Carlisle. And you know there are stories about him that he tried to run away a few times, but it was just too far and he always got caught or somebody reported him, you know, because there was a boy or a young man that was walking around and he wasn't from there. Ceili: Right. Gerald: So they always took him back. Finally, I guess he saw, you know, the track team and he went up to Pop Warner, the coach there at that time and he told him that he could run. He just looked at him and you know, they didn't believe him, I guess until he actually started, you know, practicing with him. And he became the teammate of Jim Thorpe. And they I guess there were only like a few members on the track team, but they competed against all those elite schools. Ceili: Yes. Gerald: And they, you know, they used to win. And when the Olympics came, he went to the trials and he was, you know, he became eligible and so I think in 1908 he ran the marathon and then again in 1912 he won the silver. So Louis Tewniam, you know, he set records. And how did he say it? He said “me run fast,” and he said “all Hopis run fast.” in one of the articles that I read. Ceili: Yeah. And especially because you said that, you know, there were faster people that were, you know, that just didn't get caught. So there he was probably running with faster people all the time. Gerald: Yeah, you know. You know when he returned, there's a story about him that there was a traditional race. And he got decked out in his track outfit. And he went out there and he ran and he got beat by about 3 of them. Ceili: Wow! Gerald: Yeah. So that's how we say he probably wasn't the fastest at the time. But I guess probably you know how runners are, competitive runners, they probably wanted to beat him. Ceili: Yeah, yeah, they were probably very motivated. Gerald: Yeah, and oh, there's another story, too, about him and another runner that were rivals. And they were always, you know, talking trash. And then there was an older man. He didn't like what he was hearing so he challenged both of them to the run, like a marathon. And he beat both of them. Ceili: Wow! Gerald: The older Hopi. Ceili: Wow. Gerald: And you know, later on, my grandmother, she, you know, when she was a little girl and she was born in 1925, but her great Aunt Blanche took her in. And so, they became the parents of my grandmother. And you know, Louis was quite famous, and he knew a lot of people. So, they built the little house there as in addition to the older part of the house. And that's where my grandmother grew up. And she always believed that that was her dad. But she had a, you know, she had a real dad that was her aunt's father. These were traditional people. But anyways, he became a religious leader, Louis did. He was returning from a ceremony held in the winter and his eyesight wasn't too good and he walked in the wrong direction and fell off the Mesa. Yeah, so I wish I would have met him, but you know he died around that time. And then his wife, Blanche she lived for a long time. And we don't really know how old she was. But she was one of the lucky ones that didn't get sent to a boarding school, so she didn't speak any English. She only spoke Hopi. I remember she used to pray every morning. And she wore a belt, a Hopi belt that she put on every morning, too. Ceili: They left a pretty big impact on the community. Gerald: The whole reservation, yeah, and even other natives that come here. And I guess internationally because we've had international runners. Ceili: And then for a number of years now, every year, there's the Louis Tewanima Memorial Run that's open to the public and is that an exciting thing for everyone? Is that something that people look forward to? Gerald: You know, every Labor Day they had it. Labor Day is when we usually have a harvest festival or not a harvest festival, a harvest dance. And, you know, that makes it more, I guess, exciting because the race is early in the morning and then whoever's speaking there, he invites the whole group or the whole crowd to come and enjoy the dance. Some of them stay, you know, some of them will stay and they check out the dance and mostly some of the pueblos from New Mexico. They enjoy those dances, so they stick around. Ceili: So it's like a holiday. It's sounds pretty exciting. Gerald: Yeah, it's festive and everybody's all happy. But you know, I guess it's competitive too in the morning. Ceili: Yeah, I can't imagine it not being competitive. Gerald: Yeah, it goes through some of the traditional trails, traditional foot race trails, some of it does, but most of it's a new course. All the memorabilia I have at the shop I bring out during the race. I set it up to where the runners can come and see it. A lot of people, you know, they surprised me, too because some of them take it spiritually, too, the running, and they pray when they go there to see some of that memorabilia. So, I think we have, you know, not only something treasured by the Hopi people here through the memorabilia, but also, it's a history for Americans. Ceili: Yeah. And like you said, the whole world really like it's Olympic history. Gerald: You know the thing about it is in back in the time in that era, Native Americans weren't American citizens. So even though they weren't considered American citizens, they still represented the United States. Jim Thorpe and Louis Tewanima. Ceili: So we kind of have one, maybe one final question. Here in Grand Canyon, on the trails like amongst all the tourists and you know the Ranger stations down in the Canyon, there's, you know, especially in the spring and the fall there's so many people that run through the Canyon and people have some varying opinions on runners in the Canyon. A lot of people say that you should be walking in the Canyon because if you're running, you won't be able to appreciate your surroundings as much and you won't be able to feel as connected with the place. And as a runner myself, I always think about this and I'm kind of not sure, like sometimes it's true for me when I'm walking, I am going slower so I have a different experience, but running is one of my favorite things to do and I often feel like that's the best way for me to connect to a place. So we're curious about your thoughts on that. Running in Grand Canyon and how it can affect your connection to the police. Gerald: I think you know because some of the religious pilgrimages that we, you know, in our histories to the Grand Canyon, it's all about running. Yeah, they can walk, but for us, you know, it's spiritual. I think early in the morning is, you know when we really feel that, I guess, urge because that's what our ancestors used to say. You know, before the sun rises, you're supposed to go to the shrines and pray and then, you know, on the way back then you take a bath in the spring. So that's what they tell us. And for the Grand Canyon, that places it's spiritual to us. Every part of that Canyon is, you know, a very important part of our religious activities which are in our prayers. So for a Hopi, I think, not all Hopis are runners. So anyways, I think in the morning is when we like to feel that spiritual connection to our surroundings wherever you are, I guess. When I was in Santa Fe I was up early Saturday, and I just walked and I prayed. Either way, you know, you still you still enjoy your surroundings and maybe walking you have a longer time to appreciate it. When you're running, you’re, you know, you're going by, but you're still appreciate appreciating it. Ceili: Yeah. Gerald: So, as a Hopi and people that like to run, I think in the mornings, you know It's good for runners to run, and if you're not a runner, you know, you can walk and enjoy the same surroundings. Jesse: The behind The Scenery Podcast is brought to you by the interpretation team at Grand Canyon National Park. Many thanks to Gerald for sharing his stories and perspectives. You can find Gerald his art and his memorabilia in his shop at the Hopi Cultural Center on Second Mesa, Arizona. 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.

"It's so big and vast and especially in that area by Desert View. That's where we have shrines, and we still observe those shrines during our important religious activities that we have here. It's still connected to us. Every part of that Canyon is a very important part of our religious activities.” Gerald Lomaventema is an award-winning silversmith, a mentor to young Hopi artists, and a runner. He's also the great grandson of Olympic medalist Louis Tewanima.

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.

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