Valley Friends November Report – The Grand Canyon

From Joan Steel

Following the notices, Jill introduced with pleasure our speaker Michael Hoey, who retired from the Royal Engineers in 2009 about the same time as becoming a Grandfather. This inspired him to do something grand to mark the occasion! So as well as cycling the whole tow path of the Grand Union Canal, he walked the Great Wall of China, having previously done charity work organising exhibitions, teaching and doing other community work. Michael’s challenge now was to cross the Grand Canyon in Colorado. He planned to take the route from North to South on the Bright Angel Trail and gave us a vivid explanation with slides of the enormous and truly awesome geography and geology of the area.

The Colorado River is 1,500 miles long and covers 277 miles from East to West. Geologists flock to study the various rocks forming the canyon. Its width varies from 15 miles to 100 miles and the inner canyon varies from a few yards to 11 miles wide at the point where Michael crossed, at one of three crossings where there are three small villages. The fault called Bright Angel Canyon crosses the canyon looking towards the North Rim which is 7000 feet above sea level with 8,500 feet difference between the North and the South Rim.

The climate varies with the altitude, being very hot and wet at the bottom where there is lush vegetation. A forest of mainly pine trees and junipers covers miles of flat land on the mountains, with sage plants covering the ground. There are wild flowers and wild animals including snakes various birds. The trail passes some temples and an Indian reservation where some cattle were grazing. There are some resting lodges where the all-important water taps are to be found for water bottles to be replenished.

The Bright Angel Trail is used by mules carrying freight that is heavier than their own body weight, but they are very nimble on the steep paths. Michael showed us some dramatic slide views and wonderful coloured sunsets. He walked 50 miles in all, walking sometimes 12 miles a day. He was warmly thanked for his interesting talk and heartily congratulated on raising £5,500 to refurbish St Mary’s church.

On December 5th we are making a Christmas table decoration with Londer Gray who is providing everything and we can add our own flowers etc if wished. Please bring £5.