Traversing the Grand Canyon in midwinter is no picnic, the author found, especially with a go-go governor as guide
April 08, 1985

At first, I skied with a gentleness of mind, noting the details of our passage, such as the last aspen leaves. Freeze-dried a hundred times during the winter, these had at last relinquished their grip on their branches. Each curled, crispy, weightless leaf was nearly black with age, so it absorbed the sun's heat better than the white snow, and had melted its way down through a little cylindrical shaft until it was in shade. I had fancied that these tiny rifts cutting through the strata of several snows were precursors of the larger canyon that was our destination. But after four hours of cross-country skiing, I didn't care about things like that anymore.

We were on the Kaibab Plateau of northern Arizona in mid-February, skiing the 42 miles south from Jacob Lake to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. If we made it, we would then tie our skis to our packs and hike down to the Colorado River, cross it and climb up to the opposite rim.

All but one of our party could say that this hadn't exactly been our idea. That person was Bruce Babbitt, the governor of Arizona. He had his reasons, but some of them would take days to become clear. A slender man with a slouch that suggests a history of scholarly pursuits, Babbitt had shown the plateau to us from the air the day before as we flew from Phoenix to Kanab, Utah, just north of the Arizona border. Below, surrounded by desert on three sides, lay a wooded, elongated dome.

"Kaibab is a monocline," Babbitt said, using the geologic term for this 8,500-foot-high, 100-mile-long bread loaf of layered stone that the Colorado River chops right through to form the heart of the Grand Canyon.

From the air, it appeared inexplicable that this should have happened. The Colorado comes rolling along from the northeast, sees the Kaibab Plateau in its way, meanders south for a few miles, gathering its nerve through Marble Canyon, and then abruptly swerves west and leaps at the great hump of stone that appears perfectly able to fend it off and stay dry and whole. But apparently defying the law of gravity, the river chews right through. Explain that.

Babbitt has large, soft, pale blue eyes that don't miss a thing, and a vibrantly professorial style. His interest in the canyon's genesis is not idle curiosity. He majored in geology at Notre Dame, has a master's degree in geophysics from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and assisted in the work confirming the tectonic plate theory of continental movement. "There are different theories about how the canyon was formed," he said. "Earlier geologists postulated that the river came before the mountain. Then, as the plateau was uplifted, the river cut down through it. That's the log-rising-through-a-saw theory. Recent radioactive dating studies cast doubt on it...."

He glanced out the window. Below, bisecting the Kaibab forest, were miles of narrow, white, treeless areas. "On the top of the mountain is a shallow rift, and that holds some of the most beautiful Alpine meadows you can imagine," said Babbitt. "The road from Jacob Lake to the North Rim is only open in summer. But the Forest Service has plans to straighten and upgrade it, and keep it plowed in winter."

Environmentalists, led by the Audubon Society, have opposed this, claiming the area is too delicate to withstand such a project. Babbitt wanted to negotiate that section of the plateau, to gauge its potential as a Nordic ski attraction. He has a record of environmental sensitivity. A prime achievement of his administration has been passage of the most comprehensive groundwater management code in the U.S.

We had no clue then, amid all these concerns of science and economics and politics, that he also wanted to ski and hike himself into a stupor.

From Kanab we were driven by Arizona Department of Public Safety (state police) officers south, across dry plains, toward the mesas that were the northern ascent to the Kaibab, where we stayed the night at Jacob Lake Inn. At one point, Babbitt had the cars stop under a juniper tree. He walked out onto the sandy ground and plucked a sprig of sage, grinding it in his palm. "Smell that," he said, inhaling the sharp, complex scents. "For me, that's the primal smell of the West."

By eight the next morning we were fed and ready. Babbitt was dressed in the black downhill ski pants he would wear for the next three days. He probably traveled the lightest of any of us (and got rest-stop handouts from most of us). "It's terrible how you're so pampered as a chief executive," he said with a crooked smile of indecent enjoyment. "It's been years since I carried money."

Babbitt, 46, could go light because his brother Jim, 37, who works in the family business in Flagstaff, packed his food. Jim is tall and deceptively laconic, except late in the day when arguing for a more distant camp than wherever we sat exhausted at the time.

Another in the party, Bern Shanks, 45, a former ranger and smoke jumper and former professor of resource management, has lived in 10 Western states. A mild, wry man, he is now the chief of planning for Arizona State Parks. He has written two books on the outdoors, This Land Is Your Land and Wilderness Survival.

Our ranger was Joe Quiroz, 35, a quiet, earnest man who had served in the Navy during the Vietnam war and in the Peace Corps, and who could ski rings around the rest of us. Charlie Warner, blond, strong and apprehensive, was the aide assigned by the DPS to see to Babbitt's security. He carried a two-way radio, so we wouldn't exactly be without resources.

Heinz Kluetmeier, just in from shooting the Alpine World Skiing Championships (SI Feb. 18, 1985) in Italy, traveled the heaviest, with all his camera gear. That made six. I was seven, not a dedicated or even regular skier but, as a marathoner, presumably active enough to keep up.

There were four others—Jack Dykinga, Chuck Bowden, Don Bayles and Dave Baker—who would accompany us for a day and a half, then peel off to go on the Bass Trail to the North Rim and then down to the river and up to the South Rim.

This would not be a trip with just a few hours a day of travel, more of camp and talk. At dinner the night before we set out, Babbitt announced that he'd love to make Kaibab Lodge on the first day. That was 22 miles away. Quiroz let his eyes widen, but he said only, "Well, we'll see how the snow is."

We clipped on our skis, slung on our packs, ducked under a gate and stepped onto the snow. It was ice. The morning was sunny, but there had been no fresh snow for more than a week, and the surface was solidly frozen. We set off at a modest pace, with Quiroz up front. I charged up a few hills to assure myself I could handle this, then dropped in behind Babbitt and Warner. My pack was already heavy.

None of us could glide, only shuffle. Babbitt, who grew up a downhill skier in Flagstaff and had been introduced to Nordic skiing by singer and songwriter Dan Fogelberg two years ago, understood this and never wasted energy. He got into a gently rhythmic stride that would carry him for hours. "I work out during the week," he said at our first stop. "But more than that, there's an emotional thing that keeps me going." That seemed to involve both his return to country he's loved since childhood and his escape from the clamor of his executive job.

Babbitt seemed a dichotomy, being part "loner," in his word, and part the possessor of a social conscience who has accepted politics as a necessary instrument to get done what that conscience demands doing. That acceptance came late. He had been studying the geology of the Bolivian Andes in 1962, when the problems of the people on the rocks began to seem more vital, more resistant to solution than the problems of how the rocks came to be. "It was a summer of discovery," he said, and it led him to leave his science for Harvard Law School. In 1974, he became Arizona's attorney general. He hopped up to the governorship in 1978; Raoul Castro had resigned in 1977 to become ambassador to Argentina, and his successor, Secretary of State Wesley Bolin, died in office five months later. The new Secretary of State couldn't succeed Bolin because she had been appointed, not elected, and Babbitt was next in line. He has won reelection twice.

Skiing over tracks left days before by a snowmobile, we couldn't talk; our skis scraped and clattered too loudly on the icy surfaces. The mixed conifer forest, filled with five feet of snow, was silent. Once we glimpsed the pure white tail of a Kaibab squirrel. Its entire range is the plateau north of the canyon.

As the sun came above the trees the snow got mushy and soaked our boots. At a stop I asked Babbitt what had happened here in years past. The thing that came to his mind was the survey of the area in 1880 by a team of geologists, cartographers and illustrators directed by John Wesley Powell, the one-armed Union major who had first taken a party of boats through the Grand Canyon in 1869.

"The 1880 survey led to the most beautiful book ever published on this side of the Atlantic," he said. This was Clarence Dutton's Tertiary History of the Grand Cañon District. "It's a kind of Jeffersonian blend of all kinds of disciplines," Babbitt continued. "They came to subsume this part of the country. And that was the golden age of the illustrator." Later Babbitt would show me his copy of the book at his home in Phoenix. The great, four-foot-wide folio woodcuts by William Henry Holmes, muted in tone, excruciating in detail, have a force entirely different from photographs. "They're more real than photos," said Babbitt, "because Holmes had an eye that stripped away the extraneous stuff. He saw the skeleton of the earth, undistracted by the shreds of flesh."

The drawings were accompanied by Dutton's prose, which was charged with an unscientific amount of emotion. "As the mind strives to realize [the canyon's] proportions," Dutton wrote, "its spirit is broken and its imagination completely crushed." This just wasn't true. Dutton's imagination went on feverishly, naming the great landmarks of the canyon. He began the practice of calling the canyon's buttes and towers after deities, so today we gaze upon an ecumenical assembly of, among many others, Brahma Temple, Wotan's Throne, Isis Temple, Hindu Amphitheater, Cheops Pyramid and Zoroaster Temple.

"I don't care what you call them," said Kluetmeier. "I just hope they're worth the trek."

We snow-camped near Crane Lake, on a slope above our first small meadow. Nine hours of slogging had brought us only 16 miles. Babbitt, as tired as the rest of us, didn't lament being six miles short of his goal. His metabolism is that of a natural ultramarathoner, producing great volumes of energy that pour out slowly, but endlessly.

We went to bed at 7 p.m. There was nothing else to do. It was dark and cold. We were tired, but we didn't go to sleep. The Babbitts had taken me into their tent, along with boots and water bottle, to keep these crucial items from freezing. Wrapped almost claustrophobically in our down bags, we chatted. The Babbitts discussed the ski trip they had made last year. It was shorter but had included a march right into a blizzard. "You can't see anything," said Bruce Babbitt. "And when you fall, you don't know you're falling. The collision with the ground comes as a complete surprise."

He explained the delicate nature of the meadows that we would cross the next day. "We are on a limestone cap on the plateau," he said. "There are no streams. All the water sinks in and reemerges four or five thousand feet down as springs. The meadows stay marshy in the summer, though, and become a riot of color and vegetation and deer."

Until we got within 12 miles of the rim, we would be in the Kaibab National Forest. "The Forest Service is the dominant manager of the land," said Babbitt. "Its plan to keep this road open in the winter is symptomatic of a larger issue that touches the whole West. The forest lands by law are to be managed with the idea of allowing multiple use. In recent decades, multiple use has stressed timber, mining and grazing, but has basically checked out of the recreation business.

"For example, there has been no national forest campground improvement in Arizona in 20 years. So, in short, I'd like to stop this road improvement, which is being lobbied for by logging companies and southern Utah people who are flailing their congressional delegation to provide year-round tourist access. And I'd like to agitate for a broader interpretation of multiple use." One inclusive of what we were doing now.

"People have to eat," he said. "So I'd love to have this area turn out to be a popular Nordic travelway, to give economic hope to locals without heavy construction going through these fragile meadows."

We slept until seven, though disturbed memorably in the night by a sound across the valley that at first was sirens, then dissolved into yips and canine song. There seemed no fewer than eight coyotes in that convocation, but they are famous for sounding many and being few. Babbitt slipped right back to sleep, announcing this with a snore.

Again the morning snow was icy crust. Once moving, letting the skis run in the tracks left by a party that had begun a day and a half ahead of us, I found that the deepest ruts had ice ridges on both sides that clutched at my boots. Often the pack seized upon such an unsteady moment and hurled me to the ground.

Babbitt had been getting sore toes from the tracks, too, but he'd been thinking about other things. While I passed dried fruit to him, he said, "I'm deciding that what we've been crossing is so fine that it ought to be attached to the National Park." Later, Shanks explained that this would be tough. "There is always vehement opposition to placing land under more restrictive use," he said. "Grazing and mining permits lose their market value."

At last we reached Kaibab Lodge, which, like the road, was closed for the winter, so promised no shelter or warmth, only a reference point. We melted snow there and regathered. Kluetmeier was behind, growing ill. "I've been incubating something for a couple of days," he said. "I'll be all right." Babbitt took 20 pounds of Kluetmeier's gear. I fed him hot chocolate and skied behind him the rest of the day. We were bound six more miles, to the ranger's cabin at the national park boundary.

My heels were blistering, but the snow had softened and we made good progress. At last we struggled into the little cabin, crawling clumsily from the snow through the top half of a Dutch door. It was warm. Shanks had preceded us and had a fire roaring in the wood stove. He had made hot peppermint tea, which he gave me in a tin cup with milk and sugar. It was as if it had come from St. Peter. I sat and ached and gasped. When I pulled off my boots I found bloody socks.

Quiroz never seemed so fresh as at these end-of-day reunions. He told a story about confronting a German tourist ("The people visiting the canyon are never from Arizona," said Babbitt) he'd seen earlier with a Perrier bottle. Later, bottleless, the man wouldn't confess to having littered. "I asked him how he would feel," said Quiroz, "if someone left empty bottles at the bases of the flying buttresses of the cathedral in Cologne. He got a funny look on his face, raced back down the trail, found the bottle and came up, waving it, apologetic, saying now he understood, now he saw the canyon for what it really was."

Kluetmeier couldn't keep any food or liquids down. Babbitt issued the only direct order of the trip: Kluetmeier would sleep on one of the two cots, near the stove.

As I drifted to sleep, filled with ache, contemplating more of the same the following day, I said to the governor of Arizona, "If this is your idea of a refreshing break, your job must be really hideous." He laughed, as at an unexpected compliment.

In the morning, we shoved off early. Babbitt now referred to the four men who had taken a different trail the day before as "environmental hippies."

"They go three or four hours and then they camp," he said. "I can't understand that." (Using the same tone, one of them, Jack Dykinga, had sniffed, "You goal-oriented Babbitts.")

We had about 11 miles to go to the rim, but we had gradually climbed, to 8,800 feet, so now we found some long downhills where we could simply double pole and glide. Where we had trudged at two miles per hour, now we raced at 15. We even caught a member of the party that had begun with a day-and-a-half lead, Robert Gutierrez, who was sitting in the trail, waxing his skis. Babbitt was so startled to come upon him that he fell down.

The icy tracks tripped me one last time, on a downhill, and the pack drove me headfirst between my skis. As I sat, stunned, Kluetmeier approached. "O.K.?" he asked.

"I guess so." I touched my temple and looked at the glove. "I'm bleeding."

"Not much," he said, skiing by.

At the top of a hard, curving hill, we saw Quiroz's pack. "It's the end of the skiing," said Warner, exultantly. And there, not garishly obvious, through a copse of white-trunked aspens was a great, red, snowy vista of the canyon.

Quiroz had gone to alert the North Rim ranger, and soon we met Guy Whitmer, who gave Babbitt the following intelligence over lunch: "Last year we had a total of 50 skiers who made it in here. Now we're expecting 50 next week, so the word is getting around. Most people have been slow because they've been breaking one to three feet of new powder."

"So it's not icy like this all the time," said Babbitt, in triumph.

"No," said Whitmer. "The rim gets an average of 150 inches of snow a year, with the maximum being 300 to 350." This, he pointed out, meant that, because dense piles of plowed snow don't melt nearly as fast as undisturbed powder, if the road were continuously plowed, all the visitors on that road would see would be 20-foot walls of striated ice.

We were at the head of the North Kaibab Trail, at the very top of Roaring Springs Canyon. Across to our left was Uncle Jim Point. This was named for Uncle Jim Owens, the early-century game warden who took Theodore Roosevelt mountain-lion hunting. "The deadly enemies of the deer are the cougars," Roosevelt later wrote. "They had been very plentiful all over the table-land until Uncle Jim thinned them out, killing between two and three hundred." In consequence, the deer population ballooned, resulting in massive starvation in the 1920s. "The classic case of big-game mismanagement," said Shanks.

We looked through the trees at the gorge with the half-frantic eyes of people staggering with packs now made heavier with jutting skis and poles. The trail was none too wide and covered with four or five feet of snow.

We progressed by jamming our booted, gaitered feet into each other's footsteps. These holes were deep, but solid at the bottom. If you didn't hit them, and sometimes even if you did, you'd "post-hole," sinking waist-deep in heavy, infuriatingly passive snow. This lasted for more than 1,000 vertical feet, almost three trail-miles of energy-sucking struggle.

Yet on the snow before us lay an improbable thing. Ski tracks. Perhaps a week earlier, when this snow was new, someone very capable had waxed his skis with sticky klister and carefully skied down these switchbacks. Now the snow was dense and treacherous, and Babbitt was agitated. "I was put out at the sight of those tracks. I mean, where is it writ that I was forbidden what someone else had done?"

Nowhere. He shook his skis off his pack, stepped onto them and tried it himself. He didn't get as far as our inspiring predecessor, but he scared the hell out of the rest of us. "It's curious how these things go," he said later. "Once there was only hiking here. Then in the '60s there was a starburst of river running. Then it was rock climbing. Now it's crazed skiing on the North Rim...."

By the time we reached a trail made of real earth, I was shot. But we had three or four more miles of descent to our appointed rest at Roaring Springs. That hike, stamping downhill, with occasional awkward clambers over ice formations that had built up where water fell from overhangs, tired me more than any skiing. I wasn't simply shuffling the weight of the pack over level snow now; I was absorbing a foot of its fall with every step. All the wonderful geology around me quickly evaporated.

The vegetation changed, from pine to juniper to mesquite to prickly pear. I didn't notice. I kept getting the ski tips caught in whatever horrid plants overhung this horrid trail. I had the ski poles in hand the whole way, to brace and catch myself. I hadn't seriously fallen, but my shoulders and arms ached so much I had no peace. I went slower and slower, gasping more and more, despite dropping into thicker air.

It probably was beautiful. In Grand Canyon, an Anthology, Babbitt's compilation of Canyon writings (from which have been lifted all the literary, scientific and historical quotations which lend this article its strata of scholarship), he had noted that the "concept of landscape as something to be admired for its own sake did not even develop until the nineteenth century." Before then, did everyone have to strain as we were doing now?

Night came. A few hundred yards from where Roaring Springs Canyon met Bright Angel Canyon, Babbitt showed all the signs of tertiary exhaustion I did, and rested against the cliff. "So near," he said, "but so necessary."

I was chilled at the end, and riven with ache, and bloody again in my boots. I got on a thick down coat and sat on the porch of the ranger's cottage we had come to and just sort of stared into the darkness, because this seemed the hardest thing I'd ever done, harder than the Olympic marathons or the 312-mile Great Hawaiian Footraces, because it was fresh and it wasn't over yet. Tomorrow we had to go still farther down, and then lift these packs all the way out, a 4,800-foot climb.

I braced myself up from the porch and trudged with tiny, comically stiff steps inside, to find Quiroz on the phone getting Kluetmeier a porter for the next day.

Quiroz then told me that we could have stayed up on the rim. The ranger there, Whitmer, was ready with beds. "We're doing in four days what other people do in a week," he said. "The governor has, uh, commitment, I guess you'd call it. He wanted to cover all this in three days." He said this with the kind of affection you have for a child who will try anything. "Last year, when we skied the middle part in a blizzard, he went through it on will power. He was determined to get where he had decided to end up."

Babbitt came in and sat down, perhaps concerned about me, because I was still shivering, not ready yet to eat anything. He had recovered almost at once. A man for these mountains.

I asked him his thoughts in those last miles. "I've been through that a jillion times," he said. "What you do is suspend all mental processes. All you think about is keeping moving. One foot in front of the other."

"Somehow, you haven't told me anything I don't already know," I said.

"In a curious way, that's what's so liberating about this," he said. "In my work, I'm constantly analyzing, constantly bombarded with information. And this is the exact opposite."

He was nostalgic, recalling how nine years ago he had packed his 9-month-old son on this Kaibab Trail. "My wife never liked to go camping with me when we first got married," he said. "I was the rucksack, can-of-beans-and-head-for-the-horizon kind of guy. She thought I was disorganized, undisciplined." His tone admitted the possible truth of this.

In the morning, tired, weak, I got organized and went down the trail at eight, an hour ahead of the group, to set my own pace. As I walked I noticed there was a magnificent canyon rising above me. We were at 4,700 feet. And it was pleasant for a while, along a gently descending path, but then I took a wrong turn, off to Ribbon Falls, which, by my Oregon standards, isn't much. The trail petered out there, and I realized my mistake. I had to backtrack 15 minutes on this day of all days when I didn't want to waste energy.

A mile and a half later, I'd rejoined the group. The rock seemed to harden and take on a glinting sheen. "We're in the Inner Gorge now," said Shanks. "Its granite and schists are [among] the world's oldest, two billion years."

"Built up originally as great horizontal deposits of sand and mud," wrote Edwin D. McKee, in Ancient Landscapes of the Grand Canyon Region, "they were bent by mighty crustal movements until high mountains, probably comparable to the present Alps, were formed. Pressures from the northwest and southeast apparently folded them. The rocks themselves were greatly compressed and heated, with the result that complete recrystallization and the development of a banded structure were brought about." Metamorphosed into schist, they then wore down and were covered for a billion years, to wait, until 10 million years ago, when the Colorado began cutting toward them. Which seemed to ring a bell.

Babbitt had never explained the other theory for how the river cleaved a mountain. "It's called stream-capture," he said. "If a mountain has two parallel valleys, the stream in the deeper valley will eventually eat into the other one." By this theory, the Colorado once flowed south past the Kaibab. Runoff from the western slopes of the plateau created a stream that eroded the early canyon to the west and at last cut eastward enough to capture the river, diverting its flow to the present course. As we tried to picture this, we reached the river itself.

Phantom Ranch is a guest ranch with some modest cabins, right at the bottom of the gorge. At 2,400 feet, it was hot. We had lemonade in the cafeteria and looked at pictures of Roosevelt, dressed in a stiff collar and tie, waistcoat, vest and watch chain, descending the trail on a burro.

Then we filled our water bottles, walked across the suspension bridge over the opaque, beige Colorado, and began our last, long, uphill march.

"The thing is easy rhythm," said Shanks, to me in particular. "Not going too hard is always better than trying to muscle it. So if you're breathing hard, slow down." I had been breathing hard for four days.

It was calf-stretching work, but nowhere near as deadening as the night before. Somehow I'd preserved my calves. Let them ache; they were just catching up with the rest of me.

This was the accessible side. We began to meet people coming down the trail. "None," Babbitt repeated, "from Arizona." One man, from Austria, stared at our skis, and said, "You should come to my country. We have ski lifts. You wouldn't have to do this."

A guy in a Penn State T shirt said, "Forgive me, but why would you carry skis down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon?" Too tired to think of a silly answer, I told the truth; we'd skied 42 miles to the North Rim and hiked down and now out. "Wow," he said, "you've had quite a day."

And 4,000 feet still to climb. Much of this more-traveled trail's surface was of dried, pulverized mule manure, its fragrance in the sun a reminder of the similarity of our labors.

I climbed, intent solely on safe foot placement, for long stretches, but then would come a moment when I'd catch a glimpse of the immense space yawning out to my right or left or, once, on a saddle, both sides. I would stand stock-still, vertiginous in the perfect quiet, while my mind roved in the abyss, exulting in its sheer volume, intoxicated by it, frightened by it.

Babbitt had described typical first responses to the canyon as "floods of superlatives and allusions to the canyon as proof of God's presence." Now, it seemed to me proof of man's nature. We are defined by our fears. We are made for being afraid, because we see, we predict. And as we walked up through billions of years of stone laid bare, it was plain that the essential power of the canyon in human minds is that of the ocean or stars. It is timeless. We are transitory. Moreover, the canyon, with its strata, rubs our noses in that. No wonder so many things in it are named for temples.

In the last hour, in the dark, slipping on the slushy last switchbacks, I thought of the conquistadores, of Powell, Dutton and the unbroken line, right down to Babbitt, of men who lived on all these layers, who looked and thought and studied and wrote and just loved it so much that they gave it to the rest of us.

I didn't feel one of them. I had no need to set down on paper all that I saw (we had Kluetmeier for that). I didn't care, really, in the constant, gnawing way the scientist does, for the very rocks. Like Babbitt, I cared more for the people on the rocks. O.K., a few of the people on the rocks. And the longer this climb went on, the fewer those would be.

Of course, we finally came over that rim to the cheery greeting of the DPS officers. It was a short drive to Quiroz's house and a waiting dinner and civility and warmth and wine and the first softening of memories, and everybody asking would you do it again. Then there was a plane ride back to Phoenix, with talk of politics, other governors, how to pick up the shards of the Democratic Party, the best way to deal with the Russians. We hadn't spoken a word about these topics on the trail. Now we were turning back to the world. Then we were down, finished, on a dim airport parking lot in the warm Arizona night.

Babbitt was chauffeured away. Later, he would report "a productive meeting" with the regional forester on the issue of the road through the Kaibab meadows.

And for days I would return to that last hour of climb, the acceptance it brought of endless time and evanescent individual life, of hard, dark rock and the weakening, soft flesh that crept upon it. It seemed beautiful and sad, and engendered a kind of peaceful possessiveness. The canyon was mine now; effort had won it. This must have been something like what John Hance had felt. He was an asbestos miner turned tour guide who first saw the canyon in 1881, and could never leave it. After a lifetime in it, he had assumed full responsibility for it. On his deathbed he hiked himself up on one elbow and produced a look of perplexity. "Where do you suppose I could have put all that dirt?" he said.

PHOTOHEINZ KLUETMEIER THREE PHOTOSHEINZ KLUETMEIERTrail scenes: The author (left) melts snow during a rest stop; the governor (above left) takes a break from skiing with Warner; one skier gingerly tends to his sore toes. PHOTOHEINZ KLUETMEIERAs the day dawns at the group's Crane Lake campsite, Baker kindles the breakfast fire. PHOTOCULVER PICTURESIn this 1903 stereoscopic card of O'Neill Butte, the view is northwest from the South Rim, opposite Bright Angel Canyon. PHOTO¬© 1972 TIME-LIFE BOOKS INC.Powell led the first Colorado descent. PHOTOHEINZ KLUETMEIERAfter reaching the North Rim in 2½ days, the group began its descent into the canyon. PHOTOHEINZ KLUETMEIERQuiroz proved his hardiness with a chilly morning ablution in Roaring Springs. TWO PHOTOSMICKEY PFLEGERWith Dutton's history comes Holmes's panoramic view from Point Sublime. PHOTOHEINZ KLUETMEIERWrangler Sharon Taube guides guests the easy way. PHOTOHEINZ KLUETMEIERComing up out of the canyon, Babbitt led Warner, Quiroz and Shanks on the final leg.