Friday, October 11, 2013

The Canyon is Opening (UPDATE)

Grand Canyon overlooking Indian Garden at Bright Angel Trail 10/10/13

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer just announced she has reached a deal with the Federal Government, and Grand Canyon National Park will reopen tomorrow. As part of the agreement, the state of Arizona will pay $651,000 to cover the costs of keeping the canyon open for one week. Fingers are crossed that the Federal shutdown will actually end within the next 48 hours. In that case, the bill will be less. Utah is also opening its parks.

There are many questions, though. For example:
What time tomorrow will the gates be unlocked and visitors allowed to pass through? (They opened the gates early - maybe 7 am.)
Will all hotels, restaurants, paths, and waysides be open? (Everything is open)
Will the Colorado river be open to river runners? (yes)
Will past permits be honored, and how? (Not sure yet.)
Will all staff be back at work? (Seems so)

So far, I have heard no answers to these questions.

In the mean time, I am feeling very lucky to have had the experience of being inside the wall. I have met so many good people, had so many interesting conversations. I was busy preparing an article about it for the Guardian, but I am scrapping that now. The canyon is opening, so soon its closure will be old news.

Mather Point, last night of closure. 10/11/13
Still, I will always remember tonight's walk. I went to Mather Point—probably one of the most popular places on the South Rim. It is rarely without visitors. Even in February, when it was -13 degrees out,  there were people standing on that point of rock pointing and gapping at all they could see. But tonight there was no one, and the sun was setting and the evening was absolutely silent.  Intensely silent. So silent I could feel it press itself against my skin, cup my ears. And I thought to myself, I will never be back here. Not like this. This, right now, is a singular moment, and I am honored to have been a witness. Very, very honored.

- Naseem Rakha, October 11, 2013 

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