Tag Archives: Wilderness

Returning to the Spirits: Ongtupqa – The Mu*

The boats fully loaded and with us all onboard, our departure eased out slowly from Lee’s Ferry.   We gracefully slid under the Navaho Bridges (Between Mile Markers 4 and 5), watching the California Condors perch on the bridges’ substructures. 

Transplanted here in an attempt to help seed their survival, Gymnogyps californianus, were slowly clawing their way back from the brink of extinction.   About forty years ago, there were only twenty-two in existence.  These magnificent birds, sporting wingspans of ten feet, glide effortlessly on the thermals.  And their numbers have now rebounded to about 500 today, spread out in Arizona, Utah, California, and Baja Mexico.

But it wouldn’t be long before this incredible peacefulness would be interrupted with the rapids, with names like, Badger Creek, Soap Creek, Brown’s Riffle, Sheer Wall, Redneck, and North Canyon.  Some were simply named for mile-markers, like 23-Mile Rapid and 23.5 Mile-Rapid. 

Where I come from, in the Midwest, . . .

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Returning to the Spirits: Ongtupqa – Zeta

Crossing the state from the Mexican border driving North, I traversed a number of different biomes.  Ecological zones spanning lower desert and high desert, thornscrub, chaparral, grassland, woodland forest, riparian, and even alpine tundra at the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff.  As I neared what would be our departure point on the Colorado, I came upon the Vermilion Cliffs at Marble Canyon, near Lee’s Ferry. 

The Stone People

They carry the history of the Earth.  These cliffs record the changing environment during the Mesozoic Era – some 248 to 65 million years ago. 

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Returning to the Spirits: Ongtupqa – The Alpha

The CRACK was earsplitting!  It sounded like a tree limb exploding!  As if hit by lightning!  And I felt the blast simultaneously jolt through my left shoulder and ribs as the sound burst in my brain. 

I was disoriented in space.  Falling.  Spinning.  Tumbling.

Gravity showed no mercy as I rolled down the slickrock surface.  A surface punctuated by other large pieces of granite and ending in a pile of talus. 

The only thing breaking my fall was one of the other members of our group.  His position on the trail below crossed perpendicular to my trajectory.

But by the time he arrested my momentum, the damage was already done . . . 

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Magic Things . . .

Well, you can probably guess, this pic is from:

Ongtupqa (Hopi)

Wi:kaʼi:la (Yavapai)

Bidááʼ Haʼaztʼiʼ Tsékooh (Navaho)

Or, as we would call it,

the Grand Canyon.

A beautiful scene definitely full of magic. Considering the Canyon cuts through and reveals almost 2 Billion years of geologic history, yeah, pretty magic 🙂