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Pumped up kicks: death in the Grand Canyon, part I

Pumped up kicks: death in the Grand Canyon, part I

By Rick Hinton

Our national parks are a good place to reflect, relax and take in a perspective of how the United States used to look back in the day. They are also a good place to die!

The granddaddy of death by misadventure would have to be, hands down, the Grand Canyon National Park. What of the paranormal ramifications by the association with these deaths, if any? It has all the ingredients for a good haunting.

The book, Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon, is an eye-opener for anyone who has ever slung a pack across their back and marched into the wilderness for peaceful solitude. Authors Michael P. Ghiglieri and Thomas M. Myers, both veterans of Grand Canyon exploration, chronicle just how many people have perished in one of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders. I’m confident that figure has significantly increased since their research. With nearly five million visitors a year to the park, it is disturbing that people are, inadvertently, offing themselves and under the stupidest of circumstances of their own creation. The park rangers can only do so much. It will continue to be impossible to save us from ourselves.

The interior of the Grand Canyon. A beautiful, yet hostile environment. (Photos by Rick Hinton)

Many of these deaths are by misadventure; a result of those “duh” moments defining our final seconds on this earth. Some are more “duh” than others, but ultimately deciding the matter of our own mortality, it becomes our own personal choice in the end. I guess you would have to be there. …

Deaths in the Grand Canyon generally fall into two categories: One – temperature-related leading to lack of water (it’s dry country down in the interior). Eventually dehydration rears its ugly head where the mind is not firing on all cylinders. The Colorado River appears obtainable, even though you might be perched on a cliff 300 feet above it. Your reasoning is not right. No problem … let’s get that water; you can almost taste the wetness! The temperature in the Grand Canyon falls into extreme realms. There might be snow on the rim, yet in the interior during the daylight hours, one would be wearing a tee shirt and sweating profusely.

Two – how close can I get to the edge to impress my buddies, girlfriend, significant other, or complete strangers for a magnificent photo opportunity? Yes … people are tumbling off of the edge of the Grand Canyon, and probably wishing they hadn’t in their last seconds while plunging into bedrock and darkness.
These are the two significant contributors to death in the Grand Canyon National Park, and the cycle continues on unabated. It would appear that folks just do not learn. Every generation has those. Park rangers shake their head sadly and wait for the next group to arrive.

You’re thirsty. The river may look close. It is not!

There are other factors that play into this misadventure. Folks are ill-prepared – whether it is gear or their mental awakening – for the surprisingly harsh environment just below the comfort of the rim. Everything changes once you take those initial steps downward into a world you didn’t realize existed. The interior of the Grand Canyon is true wilderness! There are no comfort stations, candy bars and soda, phones, flush toilets or drinking fountains. You are on your own. Park rangers are scattered and few. You will have to carry yourself and everything you deem necessary through the journey by the power of your back, legs and feet.

If there are no ghosts in the Grand Canyon … there should be!

To be continued next week.

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