03-Aug-2007 -- "So close, so close and yet so far..." The words from the Frankie Valli song "My Eyes Adored You" ring in my head even now as I reflect on my attempt on 36 North 112 West. Due to the unique terrain of the Grand Canyon, this may very well be the confluence attempted most often but seldom successfully. The fact that a National Park Ranger has the only successful visit should have spoken volumes, but I was determined to log my own attempt to the spot. But what is a success, really? I argue that any outing on our fabulous planet, particularly in a place as awe inspiring as the Grand Canyon, is a success.
The Grand Canyon was our third park in the midst of our tour of 11 state and national parks in 12 days. We had already completed a sunrise hike to Yavapai Point, a very hot but exhilarating hike partway down to the bottom of the canyon on the Bright Angel Trail, and a ride on the park shuttle to Hopi and Hermit's Rest viewpoints. After we returned to our lodge in midafternoon, I drove down the rim road to the east to Grand View Point. I thought I might drive to 112 West and park on the South Rim Road, but there was no place to pull over. Grand View Point was a major stop with plenty of parking, but I ended up with a longer hike. Still, a hike in the Grand Canyon is anything but ordinary.
A steady rain was falling, with thunder as well, and I was glad to be in the pine trees. I took off in the opposite direction from the tourists, toward the west, traversing up and down steep gullies, but taking care not to get too close to the rim of the Grand Canyon itself and thus get onto a promontory where I could go no further. The GPS gave a reading of about 2 km to the confluence. The vegetation caused a bit of a difficulty in receiving adequate satellites, and I had crossed 112 West before I realized it. I made a wide arc back northeast toward the rim.
I had thought that I could get within a few hundred meters of the confluence based on the maps and imagery I had been examining. I nurtured a slight hope that I could pick my way to the confluence from the rim. I was a bit dismayed, therefore, with a reading of 170 meters still to go when I stood on the rim at 112 West and no way of reaching the point. According to the DCP rules, all I really needed to do was get within 100 meters, so only 70 to go! However, one thing was for certain--there is no way to pick one's way down to the confluence from the rim, even for 70 meters. The authorities might never find your body.
I was a mere 6 seconds of latitude away from the goal, but the slopes are, well, it's the Grand Canyon! The terrain is extremely steep, some of the steepest in the world, and the confluence sits in a deep and steep amphitheatre. I don't see how anyone could reach it except to find the specific horizontal layer that the confluence is on, trace that layer to the Grand View Trail, and hope that one selected the correct horizontal stratum on which to trek to the site. This apparently is what my colleague Woody Harrell did, although for the life of me, I still don't see how he did it! But that's why he is a park ranger, and not me. I saluted him while on the rim but didn't spend more than 10 minutes, as the rain was falling pretty hard by now.
Yet the adventure was not quite over. After arriving back at Grand View Point about 30 minutes later, and completely soaked despite my raincoat, the sun came out from a clear spot in the west. I scurried over to Grand View Point in anticipation of a rainbow. I was not disappointed. In 5 minutes, just after a busload of French tourists appeared, a magnificent rainbow arched across the eastern sky. It was a fitting end to the confluence adventure. And even that wasn't the end of our Grand Canyon adventure. That evening, we were treated to a truly magnificent sunset back at Yavapai Point, where we had started the day at sunrise.