- Part 1: Deadpan commentary and astonishment (January 2015)
- Part 2: Sound advice against dangerous feats (February 2015)
- Part 3: Reverence and the inadequacy of language (March 2015)
- Part 4: Praise for John Hance and his tall tales (April 2015)
- Part 5: The pursuit of wealth and happiness (May 2015)
Extended day hiking: “Bids me to quote Virgil”
Today, the Park Service service warns against hiking from the rim to river and back in one day. It’s sound advice. But this wisdom predates the creation of Grand Canyon National Park:
Take the usual two days for the [rim-to-river] trip.
—Mattison W. Chase, Odensburg, New York — September, 1893 (pg 73)
The park service has a saying: “Down is optional, up is mandatory.” Hance’s guests speak to the difficulty of the return ascent — in both English and Latin:
The going down in the cañon is easy. I don’t think the same about coming out.
—Flora Duncan, Mt. Pleasant, Penn. — July 30, 1898. (pg 119)
My personal experience in a jaunt to the river and returning in one day, bids me to quote Virgil’s description of a visit to Hades, of which he says: Facilis Averno descensus est; Sed reddere.
—Clarence M. Smith, 54 Wall St., N.Y. — May 20, 1895 (pg 86)
The writer is paraphrasing Virgil, whose actual words can be translated as: “Easy is the descent to hell; but to retrace one’s steps, and to regain the upper world, this is the labour, this the difficulty.”
Personal Impressions records the consequences for one unnamed German professor who failed to heed Virgil’s warning:
I shall never forget the forlorn appearance of Herr Dr. ——, Professor of Geography, who, when our party were descending to the river to-day, we discovered lying on the ground, in the shade of a tree, at 9 A.M., about an hour down from the rim. He had then been two hours in the great gulf of the Grand Cañon; was utterly exhausted, and had been without food or water for many long, weary hours.
—Edward N. Butt — July 6, 1898. (pg. 117)
My favorite thing about Mr. Edward Butt’s comment is how quickly he transforms “two hours” into “many long, weary hours.” Is Mr. Butt saying that the two hours felt to the professor like many more? Or has he embellished the story before even finishing his sentence?