Down the Gorge: Little Colorado River Recon

During my last days at Southwest Conservation Corps (which, at the time, I wasn't certain were my last days), I was organizing for my crew to do invasive weed surveys in the Little Colorado River Gorge. I was working with Native American youth, primarily of the Navajo Nation. The gorge was a sacred place to the Navajo and Hopi tribes, and its inner depths only accessible in a handful of places throughout the 75 mile length of the canyon.

Mike Wight (Regional Director, Ancestral Lands Program, Southwest Conservation Corps) and I were leaving from the Conservation Legacy All Staff Retreat. He was sick as a dog. We both wanted to descend into the canyon do do reconnaissance for our crew to be able to work in the area. We both deliberated on if we should go, due to the cold that was plaguing him so terribly. 

At the last moment one could turn, he looked at me, and said, "Fuck it - let's go."

We turned left of the 89N onto a dirt road, and began our way out into the abyss. Open lands lay in front of us, with unseen gorges of the canyon fingers dipping down in the distance, the San Francisco Peaks moving in the distance to mark our traverse of the landscape. 

We hiked down the three mile, 3,000 feet descent, following a loose trail over boulders, deep down into the canyon. The beauty rose above us. 

Upon finally reaching the canyon floor, Mike collapsed in a flat area near the helicopter pad. I explored to see where it may be possible for my crews to hike when their field season would start. I also took note of the helicopter pad and stashed supplies at the bottom of the trail, and was able to contact the USGS and arrange helicopter support for the crews after we returned from our trip.

It was awe-inspiring to explore this hidden place, this sacred land, these holy waters. My legs hurt for several days afterwards as I'd not been in shape and the incline was so dramatic.