I have just been looking at the Grand Canyon on Google Earth. From a distance I could not tell what I was seeing. It was the crooked line of a river made broad by lighter borders unevenly stretching out on either side. Zooming in closer I suddenly saw height and depth. The dark areas were shadow of high cliffs. The light areas were less steep slopes with sparse vegetation. The trails were white lines zig zagging down the descents and they went on and on, seemingly forever, as I followed the route our hike will take.
Google Earth is a unique way of seeing the Canyon – vertically, looking straight down. Although it doesn’t compare to actually being there, it gives a dramatic view of how large and complicated the formations are. Look at it if you can.
I always have a hard time understanding the lay of land from written descriptions but I’m going to try to describe this larger area, and show you where Kaibab fits in. Stick with me here.
A high, mountainous plateau goes from east to west across the northern edge of Arizona. It is bisected by the Colorado as it winds it’s way southwest. It’s hard to believe that the river made such a wide, dramatic gash through the plateau that slopes toward the south. On the north side of the river, from east to west, lie the Kaibab, the Kanab, the Uinkaret and the Shivwits Plateaus. On the south side of the river there is the Coconino Plateau and the Hualapai Plateau. Hundreds of tributaries run down into the Colorado, cutting their own canyons as they go, especially from the north side.
The Kaibab Plateau “is covered with a beautiful forest, and in the forest charming parks are found…. The plateau has four months of the sweetest summer man has ever known.” John Wesley Powell
As far as the word Kaibab itself, well, there doesn’t seem to be a known meaning of it on the internet. It is probably a Paiute Native American word and it’s attached to many things in the Grand Canyon area. There is the Kaibab National Forest, which is home to a herd of large antlered deer (well fed and well managed), there is the Kaibab squirrel which is nearly extinct but still holding on, there is the large Kaibab Plateau north of the canyon and, of course, the Kaibab Trail with its South and North branches. Our descent will be on the South Kaibab Trail, and that is for another post.
Don’t forget to check out the Grand Canyon on Google Earth. It’s amazing!