Escape the world’s troubles, hike to Monument Canyon

Looking into Monument Canyon.


Monument Canyon

Drive time and distance: Grand Junction to lower Monument Canyon trail head, 14 minutes, 8.9 miles; GJ to upper trail head, 35 minutes, 19.5 miles

Length: 6.3 miles

Hiking Time: 3.5 hours

Elevation gain: 4,700 ft (1,433 meters) to 6,140 ft (1,871 meters)

Difficulty: Steep climb from top, otherwise easy to moderate

The world has changed. Earth has shifted on its axis.

Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, radioactive fallout.

Flying over Tulsa, Okla., on our way home from Virginia, Delta pilot Captain Christopher Smith has asked flight attendants on Flight 1042 to discontinue in-flight service because of turbulence. It may have nothing to do with this shift, yet who knows?

All things are connected.

A baby in seat 37B is not a happy camper. Her mother is at her wits’ end. Yet, after watching TV scenes of real-life horror unfold at the epicenter of disaster in Japan, this is nothing. A little turbulence and a baby crying is nothing compared to that.

What does our weekly hike mean? How will it help?

How can it not help?

We watch in sad and bewildered amazement as people in Japan search and assist and console and support each other through one of the greatest disasters in modern history. Is this how the dinosaurs were trapped on Riggs Hill millions of years ago? Stuck in a mud flow of epic proportion? Is this the cataclysmic explosion that formed the Wasatch Mountains outside Salt Lake, which in turn, spewed volcanic ash 250 miles away, into the Grand Valley?

We call that blueish soil around us Bentonite. It’s slippery when wet, to be sure. Our trucks get stuck trying to drive through it when it’s wet, and when it’s dry, its fine dust particles smother and choke the life from plants that once thrived here. You can’t drive through it. The dinosaurs couldn’t even walk through it without getting stuck.

Yet, millions of years later, we marvel at the beauty of this Earth.

Will it take that long to recover from this disaster? As a nation, as a world body, we mourn the tremendous loss of human life, but what of the plants and animals and fish that have perished in this disaster? We continue to watch in horror as more bad news spews from this tragedy.

Smoke now fills the air 35,000 feet below us, somewhere between Oklahoma and Kansas. A fire burns and we can only imagine, from this height, the number of firefighters who risk their lives to extinguish it. Brave souls assisting other brave souls. We deal with these mini-disasters across the land, and around the world, hourly, daily, weekly. But none of them compare to a nuclear meltdown, a tsunami and this latest catastrophe in Japan.

Take a hike. Escape from the horrific videos for a short while. Let your mind be free. Let your lungs breathe.

Take the time to think of what you can do, what you should do. Slow down and ponder the larger-than-life issues faced by other citizens of this Earth.

Riggs Hill is a good place to start. Check out the cement replica of the Brontosaurus stuck in the mud along the trail.

The Riverfront Parkway is another good place to contemplate nature — along the once mighty Colorado River, the river that helped form the Grand Canyon, that’s now dammed beyond recognition, that continues to supply water to one-sixth of our nation’s population.

Take a hike into Monument Canyon in Colorado National Monument. Check out a pair of golden eagles who have built a nest high on a rock ledge overlooking the most famous canyon in this national monument.

Be careful, though. In order to protect the nesting eagles, a temporary closure to climbing and off-trail hiking went into effect March 15 for approximately a one-quarter-mile section along the Lower Monument Canyon Trail. Signs have been posted to inform climbers and hikers that the area is closed until Sept. 1. This closure could be extended or rescinded at an earlier date if determined appropriate.

The National Park Service is committed to preserving birds of prey and their habitat.

The same cliffs that attract raptors also appeal to climbers. The cooperation of climbing organizations and individuals is essential to the successful nesting and breeding of raptors in the monument.

We’re certainly concerned about these eagles, and hope they can bring off a nest of young ones. We’re concerned about the babies in Japan, too. How will they eat? How will they breathe?

We ponder our own options. What can we do to help from so far away? We can donate some of our own treasure to help those in need.

We can give to the American Red Cross, an agency that’s doing everything it can to help in Japan. We can give to Doctors Without Borders. We can continue to support our troops who have sped across the Pacific Ocean to help on the USS Ronald Regan, and other Navy ships.

And we can pray, because the Earth has shifted on its axis and the world has changed.


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