Second Postcard From Swistle’s Mom

I’m going to have to update this blog to the new version of Blogger. I’ve been putting it off a LONG time because I don’t actually HAVE to—but it’s time. So if the blog doesn’t seem quite right for a day or two or three or FOREVER, that’s why. Sigh. Let’s see if I actually DO it now that I’ve SAID I’ll do it.

I got another note from my mom about their trip to the Grand Canyon. (First note is here.)

Hi Kidz,

We had a great morning exploring. We took a shuttle bus along the rim. It was still early, so not crowded — the bus was only about half full. You can get off at any stop and then just get on a later shuttle — they run every 15 minutes or so. We got off at a stop where no one else got off, and we found we were the only ones there. It was great — silent on the trail.

We stayed and strolled around maybe a half hour and then hopped a shuttle and rode on. By the time we got back to the starting point, there were already long lines of people waiting to catch the shuttle, so timing is everything.

It’s just so odd how the land goes along perfectly flat, and then just drops off. I keep imagining what the first settlers must have thought when they came upon it. Dad suggests, “Like, whoa.” [Swistle suggests: “Oh sh**.”]

One thing that surprises me very much about the canyon is the ledges. The trails aren’t real narrow — maybe 3 feet across — but there aren’t railings and the drop-offs are frequently sheer and of the sort that if one were to step off it would be certainly fatal. Families walk along with little children running ahead and peering over without anyone seeming to be the least alarmed. You may think I’m exaggerating and the drop-offs must not be QUITE that sheer or deep, but ask Dad — one slip and that would be that. [Next sentence contains Narnia reference:] There were several spots where I thought about the cliff Eustace fell off of — the kind where there’d be a long time to think about one’s error if one stepped off. Eventually one would BUMP along, but there wouldn’t be any stopping for a real long time.
Here, for example. The trail goes through that rock tunnel on the left. To the right the trail edge drops off exactly like what is visible to the right in the photo. And it’s about as far down as if one were on a tall building. I watched children no older than the twins running ahead of their parents on this very stretch. Not to mention slightly older children pushing and shoving and arguing as they walked along, no parent in sight. I admit MY technique would be a little extreme in the opposite direction — without a word of discussion, I would scoop the children up, put them into their car seats, and leave the park.

It’s hard — impossible, really — to photograph a ledge that one is standing on, because with the camera pointed down, the cliff edge looks horizontal. One has to show something in the distance and say, “It’s LIKE this.” Okay, the trail often runs along the very edge of places LIKE this one:

When we FIRST got on the trail, I would think as I approached it, “What an optical illusion! Haha! It looks like the trail is running right along a sheer cliff!” Then I’d look over and freeze, like Eustace. It’s one of those ledges where the upside of falling off would be you wouldn’t need to bother to retrieve the body.

The trail is horizontal, I’m happy to say — not sloped. The trails are very nice — flat and with a little line of stones running along the ledge. But I’ll say this — if I took a class of my students on this trail, I would return with fewer children than I started out with. The trails are very good: wide …. flat … secure. But disconcerting to think, “Haha … looks like if you stepped off the trail you’d go straight down, haha!” and then find out that’s exactly what would happen like for maybe a couple thousand feet.

One sees mule droppings all along the trail (and there’s a mule pen at the top for the mules to wait in for the daily mule train), and as we walked along we imagined being up on a mule. I notice the mule prints tend to be about 6″ from the ledge (and signs say to let the mules pass on the drop-off side). No. Thank. You.

By the way, the Q&A poster on mule rides has the Q “Do mules ever trip and fall?” with the answer being Very Seldom. But yes, it has happened. But that so far no human has ever been killed. Only the PACK mules have actually, well, plummeted through space. They said they use particularly steady ones for humans. So don’t worry.

Another thing I think about is that story a couple years back about the woman who was posing on a ledge for her husband to take a photo of her when she stepped back and fell. Of course one assumes her husband gave a little push, but looking at the ledges, one realizes how very little push would be needed, and how confident he would be that she wouldn’t live to tell on him (which she didn’t). It actually surprises me that people are trusting enough to pass strangers on the trail, since the smallest push from anyone along at least half of the trail would have fatal result. One thinks of these things. Well, SOME of us think of these things!

Love, Mom

My favorite parts:

1. “It’s one of those ledges where the upside of falling off would be you wouldn’t need to bother to retrieve the body.”

2. “I’ll say this — if I took a class of my students on this trail, I would return with fewer children than I started out with.”

3. “I notice the mule prints tend to be about 6″ from the ledge (and signs say to let the mules pass on the drop-off side). No. Thank. You.”

35 thoughts on “Second Postcard From Swistle’s Mom

  1. Courtney in FL

    EEK! It makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about the drop offs and the fact that there are little ones just running around. I agree with your mom, scoop the little ones up, strap them in their chairs and leave.

    Have a good weekend! :)

  2. Kim

    Just classic!
    It makes me sad though, that when we were there no tours like this were offered and the only one in our family eligible to ride a mule was my mom and she declined for pretty much the same reason your mom describes here.
    I love that I think just like her with the pushing people. I totally do.
    And your note (Oh Sh**) made me spew my coffee.

  3. Raven

    I have been there in the last few years and the trails really are that unprotected. There are some areas for photographs that have big railings but other than that, it’s all free and open. My son was freaked the eff out almost the entire time we were there because of it.

    Oh and we went in Jan when it was snowing so we didn’t run into the same issue with hordes of people.

  4. Erin

    Her perspective is SO FUNNY and generally awesome. It’s not too late for her to find a second career as a travel journalist.

  5. sn

    this is great. it’s like…david letterman’s mom commentating.
    your notes –

    i think…if i were there…i’d be having an anxiety attack about the edges. i’d love to go someday – but…..
    i dunno.

  6. St

    Your storytelling styles are so similar! I love reading these notes and your #1 favorite was the one part I had to read out loud to my husband!

  7. mom huebert

    Hubby and I went to the Grand Canyon, and except for sudden odd bursts of adrenaline in the region of my tailbone I enjoyed it.

    By the way, your mom has a great sense of humor. She reminds me of you.

  8. Sundry

    Your mom is totally YOU, only a bit more arch-sounding (all the “ones”, as in “one thinks of these things”)! Therefore, of course, I LOVE HER.

  9. Chraycee

    I agree, I’m enjoying your mom’s postcards :) Thanks for sharing them.
    It does strike me as fuuny how people (including myself) have become conditioned to expect safety devices (like railings) to be present everywhere. They’ve become so incorporated in the background of everyday life that it’s suprising to find that they aren’t themselves naturally occuring :)
    Or maybe I should take that whole train of thought as a sign that I’ve gotta get out more…

  10. Tina Miles

    LOVING your mom’s postcards. My favorite part? How she’s thinking how one could kill a stranger by pushing them on the trail. And loved the Narnia refrences!

  11. Morgan S.

    Your mom’s feelings on the Grand Canyon re: steep drops and children running wild are exactly the same as mine. I went there without children and I was pretty much TERRIFIED the entire time of children running free (and dogs). I don’t understand how people do not fall off the edge EVERY SINGLE DAY.

  12. the new girl

    Oh, I love this with my WHOLE HEART. This and the last one. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE her descriptions of the THRONGS of people and the SHEER CLIFFINESS of the cliffs in her letters home from her vacation.

    My favorite part of this one was the saying, ‘The Drop Off Side,’ which, OMG, I loooove.

    And also, about the man helping his wife over with a little push.

  13. vague

    I think I love your mom! I would certainly be thinking all of those things, too.

    I have to confess I got a little vicarious feeling of vertigo reading this! I just flew over the Grand Canyon last week on a flight to Las Vegas, and I think I feel much safer about seeing it that way.

  14. Lawyerish

    Oh my gosh, I was going to say pretty much exactly what Sundry said. Your mom’s writing voice is so similar to yours, and I love both of you. I would like to sit and have some coffee and a pan of brownies with the two of you.

    Reading about the drop-offs made my feet sweat. How can an American national park be so fraught with liability? WHERE ARE THE LAWYERS? We need railings and signage and constant warnings of IMPENDING DEATH!

    I now know that if I ever go to the Grand Canyon, I will be the one shimmying along the trail sideways, with my back against the rock, as far from the drop-off side as I could get. Also, I will be weeping.

  15. Jen

    count me in for some weeping, lawyerish. gah, her descriptions were awesome and that is to say convincing. i will NEVER have to let a mule pass me on any trail with a drop-off side.

    and considering my fear of heights is actually triggered by “oh look how far down that is and what if i just…aaaaaaaaaaaah.”

    and throw up.

    thank you, swistle’s mom.
    i consider this a public service announcement.

  16. Tina G

    Um….I guess that I will not be taking my child there like EVER. I have heard about the canyon from several people who visit there, but your mom (odd as it may sound)thinks just like I do and she has painted a clear picture in my mind. I could just not go there without a parachute or something.

  17. Kristi

    OK, that is a hell of a long postcard!

    And also, I’m so happy your mom wrote all that because I haven’t even been to the Grand Canyon and I get anxiety thinking about falling off those trails! Just watching that Brady Bunch episode makes me panic, and I’ve been known to say aloud “We are SO never taking the kids there!” because I KNOW they’d beg to go down on the burros. Ah, sorry – no.

  18. Jewels

    Um. YIKES!
    p.s. my word verification word is “taffilie” which sounds to me like an adverb form of taffy– a word for happy but slow-moving. As in, “he’s acting rather taffilie today, don’t you think?”

  19. Jenn

    You know, I hiked the Grand Canyon when I was 10 and I remember the trails exactly like your mom described them. Beautiful, but slightly terrifying. Nice to know that after all these years, I wasn’t just making it up! Really enjoying her postcards!

  20. misguided mommy

    totally off topic. i went to TJ maxx today and omfg i tried to buy the whole goddamn store. i swear if i didn’t think my husband would lock me up in the crazy house i would have spent close to $600.00 on junk.

    new bedding, toy boxes, clothes, kitchen trinkets….ooo look pretty boxes, a tea thingy,., ooo sparkles and glitter.


    anyway was there and thought of you.

    (people have been saying they are having trouble adding me to their readers…make sure you are adding

  21. Michelle

    I think I love your mom.

    But wow. So I already wasn’t going to the Grand Canyon because of the crowds, but after hearing this, I’m already getting sick to my stomach.

    And ummm there’s a new blogger? Ugh. I’m so not good with change!

  22. Swistle

    When I say “new,” I mean the version that came out, like, a year ago. They updated some stuff, so that “Template” is now called “Layout” and you can put polls in the sidebar, and you don’t have to mess with the HTML to add sidebar links or change colors. But I’d set my Swistle blog up the old way and didn’t want to change it, especially because you have to redo all your colors (and, at least in my case, it reverted to very old link lists from the sidebars) and so forth. I’d thought, too, that it would be a REALLY BIG DEAL to transition, but it wasn’t too bad.

  23. Nil Zed

    sooner or later, your mom will come across the story of the dad who, thinking to amuse his small child, decided he’d jump from the top of the cliff, down to the ledge below, then pop up grinning & waving. he failed.

    We used to climb east coast type mountains when we my youngest brothers were 5 & 7. I guess my mom & dad must’ve put the fear of something in us, cause we didn’t go near the edges. But still, her descriptions make me nervous of taking my kid such places.

  24. nicole

    I have been to the Grand Canyon. And what I remember most is my dad telling us kids not to get too close to the edge, because the wind was strong and we could just get pushed right off. OMG–terrifying! I am so scared of heights and such. Now there is some glass ledge you can pay to walk out on, suspended over the canyon, no the reservation part. You could not pay me to walk out on it, much less convince me to take money out of my wallet and give it to someone else for the privilege. Your mom is funny.

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