I didn't feel one of them. I had no need to set down on paper all that I saw (we had Kluetmeier for that). I didn't care, really, in the constant, gnawing way the scientist does, for the very rocks. Like Babbitt, I cared more for the people on the rocks. O.K., a few of the people on the rocks. And the longer this climb went on, the fewer those would be.
Of course, we finally came over that rim to the cheery greeting of the DPS officers. It was a short drive to Quiroz's house and a waiting dinner and civility and warmth and wine and the first softening of memories, and everybody asking would you do it again. Then there was a plane ride back to Phoenix, with talk of politics, other governors, how to pick up the shards of the Democratic Party, the best way to deal with the Russians. We hadn't spoken a word about these topics on the trail. Now we were turning back to the world. Then we were down, finished, on a dim airport parking lot in the warm Arizona night.
Babbitt was chauffeured away. Later, he would report "a productive meeting" with the regional forester on the issue of the road through the Kaibab meadows.
And for days I would return to that last hour of climb, the acceptance it brought of endless time and evanescent individual life, of hard, dark rock and the weakening, soft flesh that crept upon it. It seemed beautiful and sad, and engendered a kind of peaceful possessiveness. The canyon was mine now; effort had won it. This must have been something like what John Hance had felt. He was an asbestos miner turned tour guide who first saw the canyon in 1881, and could never leave it. After a lifetime in it, he had assumed full responsibility for it. On his deathbed he hiked himself up on one elbow and produced a look of perplexity. "Where do you suppose I could have put all that dirt?" he said.