By Phil Gash
Things at the Grand Canyon Park are different now….
Got to the Grand Canyon for the first time in the late 50s when I was a teenager in Calexico Union High School. There were no shuttle busses, you drove everywhere (which did give rise to some traffic problems). The path walkways were and no bikes were allowed. The Visitor’s Center was full of displays dealing with the old miners who worked some of the Canyon rocks. It was not generally known then, but the west side of the south rim had a big uranium deposit, and I imagine some of our early nuclear
weapons were from there. I do not recall any camp sights at that time.
How did I get here in late 50s ? It was due to my mother, she got enrolled in an MS program offered by Arizona State College. We were there for two summers, and I go around to see a lot of Flagstaff sights. Arizona State College was later renamed Northern Arizona University.
One event occurred in the summer of 56 which had some bearing on my mother. Two commercial airplanes flying out of LA collided over the place where the Little Colorado River and the Colorado River meet.
It is visible from the South Tower. I do not think the shuttle busses go there anymore. About 10 years ago they did. My mother knew one of the ladies involved in the collision, and we went to the the combined services for them in the Flagstaff cemetery. That collision got Congress involved
and the collision was the reason the Federal Aeronautics Administration (FAA) was formed. Before that, none of
the commercial airline routes were shared with the other airlines.
While living on campus during the summer by mother got to know a math professor who also played chess. His name was Harvey Butchart, and we played daily for two summers. As expected, I lost my share of games until I discovered some of his chess practices, such as not sacrificing principle pieces.
So, if I could move in such as way a sacrifice was one of his options, I knew he would not take it.
And I did win about one game a week because of his chess habits.
While playing we go to talking and he had an interesting history which involved the Grand Canyon.
First off he went to Eureka College in Illinois. He had an almost photographic memory and because of it. He was valedictorian of his class. Roma, the College’s president’s daughter, was salutatorian, and Harvey married her. He told me not too many people were aware of Eureka College but one his classmates did get into the movies: Ronald Regan!
So how does politics get mixed up with the Grand Canyon? It was Harvey. He got his Math Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, and they stated a family. His daughter had a bad case of asthma and the doctor recommend a hot dry climate. Harvey applied to the Arizona State College in Flagstaff and was accepted in the late 40s.
Harvey was a hiker, so he started hiking the Grand Canyon in the late 40s. But he was not the ordinary hiker. After each hiker would submit to the the Park Service a copy of the topographical map he used with his route on it, and also several single spaced type written pages describing his hike.
He founded the Arizona State College Hiking Club and lead them frequently on tours. In the 40 years he hiked the Grand Canyon he took 627 hikes, and his type written pages for those hikes exceeds 1000 pages. They were put on the internet long ago, I copied them and reorganized them. He
had them organized by date, I reorganized them by hiking destination. Of all his hikes, about half of them were day hikes. He would drive up from Flagstaff in the early morning and enter via the South Gate to go hiking. He watched his time carefully as Roma always had dinner at 6 p.m.
On long hikes, his food consisted of canned chicken noodle soup. And his hiking shoes were tennis shoes. On the longer hikes he found many unknown streams which contributed to the Colorado River, as well as
he was the first person to reach the top of the mesa of several over mesas we see from the road view points.
He did have one tragic event occur. He lost a fellow hiker. Harvey always crossed the Colorado using his sleeping bag air mattress. In the summer of 56, he and Floyd decided to cross the river in the Canyon. Harvey crossed but Floyd first of all was not a swimmer and paddled his air mattress too slowly and got swept down stream. Harvey was able to follow him for
about 2 miles then lost contact. Floyd was never seen again.
So what the Park Service did was to add one more restriction to hiking permits: No one could use and air mattress to cross the Colorado, and as of 10 years ago that was still on the hiking permit. But no longer; I assume whomever in the Park Service was not aware of Harvey’s incident and
scrapped it, that is until another hiker gets swept down the river.
In the 40 years of hiking, he totaled some 12,000 miles plus maps and in excess of 1000 pages hike descriptions for the Park Service. And to his credit, he has three books out on on hiking the Canyon. Interestingly enough, yesterday I went to the Bookstore to find them, but they did not carry them any more. They had plenty of books by contemporary authors on hiking the Canyon. I looked in the index of one for the name Butchart and found it. The reference to him was that three other local hikers had
hiked as much as he had. Well so be it, but at least what Harvey did is fully documented, and can be used to determine how much wear and tear the hiking trails experience. As for the other, I suspect all they left
behind were footprints…