Steel on Stone: Living and Working in the Grand Canyon

Steel on Stone: Living and Working in the Grand Canyon

by Nathaniel Farrell Brodie

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Overview

The Grand Canyon National Park has been called many things, but home isn't often one of them. Yet after years of traveling the globe, Nathaniel Brodie found his home there.

Steel on Stone is Brodie's account of living in the canyon during the eight years he worked on a National Park Service trail crew, navigating a vast and unforgiving land. Embedded alongside Brodie and his crew, readers experience precipitous climbs to build trails, dangerous search-and-rescue missions, rockslides, spelunking expeditions, and rafting trips through the canyon on the Colorado River. From Brodie's chronicles of tracking cougars and dodging rampaging pack mules to adjusting to seasons spanning triple-digit heat and inaccessibility during the winter, we learn about the life cycle of this iconic park, whose complex ecosystems coexist with humans, each one seeking a deeply personal experience, and the subcultures and hierarchies that form deep within the canyon.

Following in the steps of naturalists like John Wesley Powell and Edward Abbey, Brodie deftly weaves histories and tales from canyon aficionados into his own story. Over time he comes to realize that home is not always a place on a map but instead is deeply defined by the people we encounter, including those who finally call us to move on.

Steel on Stone is a love letter to the Grand Canyon and those who have given years of their lives to work its trails so that we may understand and enjoy it today as the transformative landscape we seek.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595348609
Publisher: Trinity University Press
Publication date: 01/29/2019
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 633,668
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Nathaniel Farrell Brodie worked for many years on the Grand Canyon National Park Service Trail Crew. He has also worked as a farmer, carpenter, beekeeper, journalist, troutslayer, and editor. He received a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Nonfiction Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. He was the recipient of the PEN Northwest Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency, and was a finalist for both the Ellen Meloy Desert Fund and the Waterston Desert Writing Prize. His essays have appeared in a number of magazines, literary journals, and anthologies. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon.

Read an Excerpt

In the years that followed I’d work in staggering, stuporous, stultifying heat: days when it was 114 degrees in the shade and there was no shade. When steel tools burned bare skin and liters of water, frozen solid at dawn, turned tepid by midday. Prickly pears would have desiccated to flaccid and skeletal white pads; antelope ground squirrels would have slipped into hypnotic trances of inactivity called aestivation; condors would be defecating on their legs to reduce their body temperature; lizards would crawl atop rocks, do a few halfhearted push-ups, and retreat from whence they came; and we’d be breaking rock in the full sun.

In the years that followed I’d see hikers wilt, falter, beg for help. I’d watch the heat and miles and aridity wring the life out of men and women, young and old withering and reeling alike. I’d offer encouragement, or water, or salty crackers, or carry them out on litters, or radio in helicopters to fly them out. I’d search for those whom the heat had killed; I’d find their dead bodies on boulders in the sun. Always, even subconsciously, their plight would remind me of this first day, of the lesson that the sun and rock and gradient could break one like a brittle stick.

What I couldn’t realize that first day was that I would come to love it all, not just the sadomasochistic craziness of the conditions but the way my animal mind and body would scheme and adapt in order to survive this oppressive, crushing, glorious place. I couldn’t realize what the canyon would become in my life, that it would hone my ever-gathering sense of self, that I’d feel more at home in that fiery desert canyon than I did in the Southern California city I was raised in. I couldn’t have known that this love would change even my memory of that day, crafting it into a narrative of initiation.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Spring
Summer
Fall

Notes
Acknowledgements

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