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As the Grand Canyon celebrates 100 years as a national park, we take an epic of-season walk to the bottom of the mighty crevasse


For geologists, there’s no place on Earth like the Grand Canyon. Nearly two billion years of the planet’s history are encapsulated in the canyon’s mile-high jumble of fossil-laden rock layers, allowing scientists to take a mesmerising walk back through time.

Science was never my thing, but universities have standards, and mine wanted me to complete three science classes. So when I saw ‘Geology of the Grand Canyon’ among the autumn course options for my second year, it was manna from heaven.

Taught by two long-haired graduate students, this course’s big appeal was that its weekly classroom sessions would be complemented by a semesterending Thanksgiving trek under the full moon into the depths of America’s greatest natural wonder. I signed up on the spot. Two months later, on a chilly late-autumn evening, I found myself driving through the night from the San Francisco Bay Area to the canyon’s South Rim, serenaded by the Grateful Dead in a car of like-minded renegades.

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