“It was technically just a walk in the park,” said Pete McBride, photographer and filmmaker. The park in question is the Grand Canyon. The walk? A more than 750-mile-long trek the long way through it, a hike that only a handful of people have accomplished.
McBride joined author Kevin Fedarko for that “walk in the park” in September 2015. Their objective was not simply adventure for its own sake. Instead, they hoped to raise public awareness of the innumerable threats facing the canyon.
The Grand Canyon is certainly among the most instantly and widely recognizable natural features on the planet. It is roughly 5 million years old, it spans 277 miles (as the crow flies; walking takes much, much longer), its width from rim to rim ranges from 4 miles to 18, and at times its depth from rim to floor is a full mile.
Despite its enormity, the canyon faces significant threats from all angles, including from the sky. Pollution, noise from nearly constant helicopter tours, uranium mining, housing developments and a proposed tramway to ferry 10,000 people a day from top to bottom are all topics of debate facing the park.
For McBride, however, the greatest danger is public opinion and public use.
“The biggest threat is that we start viewing it as an amusement park, an item to check off the list, instead of a place for reverence,” he said. “We’re creating a Disneyland attraction. People are trying to turn its natural beauty into cash.”
In excess of 5 million people visit the canyon every year.
Furthering the effort to gain public awareness for the challenges facing the national park, McBride documented his adventure with Fedarko in the film “Into the Canyon,” which premiered in February 2019, just a few days before the centennial of the official designation of Grand Canyon National Park.
In the film, which will screen at the Argyros in Ketchum on Saturday, Sept. 14, McBride chronicles his experiences on the trek, the majesty he observed in the canyon and the threats it faces.
Along the way, he said, he learned a great deal more than he expected.
“It’s even more remarkable, more awe-inspiring than I thought, but it also became very clear how truly fragile it is. It’s not just rock and color and texture. It’s biodiversity and silence and wilderness. Those things are very delicate.”
McBride will be present for the Saturday screening of “Into the Canyon,” and will engage in a question-and-answer session afterward. Zach Crist of Sun Valley Guides will introduce the film.
The screening will begin at 6 p.m. Tickets for the event are available for $15 online at theargyros.org. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to benefit the Sawtooth Society.