The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon, by Michael Ghiglieri and Thomas Myers

I so love this book! In fact, I love it so much that I’ve read it three times now.

When I’ve mentioned Over the Edge to friends, they’ve asked if it isn’t gruesome reading about death. Like mysteries and thrillers aren’t? Actually, I find Over the Edge to be instructive, especially since a) the authors include a fair number of rescue stories in the text and b) I’m a Grand Canyon hiker and have seen some of the hazards they discuss.

But in addition to presenting case histories to illustrate some of the dangers lurking in the Canyon, Over the Edge is entertaining. The format of describing anecdotes about deaths and rescues could have resulted in a jerky, overly episodic book with no flow, but the authors skillfully weave the stories together so that they lead almost seamlessly from one to the other. And, like I said, it’s instructive. Here are some of the main things that can kill you in the Grand Canyon:

  • Being a young male (the young part fixes itself eventually; the male part is a bit more complicated)
  • Hiking in the summer when it’s beastly hot and there are flash floods
  • Trying to do too much with too little water
  • Hiking solo
  • Getting off the trail
  • Flying on the wrong airplane
  • Playing along the edge of the rim and not taking the guard rails seriously
  • Swimming or otherwise stupidly goofing around in the Colorado River

You notice I did not mention scorpion bites or rattlesnake bites. No one has died from a scorpion bite in the Canyon, nor a rattlesnake bite. People have been bitten, yes, and they’ve been in pain and had some problems. This is the one thing people worry about disproportionately to the reality, according to the authors. Note that the longest chapter has to do with people dying in the river. Rafting the Colorado is on my anti-bucket list: I don’t want to do it, ever. Much of this attitude comes from the fact that I am a lousy swimmer. Over the Edge has reinforced this desire.

My only problem with the book is that it hasn’t been updated since its original publishing date of 2001. I get that that would be a major pain, and expensive. But there have been a lot of accidents and incidents in the Canyon since then…  Still, I’m recommending this book, and I think it should be mandatory reading for anyone headed to Grand Canyon National Park for more than a quick look.

As for animals, there are no real animal characters as such, though there are some incidents involving animals. One woman got lost in the Canyon (never hike solo, never go off the trail, etc.) accompanied by her little dog, Cocoa Gin. Poor little Cocoa Gin wandered off, starving and disoriented, but she was rescued and served as a valuable clue to her owner’s disappearance. There were some pack mules and horses that fell off trails, a couple of “misplaced” rattlesnakes, and livestock not surviving a swim across the Colorado (don’t swim in the Colorado River!). But there is nothing in the book that would keep an animal lover awake at night, so I am declaring Over the Edge SAFE for animal lovers.

Enjoy!

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March 2, 2011 - Posted by | animals, Book Reviews, history, national parks, nonfiction, travel | , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Hey do you remember me I’m Cheyenne I met you in the grand canyon

    Comment by Cheyenne | May 22, 2011 | Reply

    • Hey, Cheyenne — Great to hear from you!

      I’ve been working a lot ever since I got back, so I haven’t blogged about the trip yet. But I’ll probably start posting this weekend, with pictures.

      It was great to have met you and Carissa — talking to you made that hike up a bit easier for us.

      Comment by esheley | May 27, 2011 | Reply


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