Underwhelmed by really big things


About 11 years ago, the Roaming Parkers went on an epic road-trip, and being gluttons for punishment we took the 5-year old and two exchange students!

We drove through Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada – covering about half of Historic Route 66.

Along the way, we managed to visit Palo Duro, Petroglyph National Monument, Grand Canyon,  Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon Caverns, Meteor Crater National Landmark, and the Petrified Forest National Park.

It should have been called the Really Big Things tour!

I discovered something.  When things get REALLY big, my mind cannot take them in and I guess my defense mechanism is to slather them with a layer of dismissive ennui.

Meteor Crater National Landmark

1280px-Barringer_Crater_Field_TripI discovered this while I was standing in the gift shop at the Meteor Crater looking out the window at the crater.  One of the Rangers walked up to me and said, “Pretty big hole, huh?” and I nodded.

“Can you tell how big it is?” He asked.  I thought it was a curious question.  I shook my head, “I guess not.”

“That hole is so big, that if we were to divert all the water flow from the Colorado River into that crater, it’d never fill up!”

That made me take another good look or two at the Crater.

Grand Canyon and Palo Duro

Great_Grand_CanyonRoughly the same thing happened at the Grand Canyon.  We arrived in late March and all the trailheads were frozen and closed, so all we could do is stand on the South Rim and look out over it.  We couldn’t walk down into it.

I stood on the edge of the Canyon trying to be impressed because so many people had said it was amazing, but all I could think of was, “Ok, it’s a big hole.  What’s next?”

Because of this weird psychological thing, Palo Duro was much more fun and cooler to me than the Grand Canyon – because I got to walk and crawl around in it.

Hoover Dam


The same thing happened at Hoover Dam.  Driving down the switchback highway to it I couldn’t grasp how big it really is.  Even driving over it and looking out, I was insulated from the immensity of it by the car.  It wasn’t till we parked and actually WALKED out onto the Dam that I realized, “That’s a damn big dam!”

It is so monstrously large that it is dizzying to walk on, but that’s the only way to understand how big it is – to walk on it!

Mount Kilimanjaro National Park


Fast forward 11 some-odd years and we are about to embark on a journey that was unimaginable to us eleven years ago.  We are about to fly and drive and walk and hike and scramble until we get to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro!

Can you comprehend how big that is?  If you are anything like me, then of course you can’t!

People often quote that Kili is the highest mountain in Africa, the Rooftop of Africa, at 19,341 feet.  But that doesn’t mean much to most folks. That is over 3.5 miles high!

But you still can’t grasp that because nobody ever walks vertical miles, so think about it like this.  It is equivalent to walking up about 29000 standard steps or about 2500 flights of steps.  (The Empire State Building only has 86 flights of stairs.)

The Tanzanian National Park area that surrounds the three volcanoes that make up Kilimanjaro is an area of roughly 20×40 miles – 800 square miles!  That’s about the size of New York City and Los Angeles combined!

The Roaming Parkers are about to walk across the Hoover Dam 212 times while climbing up and down it 27 times!

We’re about to walk across the Meteor Crater 50 times while climbing up and down it 33 times!

That’s about 1/3 bigger than doing a Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim hike and back!

That’s BIG, and soon we’ll be able to experience just how big!

Maybe that’s part of why the Chagga people called it Kilema Njarohard to conquer!

Categories: Adventure, Mountaineering, Travel