Go West Old Men: A Travel Memoir. Part 14

Sunrise at Wahalla Overlook, North Rim, Grand Canyon

This is Part 14 of the story, follow these links to see Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13

Seeking the Sublime

This day was to be our only full day at the Northern Rim. We decided to make the most of it.

The Northern Rim doesn’t provide transportation like the more commercialized Southern Rim. In search of the sunrise, we drove to Wahalla Overlook where we basically had the Canyon to ourselves. We had a Mountain House meal, some drip coffee, and Scott even pulled out the guitar for a bit.

No agenda, no plans, enjoy the company.

Actually Scott did have an agenda. He was looking for a certain point on the canyon. I’ll get to that in a

Angel’s Window, North Rim, Grand Canyon


After cleaning up from breakfast we drove on out and took a short hike to Cape Royal, where we also had a great view of Angel’s Window.

That morning afforded us some interesting conversations. We met two ladies who had been hiking together for some time. While they lived in the East, they’d been on this trail for some time. Scott shared his quest and while they didn’t have the answer, they were intrigued. Information was exchanged.

A little while later a gentleman noticed my Asbury University t-shirt. An acquaintance of his had been a math professor at the University and was teaching when Scott and I were there. The gentleman couldn’t recall the professor’s name. He also taught math so we can rest assured I was never near his classroom.

Cape Royal, North Rim, Grand Canyon

Having enjoyed the morning, we set out on the quest. Scott had told the story to several park rangers who gave us directions to Point Sublime. He was warned that it was an off-roading experience.

Scott and Mike at Cape Royal, North Rim, Grand Canyon

Scott had been looking forward to that for months.

But first, why we had to find Point Sublime.

At some point in his development work with Biblical Theological Seminary, Scott met Dr. Allan MacRae. They shared a connection with Princeton Theological Seminary, and now with Biblical. MacRae led a distinguish life and passed in 1997. But it was a story from his early marriage years that caught Scott’s attention.

Dr. MacRae married Grace Sanderson in 1944 and they honeymooned hiking and climbing in the Grand Canyon.

While they were there, a B-24 Liberator 107 crew was performing a training flight Tonopah, Nevada to Tucson, Arizona.

When the plane started malfunctioning, possibly because it was running out of fuel, the pilot ordered the men on board to evacuate, not aware that he was over the Grand Canyon. The pilot managed to successfully land the plane later.

Flight engineer Corp. Roy Embanks, bombardier Lt. Charles “Goldie” Goldblum, and flight officer Maurice “Mo” Cruickshank all parachuted into the darkness.

They parachuted just south of Point Sublime. On the descent, one of the men caught his parachute on a tree just before heading over a sheer drop, where he hung all night. The other men landed on a plateau and were able to rescue him in the morning.

Together they spread their parachutes on a ground to make it easier for rescuers to find them. The Air Force was able to drop in supplies of food and water, along with two-way radios and bedding.

Along with the supplies was the message “Greetings! You are in the Grand Canyon. Do not leave your position until notified by message dropped from an Army airplane.”

But how were the men going to be rescued? A Coast Guard crew unsuccessfully attempted to access them from an unused mining trail. The rescue men found the trail to the river washed out and the plan failed.

Enter Dr. MacRae, one of the best known amateur hikers of the Canyon at this time. Temporarily abandoning his bride, MacRae joined Ranger R.E. Lawes and they began to study aerial photographs before determining that a descent from Grama point offered their best option for reaching the men. They found a break in the Redwall rock formation, the most difficult vertical barrier from the rim down to the river on the canyon floor.

It took 10 days for MacRae and Lawes to rescule the men. They made it out on June 30 and were greeted by newspaper and radio reporters, park officials and military brass. Their story was told in Time Magazine.

Col. Donald Phillips, commander of Kingman Army Air Field, congratulates the airmen and their rescuers at Grama Point. From left: Col. Donald Phillips, Ranger Ed Lawes, Dr. Alan MacRae, Corp. Roy Embanks, Lt. Charles “Goldie” Goldblum and Flight Officer Maurice “Mo” Cruickshank (Photo: Grand Canyon National Park Service).

Scott talked about Dr. MacRae’s story with rangers and with other visitors to the park and found that the story was not widely known. Perhaps it’s not shared widely because of a hope that hikers won’t wander off the traditional trail in search of the location where the crew was rescued. Perhaps it’s just another story faded through the passing of time.

The climb up was anything but smooth. What road there was consisted of washouts and huge boulders. All the way up, Scott remained convinced that his Jeep could handle the terrain. And it did.

Little did I know that this would not be our most challenging off road adventure.

At the top, the view was striking and the weather perfect. Scott was able to stand along the rim and point out the location of the Redwall and the likely path out of the canyon.

We had a late lunch, perhaps another Mountain House meal?

After a couple of hours Scott suggested watching the sunset from this location.

Sure, that mean off-roading down the mountain in the dark. But we’d been assured that the way down was a much easier path.

I’m not so sure that it was.

Sunset at Point Sublime, North Rim, Grand Canyon

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