As I recall, one sign said: DON'T GO DOWN THERE IF YOU HAVEN'T: 1. EATEN A MEAL RECENTLY - AND WE DON'T MEAN A BAG OF CHIPS, SOME CANDY, AND A SODA; 2. EXERCISED WITHIN THE LAST, OH, SEVEN OR EIGHT YEARS; 3. PACKED A BEVERAGE. NO, NOT BEER, YOU MORON.

Another sign was equally explicit about my fate if I flaunted these rules and got stranded down there. It said something like, SHOULD YOU GET LOST, STRANDED, OR OTHERWISE FIND YOURSELF IN SUCH A STATE, PERHAPS DUE TO DRINKING BEER, THAT YOU REQUIRE PARK ASSISTANCE IN GETTING OUT OF THERE, WE'LL COME TO YOUR AID BUT WE'LL CHARGE YOU PLENTY AND GIVE YOUR CHANGE BACK IN FOREIGN CURRENCY AND AT A VERY BAD RATE.

Yet another sign told me that if I did go down there, I had to be up and out by sunset unless I had an overnight permit. It read, and I believe this is verbatim: PERSONS FOUND IN THE CANYON AT NIGHT WILL BE FINED, CALLED NAMES, AND PHOTOGRAPHED SO THAT EVERY RANGER IN EVERY PARK IN EVERY STATE HAS YOUR PICTURE AND SAYS SOMETHING LIKE, "YOU'RE THE MORON WHO BROKE THE RULES AT THE GRAND CANYON. HEY, CHARLIE, CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS GUY? WHAT A MORON" WHEN YOU DRIVE UP TO THEIR WINDOW TO GET YOUR DAY PASS.

That I defied all these signs, did everything - and I mean everything - wrong and ended up picking my way along a skinny path along the burbling Colorado River in the dark of night with the somewhat unsettling sound of unseen goats coming from the cliffs. I happened upon a campground where I huddled in 30-something degree cold behind a portable john all night in hopes a ranger wouldn't discover me, then, at first light, hightailed it out of there and staggered like a character from Night of the Living Dead back up the switchbacks, but seemingly about 30 times more of them, as it took me about 30 times longer than going down. This is not something I hold against the Grand Canyon. Because, as I said, I was a moron.