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By Laura Moncur in The Disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde

Bessie and Glen Hyde by LauraMoncur from FlickrOf all the gadgets that I regret leaving on the boat, the camera is the only one I would have risked going back for. At least I have the Kolb photo that they plastered all over the newspapers after we disappeared. By the time we reached Bright Angel Trail, I was tired. Emery Kolb, the photographer in the area, snapped photos of all the hikers on Bright Angel Trail. I only wish I could have been feeling fresher for that photo, maybe even given him a smile, but I had no idea that it was going to be the most important photo taken of me as Bessie Hyde.

Once we got to the top of the canyon, we rested and cleaned. The photographer’s brother, Ellsworth, was rapidly working on his photographs, while we ate a simple meal. The room was full of a group of tourists and their guide. All of them were tired and wishing for a story. “How long you two been here?” Glen asked, always willing to start a friendly conversation. He had directed the question to Ellsworth, but the tour guide answered, “Don’t bother ‘im while he’s workin’. They been here since 1904. Back then, Congressman Ralph Cameron hisself was givin’ tours to Bright Angel Trail.” The tourists were eager to hear him tell a story after their long hike back up the canyon and so was I.

“Ever since Cameron lost his seat in Congress, rumor has it he’s been here. Can’t near show his face in the park nowadays, though.” A bright-faced woman asked, “Who is he?” The tour guide jumped at the story-telling bait. ” Ralph H. Cameron was the worst thing to happen to the Grand Canyon. He used ta charge people just to hike this very trail.” I scanned the faces of the tourist, knowing that they each had paid a sum just to hear this story and hike the trail and waited for the inevitable question. “How’s that different than us payin’ you?”

The tour guide’s eyes widened and his voice dropped to a whisper, “Back then, Cameron told everybody that he owned Bright Angel Trail. We wasn’t a national park back then, so he had a bunch of mining claims that he thought let him just take over the park, even though Teddy Roosevelt himself protected it. He even ran for Congress. When he won, he tried to make the canyon NOT be a national park. Now that he’s not a congressman anymore, they say he’s back here, illegally minin’ the park!” The tourists gasped and the ladies fanned their faces. Glen and I were even drawn in by his storytelling.

“That isn’t the worst of it. Some folks go missing. Sure most of them just drown theyselfs in the Colorado River, but I done heard that they’s folks who end up minin’. They’re held prisoner by Cameron and he makes ’em dig silver out of the park.” The mood of the room changed and what had been a spooky story told over simple food and drink shifted to a tall tale. None of the tourists said a word, but I could tell that the tour guide should have finished his story with the illegal mining and left the white slavery rumors unsaid.

One of the ladies turned to me and asked, “You weren’t with our tour group. How’d you get here?” Glen was eager to sing my praises, “We’re rafting down the Colorado River in a scow I built.” He put his arm around me. “Bessie, here is gonna be the first woman to ever ride the Colorado River all the way down the Grand Canyon.” The tourists were rapt with attention and a tiny part of me enjoyed it. My vision of our boat came before my eyes again as Glen continued, “They’re gonna call us The Hydes of the River.”