The Greatest Ride of Our Lives Part 5: The Grand Canyon
As a writer, I’m understandably wary of the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” But when it comes to the Grand Canyon… I was speechless.
The photographs you see here were almost all taken with an iPhone 4S. With the exception of the first image, which I ran through Instagram, they are all completely unadorned. The initial shots were taken along various parts of the South Rim over the afternoon of August 24; the sunset shots were taken at Yavapai Point that evening; the sunrise pictures were taken at Mather Point the following morning, August 25; the pictures that follow were taken after the sunrise, when I ran three miles down the South Kaibob Trail and ran most of the three miles back up, as well. That particular jaunt was one of the personal highlights of our entire cross-country road trip.
Click on the image below to start the slide show, with descriptions. Click on the 1:1 button you’ll then see for higher resolution. Or just follow the numbered photo links.
If you’re anything like me, you may be inherently skeptical of the world’s great tourist spots, and you might think that the Grand Canyon, in particular, can not possibly live up to reputation. Believe me, it does. Any view of the Canyon takes your breath away, and given that every footstep, every shift in daylight and cloud cover, reveals a different vew, it is, for sure, a breathless experience. But in particular, I have not witnessed anything on earth to compare to the sunset we watched from Yavapai Point, the rays lighting up the Canyon in a greater array of hues that exist on any artist’s palate – nor have I seen much to match the reviving sensation of the sun rising from the east the following morning and gradually bringing these two billion years of history into light.
In particular, if you haven’t been there, you might imagine the Grand Canyon to be either over-populated with lazy fat Americans – or perhaps the Inner Canyon to be one of the most remote and inhospitable places on the planet. Neither stereotype is accurate: on our two nights camping on the South Rim, we heard more foreign tongues than a week in New York City or London; we saw healthy people of all ages riding bikes, setting off on lengthy hikes, or running along the rim. (I was the only runner I encountered below the rim!) And while the inner canyon is inherently treacherous, and people supposedly fitter than I have died from heart attacks and dehydration from over-estimating their capabilities, we were there late enough in the summer and I set off early enough for my trek into the warmer temperatures that it was relatively bearable. There was, in fact, considerable foot traffic heading all the way down to the Colorado River as I set off after sunrise; given more time at the Canyon, I would surely have joined them.
If I had a surprise about our brief stay at the Grand Canyon Village, it was as to how tastefully it managed to cater to all tourists. The vast supermarket sold all the health foods we had gone out of our way to purchase in Flagstaff; a hotel café gave the kids their desired carb-load burst of pizza and French fries; a couple of pubs and a series of sensitively placed small rim-side hotels catered for those who wanted to spend their night-times indoors; outdoor performances included, while we were there, the “post-classical string quartet” Ethel, who I’d seen play at our local Mount Tremper Arts two summers earlier and might well have seen again but for the need to get as much sleep as possible prior to our pre-dawn alarm call. There were also guided tours and talks for adults and kids alike, copious exhibitions and information displays – and then that impressive free shuttle bus system, which seemed additionally generous considering that our camp-site cost all of about $20 a night.
Our trip to the Canyon appeared blessed. We arrived at the end of a 48-hour period of heavy thunderstorms, and though we saw our share of lightning, and watched heavy grey clouds deposit rain on the inner canyon, we stayed dry; as we drove out of the Village on Saturday lunch-time, the heavens then opened directly onto the campground that we had just vacated. That day turned out to be one of the most surreal imaginable: having watched the sun rise over one of the great natural wonders of the world, we then saw it set from the Las Vegas Strip. It was only 200 miles but half a world away. I had been looking forward to visiting both these places for the first time, but it wouldn’t bother me if I never visit Vegas again. As for the Grand Canyon, I can only say that it’s a bucket list essential. My life feels suitably enriched by the experience.