My journey thus far through the National Parks of the North and Southwest had been one incredible adventure – I never imagined the wide diversity and inconceivable beauty that was set before me. Who knew that I could be so overwhelmed by nature’s creations – the multicolored hot springs, the travertine terraces, the geysers, the rainforests and more. There were just a few more stops before I had to say goodbye (for the moment) and although the itinerary was set to “save the best for last” I wondered: I had just encountered so many first time experiences in the parks – could a revisit to the Grand Canyon (I hiked through the Grand Canyon previously) be just a “been there, done that” letdown? Let’s hold that thought.
First, a quick stop in Sedona. For those who have never been, Sedona is a desert town in Arizona that is known not only for its powerful mysticism through vortexes that radiate earth’s natural auras (yes, I do believe and have felt the healing powers personally) but also for its scenic wonders of sculpted red sandstone rocks. The photo at the top of this post is from my first visit to the area and Bell Rock is supposed to be a point of great vortex power.
This next one is a great example of a pareidolia – a perceived image of an animal, face etc. seen in a natural formation (sorry every once in a while I have to let my geek out):
Next up was a short hike at Walnut Canyon National Monument. This area was created by Walnut Creek which carved out a 600 foot deep canyon on its way to join the Colorado River. It is surrounded by gorgeous, thick fir and ponderosa pine trees and the valley has many walnut trees, from which the creek and canyon get their names.
The sunny side of the canyon has agave, cactus and many wildflowers, even in late in the season:
The rocks of the slopes consist of limestone and sandstone and the limestone houses the main attraction: ancient cave dwellings of the Sinagua Native Americans who lived in these steep ledges back as far as the 12th and 13th centuries. These pueblos were well protected from the elements and predators:
The crafty Sinagua also created a trail to get down to the bottom of the canyon so they could gather water – you can see the remnants here:
As we hiked, I noticed that once again we were traveling through another shift in the ecosystem – going now to HOT HOT HOT and desert dry. This will continue as we travel on to this our final destination: The Grand Canyon.
I doubt there is anyone who isn’t aware of the Grand Canyon but permit me to pen a few factoids, starting with these cross sections:
Measuring 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and over a mile (6,000 feet) deep, the canyon walls’ rock layers reveal a virtual timeline of our planet’s history. Almost two billion years of this geological history has been exposed by the Colorado River as it cuts a swath through the layers of rock while during the same period the Colorado Plateau has uplifted. The Colorado River’s course through the canyon may have begun at least 17 million years ago, and it continues to carve its way through the canyon today.
The Grand Canyon has also been home to people, with ruins and artifacts of ancestral Puebloan people dating back over 10,000 years ago. These Nations included Havasupai, Hopi, Navajo, Paiute and Apache, among others. They view the Grand Canyon as a holy site and some still reside there today.
So what was my reaction when we got to the South Rim, a place I had been before?