I had a surprising emotional reaction to seeing the Grand Canyon up close for the second time. I suppose I could blame my tears on exhaustion – we had been hiking across many miles of national parks by this time. Honestly though, I don’t think being tired was a reason – I have been way more burned out during trips to Peru and Alaska. This reaction was purely visceral – and it really cannot be explained to those who have not been to the Grand Canyon. Let me say this – I have never felt so humbled and so in awe of nature’s beauty and ferocious tenacity.
During my first visit in 2003 I had an inexpensive point and shoot Instamatic camera that used 35MM film (OMG film!) yet the majesty of this national park did a yeoman’s job of presenting its layers of awesomeness:
The South Rim of the Canyon, pictured above and also where we began my most recent adventure is about 7,000 feet in elevation. While the South Rim is accessible the whole year (except for the occasional major storm) the North Rim, which is 1,000 feet higher closes from May to October due to snow.
Our visit began at Shoshone Park which we were told was a rather “exclusive” vantage point, accessible only through reservations. The Grand Canyon is usually inundated with visitors and considering that this year was the centennial celebration of the national parks systems, the park was dangerously close to people overload. To enjoy a major lookout where we were the only humans was truly spectacular. In addition, we were joined by a Park Ranger who gave us a fabulous background introduction – he reminded me of Billy Bob Thornton:
I have to admit it was difficult for me to stay attentive as I was drawn like a magnet to the rim’s edge. This is why:
I am proud of this shot of the Hance Rapids portion of the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon:
I was still pretty emotional at this point, but thankfully our guides had provided a lovely picnic repast that included some wine so after a glass or two I was more composed. Unfortunately I was perhaps too composed as I stumbled and splashed a wasted glass upon a fellow traveler. Luckily it was white wine so no major damage but I still spent much time apologizing profusely for making him smell like a wino for the rest of the day.
It was late in the afternoon but we had one more stop – an amazing lookout point accessible by a brief walk. However, this walk was a decline across uneven rocks and broken narrow ground and given my previous unsteadiness I opted not to go. Our wonderful NatGeo resident expert Ford took my camera to get some photos off the very edge. This is as far as I got before handing off – the monument you see is where Ford and the few who decided to brave this hike ended up:
This is the view from the edge of the point:
In researching some additional background for this post I found this on a park website. It confirmed that I had made the correct decision:
Be very careful because there is no rail protection at some sheer drop-off points. As a warning, this is not a place for over-consumption of alcoholic beverages. There are several drop-offs that are not protected by rails.
We continued on our way to our lodge where the plan was to freshen up and go to dinner in another nearby lodge. However, It was also going to be the night of a full super moon and i couldn’t resist the opportunity to capture its rise above the canyon in some photos. Proving that she is one major great friend, Lenore agreed to stay back and search with me for the best vantage point. The prospects were quite promising, given the twilight and beginning sunset views:
Using my compass we headed quickly along the rim to find a spot pointing in the direction of where the moon was going to rise (yes, as an astronomy geek I have a chart that tells me what time and what direction the moon will appear). I say quickly because once the sun sets, it almost immediately becomes pitch dark. We did carry flashlights, but seeing the trail empty of other humans other than a few stragglers made our hearts pump a bit faster. It was totally safe as the area we were in did have walls and railings.
In another WTDGAP moment, we soon realized that there was too much brush on the rim where we needed to be and in addition the accessible points on the rim didn’t give me a vantage point to show the moon rising above the canyon’s rocks.
No worries, we found a great nook that was comfortable and jutted just a bit over the canyon. Comfort was important. Why? As discussed in previous posts, getting the right photo often requires patience and I was now hoping to capture a series of moonrise shots by crouching in a nook with my camera for over an hour. Here are the results:
Tired, but happy we walked over to the Tovar Hotel bar and had a great comfort food meal of chili – all in all quite an eventful day.
More Grand Canyon fun to come next week!