Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Grandest of Canyons

Thank goodness they named Grand Canyon last century, when the modern taste for over-the-top superlatives wasn't around. The simple name of 'Grand Canyon' bestowed back then really does say it all. If it was, somehow, discovered only relatively recently, they would have called it "Amazing Humungous Extreme Canyon" and it just wouldn't be as classy as the modest monicker of Grand Canyon.

And what a grand canyon it is. For starters it really is many canyons contained within one truly grand canyon. And for me it is one of my lifetime dreams to actually be here. As a little seven-year-old bookworm with a love of geography I saw it in a book for the first time, and ever since then I have wanted to see it. And a mere 50 years later I have finally done it. In the intervening years I have seen countless photos and videos of the place, and there is nothing, not nothing, that comes close to actually being here. We've both had a truly wonderful day here. On with the show, though. Ladies and gentlemen, the Grand Canyon.

No single photo can hope to sum it all up, but this one at least makes it look big. It is big. Even when the other side is close it's 10 miles away, and at its shallowest it's about one mile deep. Our altitude here at the south rim is 7000 feet. Across at the other side (the north rim) it's 8000 feet. Temperature today was around 75°F, lovely canyon viewing weather.

I won't pretend to be a geologist, but in the distance you can see numerous layers of different rock types, all worn away by the Colorado River, which still flows through here.

As well as the huge chasms, the sheer variety of rock formations was a regular highlight.
Here's Pammy taking a break from taking the previous photos. Back at our lodge we downloaded over 150 snaps taken by Pammy today and most of the pix featured here are hers. This one is by me, though...

And here I am at Yavapi Point, with my back turned to my usually crippling vertigo problem.

At one stage while taking our umpteenth photo we just looked at each other and almost in unison said "lovely colours". The scale of everything here is what everyone raves about, understandably so, but the variety and subtlety of the colours everywhere was just as captivating. The greens of the bare hills are very faded greens, reminiscent of many arid Australian hillsides in fact, and these blend in superbly with the ochres, muddy reds, yellows, hessians, mustards, tans, washed-out oranges and other earthy colours in endless variations.

The other wonderful thing about the Grand Canyon is the many different views you can have of it. There's a road which runs about 25 miles across the south rim of the canyon, and there are a dozen or more spots where you can nip off the road, leave the car then wander down to the fence to take it all in. At every single spot the view of the canyon was entirely different from the last, a completely new canyon each time. It's just another way of saying how big and beautiful this place is.

Such as this view.

Or this view.

The one constant flowing through all the views is the Colorado River. You might have to peer a bit at this photo to see it, and that's how the river looks from the top: tiny, almost insignificant at times, yet it's the erosion wrought by the Colorado which has shaped the whole canyon over millions of years. It is the true author of Grand Canyon.

Pammy did her ultra-zoom trick with her camera and managed to get this close-up of a river bend. The Colorado River down there is still a substantial body of water, with rapids in many places. One raft we spotted going down through this curve (well, a nearby tour guide with a telescope spotted it, in fact) looked like the tiniest speck of white in the centre of the stream.

The countryside at the top of the canyon is a delight, too. Last night, wandering from our Lodge down to the local restaurant, the scent of the pine trees filled the air. And during the day this hardy little shrub which we imaginatively christened 'yellow stuff' was in bloom everywhere.

Speaking of lodges, this is Yavapi Lodge, inside the National Park, where we stayed. It's only a minute or two (by car) from the edge of the Canyon. Outside in the nearby woods Pammy was delighted by the little squirrels hopping about, but she wasn't too keen on coming across any bears on our evening walks.

It's not bears she should worry about. This road sign just a mile away from the lodge suggested that perhaps bears might slip down to Number Two on the list of Things To Worry About At Night. All I know about mountain lions is what I saw on Westerns in the 1960s on TV. Apparently they like to wrestle with heroes. As I am no hero, I presume I'm safe.

Wot, no pan shots? Of course there are, but I thought I'd save the worst for last. Since doing my initial pan shots in Hawaii I am afraid I've retreated into my shell somewhat. Hearing my voice in the videos was a form of aversion therapy, for starters. The looks from bystanders as I did an Attenborough while filming the pan shots didn't help this shy boy, either. And so, today, at Grand Canyon, with a full international brigade of Germans, Italians, Swedes, Irish and other Aussies crowding around at all times, not to mention the countless US citizens there – I froze – Stage Fright! And so the following three pan shots, taken in relative silence at three different points around the south rim of Grand Canyon.

Grandview Point, the spot where the first lodge (no longer standing) was built in 1901.

Lipan Point, the next stop around from Grandview.

And Navaho Point, the next one round the road. The light was better at this time of day, hence the sequence, but they do show how each viewpoint provides a completely new perspective on the canyon.

PS: from this point onwards, we're not sure what's next! We had a definite plan of seeing Hawaii, Las Vegas then Grand Canyon. And we've done it!

But from here on, for the next five weeks or so, we're making it all up as we go along, so who knows where we'll post our next blog from? We don't!


Mrs Catch said...

Wow! I'd love to go there too. The photos are amazing. Have a great time on the rest of your adventure.

Leanne said...

What great images. I would love to do a photography tour of the Grand Canyon one day.

Anonymous said...

Stunning scenery... and I can't help but wonder at the powerful influence these magnificent canyons must have had on the communities and lives of the first Native Americans.