Bob Neuman and David Ruether
Trip to the South Western US
May - June 2005
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Well, this is the "giant elephant" among the national parks - it is so big that it is hard to see anything but a small part of it. This has the odd effect of making the first impression sometimes somewhat less than one would expect - the place from most of its overlooks is just too large to comprehend. Telling yourself that the other rim is 10 to15 MILES away, and that the river is a MILE below you may begin to make a dent in your lack of comprehension, but maybe not. But the more you look, the more you see, and then the Grand Canyon becomes overwhelmingly large and beautiful, with a variety and scale not seen anywhere else.
Unfortunately, with so much air between you and the colorful rock walls miles away, air clarity is a large consideration in how intense the color looks. We found that when we were there, the best color was at mid-day, which is not considered the best time for seeing the forms in the canyon - but what can you do…? Even with the muted, bluish color, though, this is one heck of a spectacular and beautiful place!
In the early 1960s, David took the Bright Angel trail to the river (about a mile total elevation change, and a LONG walk!) and then across the river to the ranch. He found then that moving down through the many colored rock layers, finally to the dark, twisted, ancient rock of the inner canyon, was a far more meaningful way to experience the canyon than looking at it from above - but even that is wonderful! To satisfy a bit of nostalgia for David, we took a short walk down the Bright Angel trail the first evening (photo 4 shows the trail head - and photo 7 shows a branch off the Bright Angel Trail to a viewpoint overlooking an inner canyon branch, and also visible are parts of the trail that lead down the 1500' elevation from the plateau to the river following the narrow green area). The panorama photo clearly shows the dark inner canyon. Travel west along the rim from the trail head is mostly by bus (bumpy and with poor scheduling at the not very well marked stops, so much time is wasted making sure you catch the bus) or on foot (one "short" walk involved a long detour around an old mining structure that was not marked on the map). We did see six California condors in flight below us - but of course David had the wrong lens on at the time (Bob got one, though, in photo 14). One evening we watched the sunset from an overlook a few miles east of Grand canyon Village. Some others were also watching it from a rocky ledge below us (see photos 24 and 25).
As with many of the western national parks, it is up to the visitor to be aware of dangers such as falling from high cliffs without railings or markings, drowning in slot canyons due to flash floods downstream of thunderstorms, lightning strikes, and dehydration and sunburn from exposure to the very high heat, low humidity, and intense sunshine in the southwest. In these amazing places, it is tempting to push some limits a bit (and David had done his share of stupid things) to see even more (David is now VERY conservative about these things, as we watched with a bit of horror what some people were doing [photo 10, for one…]).
After two nights at a rather grand motel just outside the park south entrance, we drove along the south rim on the way to the north rim. We stopped and looked at the green water of the Colorado River where the bridge crosses it (photos 27 and 28), then drove toward the north rim, which is about 1000 feet higher than the south rim. The snow had been cleared enough to get in only a few weeks before, and there was still some standing water in the high meadows. The forest was dense as we moved toward the rim. Distances here are large, and the nearest overlook (photos 29, 30, and 31) was 40 miles from where we stayed (in a cabin with the smallest bathroom imaginable - and I have seen some tiny ones in the past!). We both agreed that Grand Canyon, Arches, and Zion were the "do not miss" parks on this trip, and for the return trip to Las Vegas, we decided to continue up to Zion again and to take Route 9 across it once more - and it was worth it! David took pictures out the window of the car with his film camera as we went again through the pass in NW Arizona on Interstate 15. Timing was good for it, so we once again stopped in Mesquite for 99 cent spaghetti dinners before driving on down near the edge of Lake Mead to Hoover Dam.
taken by Bob Neuman and edited and adjusted by David Ruether)
(All photographs Copyright 2005 Robert Neuman)
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