Yesterday started with my alarm buzzing at 4:30 a.m. and by 6:00, after a yawn-filled breakfast, we were headed north towards the Grand Canyon. It took us just about 3 1/2 hours to reach the park. Along the way, though, there was plenty to see and gawk at from the car along I-17. We drove through Prescott National Forest, Coconino National Forest, a wee bit of Kaibab National Forest, got a peek at Arizona Snowbowl and Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona, and saw a little bit of Flagstaff.
Just north of Flagstaff, the landscape completely levels off and there is not much to be found except for grassy, slightly hilly terrain. We kept saying, “We should start to get a peak at the Canyon over this next ridge!” but it simply didn’t happen. Even when we got to the entrance to the park, there was nothing to be seen but road and pine trees. Strange that the Grand Canyon can be seen from space, but not from our car while driving on State Route 64! Once in the park, we met up with Meteena’s friend Christy who lives in Grand Canyon Village (along with 2,000 other year-round park service employees) and she was our gracious guide of the day. After a quick pit stop at her house, we all hopped in her car and she began to drive us around the rim. Still, nothing. No views. I was starting to wonder what the fuss was about. Then, as the auto road began to hug the rim of the canyon just a little more, we could start to see something through those trees. Evan asked, “Is that the big hole?” Finally, the first real views of the Canyon were revealing themselves. We stopped the car at the first scenic vista as Meteena and I stood, jaws dropped, completely aghast at the magnificence at what we were seeing.
First impression – I said, “It doesn’t look real.” And it doesn’t. It brought to mind the anecdotes of the Native peoples on this continent concerning the arrival of Europeans on their big ships. Some of the people simply couldn’t see the ships at first because their brains had no template that supported seeing something that large or fantastical. I realized that something of the same was true of my first experience of the Grand Canyon – the more I hiked along the rim and the more I looked down into it, the more I could start to see how large and vast and magnificent it truly is. The first look is a shock – the brain says, “This can’t be real, it looks like a painting or a movie set.”
I could go on and on about the size, the colors, the shadows, the craziness of it, but there are no words. I can only share the photos that I took and tell you that I will be back to hike out to Plateau Point someday, to hike the entirety of Bright Angel Trail, to visit the now-closed North Rim, to reach the bottom and experience the power of the Colorado River that shaped this amazing place. (And Shawn is for sure coming with me next time!!)
Evan was amazing, too – not yet 4 years old and hiking below the rim of the Grand Canyon, riding many many hours in the backs of cars, and never complaining once. When we were just about back in Fountain Hills yesterday, and he murmured from the back seat:
Evan: “Miss Heather?”
Me: “Yeah, buddy.”
Evan: “Is today Monday?”
Me: “No, it’s Saturday.”
Evan: “Are you leaving tomorrow?”
Me: “Nope, I’m leaving on Thursday morning.”
Evan: “That’s a sad day.”
Me: “Oh, buddy, I’m going to be sad to leave you too. But we have 4 more days together.”
Evan: “How many days have you been here?”
Me: “I’ve been here for 4 whole days so far. Getting here Tuesday night kinda doesn’t count. We spent Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and today together, and we have tomorrow, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday together and then I leave Thursday morning.”
I’m up early again but I went to bed super early last night. Today we’re going to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, and tonight I’m planning on attending a blues jam open mic night at The Blooze in Phoenix. So much to see and do – I might need a vacation to rest up from my vacation!