Grand Canyon… Such a Fitting Name!

Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most jaw-dropping places I’ve ever seen. I don’t think there’s a way to actually capture, in still images OR motion picture, just how vast and magnificent it is. (And I’ve seen some incredible images AND motion picture of the place!)

This was my second visit to the south rim, and John’s first. Unfortunately we arrived under a very dark cloud on Thanksgiving Day. Once we had The Beast situated in our campsite we headed to the rim. Those of you who’ve been there may recall that it’s just another park until you actually step up to the rim. Once there… it’s magic!

We parked our car and walked to the rim behind Bright Angel Lodge. The canyon was blanketed by a thick, low lying cloud… and soon after we arrived the clouds parted just enough to paint part of the canyon with vivid light… and then came a booming clap of thunder… and then it poured! Followed by more thunder (the kind that literally shook the ground), and lots more rain.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

Grand Canyon from the rim at Bright Angel

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

And the sky opened up and painted a different picture…

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

Those vertical lines are a heavy rain

Needless to say we didn’t stay long before heading back to our warm, dry shelter (aka… The Beast).

The following morning I got up before sunrise and headed out on my own to the rim near Mather Point. It was cold… cold enough to turn all the rain from the night before to ice.  I treaded very carefully through the icy parking lot and pathway with camera and tripod in hand to the rim well before the sun came up… and waited. And waited. And shivered and waited some more. (As I’ve said numerous times, “If I’m not early for a sunrise, I’m late!” Well, that and “The light waits for no one!”)

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

Just before sunrise

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

As the sun rose from Mather Point

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

And the moon was dropping on the horizon behind me.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

The sun lights the highest peaks across the canyon…

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

And gently dapples some light toward the west…

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

The sun finally comes out to play on the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

Sunshine making it’s way into the canyon

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

With the light comes the color…

I let John pick what day-hike we would do with our limited time in the park. He picked the same one Elissa and I did together a few years prior… South Kaibab Trail.  We set out early, while it was still quite cold, and soon found ourselves facing a big sheet of ice on a very narrow switchback trail. After watching a group ahead of us struggle their way along… one taking their hiking guide down with him when he fell… I just sat down and slid down the ice (knowing I’d likely end up on my butt either way).

It was a pleasant hike down into the canyon, a relatively lightly traveled in the morning. As you descend into the canyon the vistas change,,, with the elevation, the light, the angle. It may sound cliche, but the grandeur is truly is awe-inspiring.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

A wall of switchbacks at the beginning of South Kaibab Trail

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

Looking up at the south rim from South Kaibab Trail

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

O’Neill Butte from South Kaibab Trail

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

John at the appropriately named “Ooh Aah Point”

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

Taking it all in… such splendor

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

From Cedar Ridge

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

As anyone I’ve ever mentored will tell you, “Framing and angle of view are important!!” 🙂   (So, apparently, is a flashy matching outfit, which was never intended. Coat… several years old. Pants… only color they came in.)

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

John at Cedar Ridge

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

View near Skeleton Point

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

West view from Skeleton Point, Colorado River at bottom

After a light lunch (which we did not share with the squirrel, as much as he begged) we headed back up the canyon. On our way up, we decided that when we travel here again it will be to backpack into the canyon, up to the north rim, and back. Enough with the crowds! (Explanation below.)

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

This guy’s obviously oblivious to the rule; “Don’t feed the wildlife!” He totally hung out for a hand out!

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

The climb back up South Kiabab Trail

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

Mule train coming out of the canyon

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

And the mules have the right-of-way

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

From the south rim near sunset

Before departing the following morning, John and I went out early to take in a sunrise together… along with hundreds of others. People were literally jostling for space at the overlook. Luckily we were amongst the first there, so my tripod was at the rail. Soon after I had other people’s tripod legs shoved between me and my tripod. Astonishing! After a few brief shots I had to fight my way through the crowd. ?

So on that note… we were incredibly disillusioned by the crowds, here and several other places along the way. The number of over-crowded National Parks, and popular vistas was overwhelming. I mean no offense when I say a very high percentage of the crowds are foreign travelers… of all nationalities. We’re a minority in our own national parks, and that saddens me. I ask myself if so few Americans appreciate the beauty of our country, or are most Americans just too tied to “the grind” to get out and enjoy the beauty?

That “grind”, and lack of time… was the reason I bowed out of traditional living. I’ll resist the rant that is rising in me as I write, and instead send you to “The Fork In The Road“, which explains pretty well… my mindset when I ditched the comforts of home to embark on a solo unplanned journey around the country.  (Follow the blue link for the story.)

Getting back to the good stuff… a bit of our morning before departing the Grand… incredibly GRAND Canyon…

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

Before sunrise… it’s every bit as cold as it looks!

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

The sunrise is sneaking into the canyon

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

And the sun peeks up on the rim of Grand Canyon once again

After our sunrise shoot we high-tailed it south to the Phoenix area, and a campground I enjoyed once before… Lost Dutchman State Park, at the base of Superstition Mountain. That, Lake Havasu, and a brand new place for me… Alamo Lake, are up next.

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