Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Grand Canyon, Another Day on the South Rim

     The heart of the American Southwest, perhaps the heart of America itself- is the Grand Canyon.  There are few sights on the planet that rival it.  The first time you see it, you aren’t sure whether or not you’ve stepped into one of those flying dreams, because that’s the way your stomach feels when you’re standing on the edge.  It isn’t only the mile long drop to the bottom that makes your heart flutter, it’s the fact that there are places where you can’t even see the ground at all, but rather a twisted dark chasm that could fall for days, or the fact that when you’re looking across to see the other side, your gaze is met with the horizon line.  The Grand Canyon challenges your vision and your sense of self with its sheer size and otherworldly beauty.  

     It is nearly impossible to describe the Grand Canyon in words, you just have to see it to believe it.

     The reason why this is titled Another Day on the South Rim is because I had a day similar to this one back in May.  My dream of a Grand Canyon Circle tour has been over a year in the making and took two different trips to make it all come together exactly the way I wanted it to. 

     We didn’t have a lot of time at the Grand Canyon during this trip; not like last time when we had three days on the rim and three more to take our journey to the Grand Canyon oasis to see Havasu and Mooney Falls.   No, this time around we only had about 24 hours, but we made the best of it.

     We didn’t waste any time finding our “secret spot” which is an unmarked overlook off the side of Rim Road.  It was about a 1.5 mile trail, one that was maintained more by animals than by humans.

     We named it “Star” Point because of the shadowed star-shaped formation in the center of this picture, and because we stayed long enough to watch the stars come out:

     There are many amazing overlooks at the Grand Canyon, and good trails that are paved and safe, but for a prime experience it’s nice to have some room to move around, to feel like you have the sky to yourself for a while.  Our point was a massive rock overhang, big enough for both of us to sit comfortably on and spread out all of our things, big enough to dance around on even if we did look a little silly to the many crows flying overhead.

     The Sunset on the Grand Canyon is one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see in your whole life.

     Sun setting over the Grand Canyon at Star Point:

     Watching the light fade in layers is one of the many unique things about a Grand Canyon sunset.  The shadows deepen and the colors change with every passing moment:  

     It was October 29th, and there was still a bit of fall color hanging around, adding to the general splendor:

     One interesting thing that happened at the Grand Canyon were the forest fires.  On the North Rim, there were controlled fires burning for days and days, filling up the entire canyon and most of the sky with a sultry smoke.  This being my 4th visit to the Canyon, my experience wasn’t hindered by it because it gave our views a sort of unique twist.  But I did feel bad for all the first-time visitors who had yet to experience the canyon free of any obstructions.  

     For my first non-camping experience at the Canyon we decided to stay at the Bright Angel Lodge cabins.  The 20 degree nights and the ability to walk out our cabin door and be at the edge of the Canyon within minutes made it worth it.

     The Bright Angel Lodge, built in 1935:

     On dark nights the stars are incredibly bright and the milky way is visible to the naked eye.  On full moon nights, the Canyon is lit up with moonlight, the shadows more mysterious than at any other time of day, making you feel as though you’re on the edge of some other planet. 

     The El Tovar Hotel, whose front doors are 20 feet from the Canyon rim, was built in 1905:

     The smoke in the moonlight made for some of the most beautiful night views I have ever seen.  The light of the moon illuminated the spiraling formations, making the Canyon look like some prehistoric ghost ocean.

     These photos were taken from afar of the El Tovar Hotel, moon, and smoke:

     Silhouettes of trees, smoke, and moon.

     The otherworldliness of smoke in the moonlight.

     I love a Grand Canyon sunrise just as much as the sunset, infact, maybe even more because there is such a profound stillness.

     I chose to go to Navajo Point for my sunrise because of its impossibly wide views.  Getting to watch the first light of day stretch across the earth and down into the canyon is unforgettable.

     Navajo Point holds a special place in my heart because of its three specific views that you can get nowhere else in one place.  Look to your right and you can see the Desert View Watchtower clinging to the edge of the cliff layers, while the flat unhindered painted desert holds the very first light of day.  Look directly in front and you can see all the way to the other side of the Canyon, where it curves into being along with the shimmering Colorado River at the very bottom.  And look to your right and you have an incredible unencumbered view straight down through the heart of it.  This cannot all be seen in one photograph, which is understandably why you'll often hear the phrase "pictures can't do it justice".

     This photo perhaps best shows just how much the smoke obstructed Canyon views.  I still found it lovely in a strange sort of way, but without the smoke, this is the perfect time of day for viewing the detail of the canyon because the infamous midday haze has yet to set in:

     Here is the alpenglow, the first light that shines a deep red when the sun is at its lowest on the horizon, burning too sweet and bright for words.  On the colorful canyon walls, it turned a hot pink.

     The sun continues to rise and the moon fades:

     While that golden morning light was still shining I wanted to take advantage of it at Desert View Watchtower.  If there is a certain place that you would like to have to yourself, come back at sunrise the next morning and chances are there won't be another soul in sight.

    Here is the Watchtower, built in 1932 as a replica of a prehistoric Indian tower:

     Morning light on Desert View Watchtower and the first rays of sun pouring into the Canyon beyond:

     The stones of the Watchtower, its windows reflecting the awakening sky.  Inside there is a gift shop and a spiraling staircase where you can climb three stories to the top:

     Another stone building adjacent to the Tower, coming alive in the morning light.  The moon that was so bright the night before and illuminating the smoke is now on the other side of the canyon and fading from the sky:

     Until at last the rays are filling the canyon and a new day has dawned:

1 comment:

  1. WOW !!!! lovely post and such fantastic photographs. Now I understand the coming of 365 photos into being :-). I joined the project as I wanted to learn more about photos, moods and may be some techinques. I could not swim few years ago and I was postponing and suddenly one year I took incharge for a swimming course that would force me to go regularly and here I am who can swim today. Hopefully my tryst with 365 photos too would teach me some photography :-)