I was standing on a shiny yellow lump of rock, not far from the edge of the canyon. Eyes shut and blindfolded with an American flag bandanna. The breeze on my face was letting me know I was near a drop-off, but I was in deep thought…
“…I know what’s coming,” I pondered to myself. “I know what this looks like from photographs and films – I’m sure I studied it in a Geography class once. There is no shocking me… I can picture the view in my mind now!”
And yet, on the count of three to pull off my blindfold, I was absolutely, (mouth- open -and -catching-flies) dumbfounded.
The Canyon isn’t just grand. It is colossal. It’s so deep you can’t see the Colorado river at the bottom. It’s so wide you can’t make out anything on the other side – not another person, not a tree, nothing. It’s so long, you have no hope of seeing the beginning or the end unless you are in a helicopter for over an hour.
Here are some stats to help me try and put it into some perspective….
- It is 277 miles long (that’s just shy of the distance driving from London to Paris)
- It is up to 18 miles wide in places (that’s a four-hour walk on flat Tarmac)
- It is has a depth of over a mile down into the earth
- It has 2 billion years of geological history in its walls
Somewhere, at some time, someone saw this sight and thought: “Oh yes! How grand!”
Maybe they didn’t want to oversell it, so visitors like myself could still be in awe on arrival. Maybe they wanted to keep it unknown and preserved, so deliberately undersold it. Or maybe they just didn’t have a large enough vocabulary to accurate describe this awe-inspiring sight. Because on seeing it, my first thought was – “WHAT an understatement!”
Its size is astounding, it is the biggest ‘thing’ I’ve ever seen. The colours are stunning – deep reds and rich purples and warm browns, with pops of Spring greens and white flowers from the foliage that manages to cling to life on its craggy cold surface. The Canyon’s colours change with the light – from sunrise to sunset, it glows. There is a raw natural beauty here everywhere you look.
We had two days in the National Park to explore some of the walking trails and wildlife in the area, but I could have spent a week. The best place to view its vastness is from the rim and this view never failed to amaze me.
As well as walking the rim, Dom and I did a trek down to get some idea of the depth of the Canyon. We walked the South Kaibab trail, stopping at Ooh Aah Point (yes really!) to take in a more sheltered view deeper that looked out into the canyon.
Day walks come with a huge health and safety warning. Unlike my climb up Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, with a canyon walk you do the easy bit first – the walking down. It takes twice as long and twice as much energy to come back up and many people go deep into the canyon without the supplies, daylight time or physical strength to get back out. Sadly there were reminders of this danger, with posters showing a solo female trekker who had been missing for over a month, and was last seen on the rim.
Taking your time in the Grand Canyon is the best way to experience it. The average visitor spends just thirteen minutes here! That’s a walk from the car-park, a quick 10 minutes looking, and then back to the car again.
In my mind, experiencing this incredible geological spectacle, next to the spring flowers, or craggy trees in the cliffs, or the multitude of woodland birds, at different times throughout the day, allows you to take in all of the National Park and have a much deeper appreciation for it.
There is wildlife aplenty to watch out for: our final Elk count tally was 12 and they love to cross roads at dusk, so you’re less at risk of a traffic jam and more likely to be held up by an Elk jam driving here!
It is Grand – but it is so much more besides.
Hotels: We stayed outside the National Park, but visited El Touvar a spectacular lodge built in 1905 right on the rim, for breakfast before our trek. The portion sizes are huge and the ingredients local – think honey pine nut butter & prickly pear syrup drizzled over a stack of pancakes. Delish and a great way to start the day before a trek!