’twas a Grand Canyon

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A shot taken moments after arriving at Grand Canyon. Notice the Fight stupidization sticker on the car, which is facing the Canyon. Notice the celebratory glass of wine resting on top of the car while I took the picture. Notice that James is wearing a coat because it was blessedly cool there at night and even somewhat brisk during the day.

I read a lot about Grand Canyon before going out there. Read that no picture can truly capture its scope and beauty. No words can describe the experience of gazing upon a landscape that has been etched by nature over millions of years and observed by generation after generation of wide-eyed travellers. I thought it might be a bit of hyperbolic vacation chatter, but it was all true. It brought tears to my eyes. I had my reasons. You should go there and find yours if you haven’t already.

This is the view of the Canyon that my car enjoyed during our two days at the park. The stone wall separating the rim trail in this area from certain death was about three feet high. I found that most of the Canyon is without even that minimal amount of protection, which is a change from the overly-protected reality most of us live within (CAUTION: The coffee in this cup may be hot enough to scald. Use caution.) While at the park, I bought a book called Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon. It details death after death in the park, many of which were caused by jackass-ish behavior. People walking on top of the stone wall and falling. People crawling around warning signs and barriers for a closer view – and falling. People jumping from rock to rock to pose for action shots – and falling. You get the idea. When we were below the rim and I took the picture below, I didn’t realize that someone died just behind the sign. The sign was already there, mind you, when the person decided to ignore it and go past it for a better view. How much better can the view get? It’s overwhelming enough as is.

If people didn’t die from a fall, according to the book, they often passed because of heat exhaustion or heart attacks caused on the trails. I’m glad I started this book after we’d already gone on one of the trails and spent our time near the edge. Otherwise, I might have had a hard time getting as close to the edge as I did. But I never got that close. I’m not stupid. Also, I promised my mother I wouldn’t die while she and Dad were in Scotland. A promise is a promise.

This is a shot just below the rim from the top of the trail we took. We only went about half a mile down before turning around. The trip down isn’t that difficult (though the views and steep drop-offs can be breathtaking – literally), but we knew the trip back up would be hard – not only are you going uphill the entire time, but you’re doing so in air that you’re not used to breathing.

James standing on the edge of the world.

A mule train going down the trail. When the mule riders approach, those on foot have to back up against the cliff wall on the upside of the trail. Good for us on foot, scary as hell for those on muleback. I think three or four different groups passed us while we were on the trail – I looked at each rider’s face as they squeezed by – most were having a great time, but a few looked like they were about to puke. The mules walk right on the edge. I’m sure they stumble on loose rocks occasionally. I’ll stick to my own two feet.

Since the sides of the Canyon are at times perpendicular to the ground, the trails employ switchbacks. This turns the one-mile-down distance into about nine miles on the trail we went down. Here you can see the part of the trail immediately below the section that I’m standing on. Note the copious amount of mule shit that littered the entire trail. It also provided an almost overwhelming olfactory experience.

You occasionally catch glimpses of the Colorado River way down below. This picture was taken with my digital camera on zoom, so the quality is kind of poopy. I also took along my SLR camera, so it’ll be fun to see how those turned out once they’ve been developed. I hadn’t pulled that camera out in a while. I like the feel of a film camera (what we used to call a “real” camera) in my hand.

Some people need to read Death in Grand Canyon.

The watchtower at Desert View on the east rim. Look at that beautiful blue sky. Desert View was our last stop on the way out of the park. We climbed to the top for one last, amazing view of one of the most beautiful and unforgiving places in the world.

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