Trip Summary Calendar - Where we went and when

August 09, 2004

Revenge of the Blog (or Return of the Canyon)

Ok, so we've gone blogless for the past two weeks but we'll try to catch up quickly. We've been busy! Last we left our story, we'd just arrived at the Grand Canyon (Friday June 23) and met up with Tony on Saturday.

Sunday we took our first extended walk along the South Rim of the canyon. The entire "south rim" area, within the National Park, is a small thriving city. Included in the price of admission is free use of a great bus system which takes visitors between more than a dozen different viewing areas along a (rough guess) 12 mile stretch of the canyon. There's a grocery store, better than the store in town. Several hotels, restaurants, etc. It's really something.

So we took the Kaibab Trail Route (the "green line") to the bus line's eastern-most stop called "Yaki Point." We then walked about 2.5 miles along the rim back to Mather Point. Mather Point is the viewing area most people see as it's near a parking lot and the first view of the canyon as you drive into the park. The first part of our walk wasn't on a formal trail, but wasn't terribly rough terrain. The latter half was along the paved trail that lines most of the south rim park area. Along the way was an entry point to one of the trails into the canyon itself, where we watched people and mules rising from the depths after long hikes. Hiking into the canyon is a two-day project (one day in, one day out) so it wasn't in our plan for this trip.

We saw some of the varied wildlife of the canyon area. Walking along the rim we spotted a California Condor perched about 50 feet down the canyon wall. On a bus back to our truck we drove by a huge elk.

Our walk, bus rides, and many photo stops took us from mid-morning to late-afternoon. While beautiful, this was the hottest time of day and the least interesting light to view and photograph the incredibly three-dimensional canyon below. So the rest of our week was planned around the early and later parts of the day.

A little about the canyon itself, and our reaction to it. Having never seen the canyon, and only remembering photos of specific elements of it, I was expecting what most people think of as a canyon. A cliff straight down, a wide area below, and a cliff up the other side. Not even close. The Grand Canyon is a dazzlingly complex collection of mountains, valleys, plateaus, cliffs, and gentle slopes. The Colorado River below is only visible from a few spots along the south rim paths. Three-dimensionally complex is really the best way to describe it. One benefit of this complexity is the view changes rapidly as one walks along the rim. The same is true of the angle of the sun. You can stand in one place for a while, and suddenly you're looking at a different canyon.

Monday we get to the park bright and early. A professional photographer (paid by Kodak) met us and a few other folks at 6:30am for a walk along the rim at some points good for morning photography. He provided some basic instruction and ideas, but we were there for his knowledge of good spots. This was also a great excuse to get up and out early, and it was worthwhile. Our walk with him (and four or five others) took us to a part of the park we weren't near the day before. We started near Shrine of the Ages and walked slightly westward. The photographer left at about 7:30am, and we continued walking.

We walked past all the hotels to Lookout Studio, a small building right on the edge of the cliff, for a talk about California Condors at 9:30am. This was rather interesting, and right on cue the condors flew by. These are very large birds, and are slowly returning from the brink of extinction. A few years ago no California Condors remained in the wild, now a small number are thriving in the Canyon. By 11am we were getting hot, so we headed back to the trailer.

We came at around 6pm. Despite it being overcast (as it was nearly every late afternoon) we witnessed a partial rainbow and a nice sunset. Just before the 7:40pm sunset several features in the canyon turned a bright orange, leading to some great photos.

Tuesday we got very ambitious and went into the park before sunrise. We arrived just after 5am, and didn't venture far - just the popular Mather Point. Shockingly we weren't alone - by the 5:40am sunrise we were joined by about 50 others. We also witnessed another (more complete) rainbow, but behind us rather than over the canyon. We walked around some more, and Alysa became close friends with a squirrel - more on that when we post photos. By 7:15am we were done for the morning and headed back to the trailer.

Tuesday afternoon was our big adventure - a 3:00pm helicopter tour of the Canyon! We took a 45-minute ride, which was absolutely fantastic. If you're ever at the Canyon this is well worth the money. We videotaped nearly the whole ride.

Wednesday was our last day at the Canyon. We took the Hermit's Rest Route bus (the "red line") and stopped at most major points along the way. This allowed us to complete our tour of the South Rim. As mentioned before, moving along the rim is like visiting a new canyon and as we got further westward this was even more exaggerated. We finally saw the Colorado River from the rim (we'd seen it from the helicopter). We were done by noon, did some grocery shopping and went back to the trailer. We went for one last sunset that night, and bid the Grand Canyon a fond farewell.

Posted by Mitch at August 9, 2004 12:29 AM


We watched the DVD movie of the Grand Canyon helicopter ride you took. It was fantastic, We feel as if we were with you. On Sunday, we showed it to the Shumans and the Kolbs. Debbie has also seen it. Everyone is very impressed - with the canyon, your photography and Alysa's bravery.

Posted by: Mom and Dad at August 11, 2004 07:00 PM
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