Friday, August 7, 2009

The Grand Canyon

We've been back for a week, so it's high time I said something about the glorious Grand Canyon. I was told you have to see it to believe it, and now I agree.

We drove up from Flagstaff and our first view of the Canyon was from Desert Point on the South Rim. It was a boiling hot late July day, and the haze softened the distant canyons. In the first picture, the tiny-looking stream is the Colorado River. (click photo to enlarge) When you see the vastness of the Grand Canyon and the side canyons coming in, it's mindboggling to think that all of it was created by flowing water over the course of 6 million years. This wonder is 277 miles long (that's further than from New York to Washington D.C.!) and 18 miles wide at some points, and averages 4000 ft. but reaches up to 6000 ft. deep in some places.

The colors were magnificent! The burgundy and purples blended into the terra cotta colors as far as you could see. I don't think the pictures really do the colors justice because of the haze. But the real problem with the pictures is that you lose all sense of perspective. Each of the plateaus that looks like it has some green moss-like growth on it is actually covered with trees and medium sized shrubs, and the cliffs on the far side are actually MILES away. In the second picture, the elongated greenish outcropping on the left actually has one of the hiking trails going down the middle of it. In this photo you can only see it if you click and enlarge it to whole screen size, and if there were people on the trail, they would probably be too far away to even see.

We continued on the Desert View Drive and stopped in at the other view points: Navajo Point, Lipan Point, Moran Point, Grandview Point...I think that's as far as we got since it was getting late and we had quite a drive to our hotel.

On the way out of the Grand Canyon National Park, we saw two Elk munching some greens along the side of the road. They were beautiful, fantastic animals; a rare tawny brown, and the male had the beginnings (about 18") of a nice rack in velvet, which he held proudly erect.

We also saw a falcon or hawk in an airborne battle with a crow or blackbird (they were too far away to really see) while looking out over the Canyon. I looked hard for the endangered California Condors, but I think they're in another area of the park so we didn't see any. Also for me, seeing the new and strange flora such as yuccas 12-15 ft high was really cool.

In case you're interested in more information, the National Parks Service has a wonderfully informative website that gives practically all of the information you could want to know about the Canyon, including maps, info about the Condors, plant life and ecosystems, and how a cougar died of the plague in 2007! The NPS is here:

I was thrilled to finally see the Grand Canyon, and even more so to raft on the Colorado River through the Canyon for a day (more on that in another post).

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