A Grand Weekend – Canyon Dig it?

I have just spent three days staring at a ruddy great hole in the ground, albeit the most spectacular hole I have ever seen.  Yes, we’ve been to the Grand Canyon, and it really is amazing.  You’ve seen the pictures, of course, and they look unbelievable, but the reality is something else entirely.  It really does take your breath away.  And no amount of photos will ever really capture that moment when you wander up to the edge and take your very first glimpse.

During our visit we saw some Navajo Indians performing traditional songs and dances.  They explained that a lot of these performances are to honour Mother Earth and Father Sky and to acknowledge the power of the natural world.  When you see natural landscapes like this, it’s easy to understand where this spirituality comes from.  It’s so much harder to be inclined to worship the power of nature when you grow up in a flat, wet, featureless landscape like England.  Admittedly we do have our fair share of interesting mountains, coastline and the like, but absolutely nothing on this scale.  It just fills you with awe.  It is literally AWESOME.

I’m not usually happy to get up at 3.45am, particularly when I’m on holiday, however it was absolutely worth it in order to see the sunrise.  Any sunrise is amazing, but to experience it in such a stark landscape is incredible, watching the sky slowly change colour and then seeing the sun just starting to creep over the top of the rocks, sharing the moment with only two or three other people who made the effort to get up and travel all the way out to the canyon.  And then all you can stupidly think is, Wow, does this really happen every morning?

We left just as the first daytime visitors were starting to enter the park, and made it back to our hotel in time for breakfast before going back to bed.  We went back to the park in the evening to watch the sunset.  This isn’t quite so special, I think because it doesn’t take quite so much effort and there are a lot more people to share it with.  Sunset is less about the sun itself and more about the amazing red colours on the rocks and how they change as the sun goes down.  It’s still ruddy spectacular though.

We also took the opportunity to walk the more remote end of the rim trail.  By this I certainly don’t mean we did any of the proper hikes; it’s way too hot and you really need to be properly prepared for all sorts of eventualities.  However, it seems to me that 95% of the visitors to the park don’t wander more than 100 feet from the car parks, gift shops or restaurants.  By walking a five mile trail around the rim of the Canyon we found ourselves alone for almost all of the time, able to relax and listen just to the natural sounds of the Canyon instead of the loud voices of tourists.  It was absolute bliss.

We saw plenty of wildlife, particularly at dawn and dusk, including coyotes, foxes, squirrels, rabbits and a couple of condors.  The most impressive by far were the elk.  It’s quite something to be on a bus hurtling along in the dark when it screeches to a halt and you hear the collective gasp of your fellow passengers as you see a massive elk that’s casually lumbering across the road in front of you and you’re all waiting to discover whether it’ll be venison steaks all round while you wait for a replacement bus.  Thankfully we all made it out in one piece.

So it’s been an amazing weekend, really lovely and relaxing and peaceful.  All about to be shattered as we head to the neon-lit, glitter-encrusted nutjob that is Las Vegas.

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