My First Impression of the Grand Canyon

My first visit to the Grand Canyon was on a road trip with my friend Joe. We drove in from Zion National Park in the north.  In order to get to Grand Canyon National Park we had to drive all the way around the canyon to make it to our destination at the South Rim.

We arrived at the Grand Canyon at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11th.  We drove through the park entrance and carried on through the empty desert landscape.  Besides for the small entry kiosk, we didn’t see anything resembling civilization.  After several miles of dusty driving we came to Desert View at the southeast corner of the canyon.

We parked in a huge parking lot and began our long walk towards the rim.  I couldn’t wait to catch my first glimpse of the canyon.  As we approached the “Big Ditch” we experienced quite a culture shock between our surroundings and the huge mass of people near the canyon rim.  We were used to being the only car on the road for miles; here we were walking toward a massive crowd of tourists.  We saw a gift shop with an old watchtower overlooking the canyon.  We decided to save that for after our first look at the canyon.

We came to the Grand Canyon not knowing exactly what to expect.  Sure we had seen pictures, and did some research, but we knew it would be different in person.  Some people had told us that after driving through much of canyon country in the southwest, seeing the Grand Canyon is just like seeing any other canyon.  We didn’t really believe that though, and wanted to experience it for ourselves.  I’m glad we didn’t let those opinions influence us, because the moment we set our eyes on the canyon we found it awe-inspiring.

The Grand Canyon is one of nature’s crown jewels.  It is the perfect example of what Mother Nature can accomplish over billions of years.  In fact, two billion years of geologic growth are exposed in the canyon walls, showcasing more evidence of the earth’s history than anywhere else in the world.  The Colorado River snakes its way through the canyon for 277 turbulent miles.  The distance between the North and South Rim varies from half a mile to eighteen miles.  Along the North Rim, the canyon reaches depths of nearly 6,000 feet.  To travel from one rim to the other takes either a 215 mile drive or a very steep and highly strenuous 21 mile hike.

Gazing out into the seemingly endless canyon, I realized its sheer size cannot simply be measured by the thousands of feet deep it is or how many miles it extends.  Every direction I looked, the canyon extended to the horizon.  The fact that this gigantic canyon was formed by the roaring Colorado River, which is so miniscule in comparison, is a reality that is almost impossible to grasp.  I could study geology for years, but I’m sure I could never truly fathom the way in which this mighty canyon came into being.

In addition to the overwhelming magnitude of the canyon, the abundant range of color was spectacular.  The canyon was mostly shades of brown and red.  Throughout the colossal abyss several towers, mesas, and temples protrude up from the canyon floor in a broad spectrum of colors.  It looked like multicolored stripes were painted on the canyon walls from top to bottom.  Each layer was a little different from the last, most were rust colored, some as light as yellow and orange.  But one of the best things about the Desert View overlook was that the Colorado River could be seen curving around bends in the heart of the canyon.  The river, far below, looked like smooth chocolate milk.  There were no rough rapids in this visible stretch of the river.

We walked to the watchtower gift shop to enjoy the higher view.  Next we headed west towards Grand Canyon Village.  We picked up some supplies and setup our tent at the Mather Campground before exploring many more views of the boundless Grand Canyon.

NPS

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