Raw Beauty: Grand Canyon National Park

The beautiful Grand Canyon.
The beautiful Grand Canyon.

It’s at the top of every bucket list. The sheer vastness of it is incomprehensible. And, it’s been said that standing in its presence will make you believe in God.

I have to be honest. The Grand Canyon was always one of those places I knew I’d see one day, but it was never going to be the sole purpose of a trip for me. Arizona started calling to me the moment I saw pictures of the red rocks of Sedona, and it only made sense to venture a few hours north to the Grand Canyon.

The beautiful Grand Canyon.

The beautiful Grand Canyon.

It’s all true what they say. The Grand Canyon has to be one of the most remarkable places on earth. It has the power to change you. There are very few words to describe the way you feel standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon, staring out for eternity. On a clear day, you can see for 50+ miles. It’s incomprehensibly, truly. The way the light plays off the rocks, the clouds creating magical colors as they pass beneath the sun—it’s indescribably beautiful. And you can’t help but feel incredibly, unfathomably small.

You’d be insane not to appreciate the sheer power that the Grand Canyon holds. The fact that a river wended its way to form the deep canyon walls is extraordinary, to say the least. It’s almost like visiting Pompeii and seeing Vesuvius looming in the background. Only here, the Colorado River meanders along the canyon floor—seemingly miles away from your perch high above.

But for me, it was almost too much to take in.

The vastness of the Grand Canyon is mind blowing!

The vastness of the Grand Canyon is mind blowing!

What I’ll Do Differently Next Time

I’ve always been one who needs to taste, touch, and experience in order to appreciate something. I need to be completely immersed in it. And for me, standing at the top of the Grand Canyon, looking over, I felt removed. I felt as though I was looking at some insanely beautiful painting, in which the artist keenly understood how to capture the essence of light. You’ve seen those paintings—they’re vibrant and alive. That’s how this felt. Don’t get me wrong, it was incredible to witness, but it left me wanting more.

I need to stand at the bottom and gaze up. I should know this about myself. It happened in Switzerland when I took the most phenomenal train ride through the Alps. It happened again when I found myself on a boat in Alaska gazing up at the rock-solid wall of a glacier. Still once more in Hawaii when I sailed past the towering cliffs of the Na Pali Coast. And, of course, my heart absolutely sang when I stood at the foot of Sedona’s red rocks.

I naively thought it would be easy to walk down a trail into the Grand Canyon. I knew I wasn’t going far in an afternoon, but I wanted to go just far enough to be able to look back up and marvel at the canyon walls. There are plenty of tours that will take you into the Grand Canyon—probably most famously on a mule. I’m not a huge fan of horseback riding, so I was pretty sure this wouldn’t be for me either, but it’s definitely an option if you want to go beneath the surface of the canyon. Book well in advance, though!

I went white water rafting for the first time last December in Costa Rica and had an absolute blast! There are one-day rafting opportunities in the Grand Canyon—and, in fact, there’s basically any kind of rafting experience you want to have, up to 18 days! And if you’re really adventurous (which I am not at this point in my life), you can hike into the Grand Canyon with a guide, and stay a while—really digging into all the beauty that lies beyond what the eye can see from above.

Boating down the Colorado River below Havasu Creek in Grand Canyon National Park. NPS photo by Mark Lellouch.

Boating down the Colorado River below Havasu Creek in Grand Canyon National Park. NPS photo by Mark Lellouch.

Photo: Grand Canyon National Park’s photostream

Do Everything Within Your Power to Avoid Frustration

There’s nothing worse than setting yourself up for a miserable day. We arrived at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park around noon on a late-May day. Mistake No. 1. The line just to pay to get in the park ($30) was teeming with cars, and took the better part of an hour. Once in the park, I was beyond frustrated to discover how incredibly few parking spots there are for the general, non-camping, public. We drove around and around for over an hour, and finally had to move further down the rim, away from the Visitor’s Center, to find parking.

If you don’t arrive first thing in the morning, just bypass the craziness that is the main parking lot and move on to a secondary lot. Trust me, it will be OK. There is a free shuttle bus that has pick-ups at each parking lot along the rim, and stops every 15 minutes or so. We were able to get up to the Visitor’s Center with no problem. We could have saved ourselves plenty of frustration, tears (yes, tears!) and about a zillion curse words if we’d just moved along in the first place. There is very poor signage for the lots, which doesn’t help.

There are few things that make me as crazy as knowing how near I am to something incredibly beautiful and not being able to find a parking spot so I can get out of the car to go see it!

Make sure to bring lots of sunscreen and water. And I’d suggest packing a picnic instead of trying to buy food. You are in a park, after all.

You can see for miles.

You can see for miles.

Luckily All That Fades Away

There aren’t many places with the kind of profound, all-encompassing beauty that can make all those little frustrations disappear completely. As soon as we walked up to the rim at Mather Point—the first glimpse of the canyon for so many—everything that had been bothering us no longer seemed so important.

There, you are merely a fraction of a part of a much larger whole. And I’d venture to say there are few other places on earth were you are as keenly aware of that fact. It’s scary. It’s humbling. And it’s insanely powerful.

Taking it all in.

Taking it all in.

“True beauty cannot be expressed in words – something man created. True and utter beauty surpasses what’s tangible – it goes straight to the heart.”

Look for my next post where I’ll give you a glimpse at the best Grand Canyon lookouts!

Places

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon South Rim, Grand Canyon Village, AZ, United States

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon South Rim, Grand Canyon Village, AZ, United States
http://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: