Pictures can never do it justice. There is nothing in life to compare to standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon. The shear size of it all. The depth of it all. The colors. The other worldliness of it all. It must be experienced. My boyfriend Roy and I were able to visit it recently, mostly because the weather permitted it. This was my fourth visit, but Roy’s first. It never disappoints but it’s almost too much to comprehend. I can imagine that the only way to truly take it all in is by looking down on it from outer space or standing at the bottom of it looking up. It can only be experienced in pieces. From overlooks. From different angles.
It is sheer happenstance that I was in the middle of reading a book on the Grand Canyon at the time. A client had read The Emerald Mile, an incongruent name for a history of the Grand Canyon and a record-breaking boat trip down the Colorado River (the creator of the canyon). It gave context to this awe-inspiring spot.
Here is why the Grand Canyon is so amazing:
The Colorado River
According to most geologists, the river that carved the Grand Canyon over a billion years ago starts up in Wyoming, some 7 states away. The amazing thing is that Roy and I tried in vain to actually see the river from countless overlooks around the rim. The canyon is so deep that you cannot see the river because of all the erosion and the narrow river. We did glimpse the Little Colorado, however, from most vantage points, you cannot see the river. The river is what first brought humans to live around the canyon some 10,000 years ago, although they did not start living year-round in the area until about 4,000 years ago. The first European to see the canyon was Garcia Lopes de Cardenas in 1540, but they had to leave after three days because of lack of water. There is a river down there. It’s just completely out of reach when you’re above it.
One Mile Deep
The Grand Canyon is a giant hole in the ground. It is over 6,000 feet deep. This is why the floor of the canyon (including any rivers within it) are so difficult to see from the rim. There is so much that is visible, but it begs to be explored; to be experienced. We wanted to explore. I saw that the Bright Angel Trail could be hiked for a mile and a half into the canyon. When I asked about hiking it upon entering the park, the ranger said, “Yeah, you could but you will be on your hands and knees.” Sure enough, when we arrived at the overlook next to the trail head, all we could see was a snake of white snow and ice descending into the canyon. We were going to experience the rim, but not the canyon.
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long. That’s longer than the state of Delaware (90 miles) and bigger than the state of Rhode Island. Even though it’s up to 18 miles wide, it takes 5 hours to drive the 220 miles from the South Rim to the North Rim. The Powell Geographic Expedition of 1869, led by American naturalist John Wesley Powell, was a ten-month river exploration down the Green and Colorado Rivers, which became known as the first documented passage through the Grand Canyon. Powell left with nine men, four boats and food for 10 months. Two men from the expedition made it all the way to Mexico and the Sea of Cortez where the river finally ends. I am struck by the bravery of entering a long voyage with untold obstacles and unknowns.
Little Colorado River
The Little Colorado River Overlook is outside of the Grand Canyon National Park, but is a must see along Highway 64. It’s managed by the Navajo nation, but it has a fantastic view of the canyon. It feels like the “younger” section of the canyon since it’s much more narrow, and you can actually see the Little Colorado River at the bottom. It would be like letting the air out of the Grand Canyon and reducing it by 10 times. This view gives the depth and width of it all, after a short gravel pathway down to the overlook. There are no crowds or entrance fees here; it doesn’t make it unworthy of your time. It pairs down the Grand Canyon experience to a comprehensible view.
The trip has inspired me to want to return to take a deeper dive. I want to return to hike from rim to rim during the fall. The canyon begs you to enter it, whether it be by mule, hiking or river rafting. It begs to be experienced.