Grand Expectations for the Grand Canyon

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In the last moments of the night, before the sun sneaks up over the horizon, the cool wintry air chills me to the bone. I take a sip of my piping hot coffee and look out over the miles of purpley blue canyon that sit before me. The cloud cover over the Grand Canyon is thick, having settled in overnight after the sun retreated. I sit on the western end of the South Rim, eager in my anticipation of the sunrise at Grand Canyon.

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Today we are unlucky, the clouds block what would have been a stunning sunrise, but as the sun begins to burn through the clouds and shine its rays across the Canyon, it illuminates gradually and beautifully the rocky depths. Far off to the west, the purple and blue hues of the rocky walls give way to fiery reds, oranges, pinks. The sun reveals the earthy-toned bands of stone that have been settling for billions of years and eroded for millions. Every time I turn my head, take a few steps, the views change. This complex natural wonder evolves before my eyes and continues to captivate me more the longer I look. It is a rather lucky morning after all.

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The increasing presence of the sun warms me, not that the cold would have deterred me anyway. Only the toughest have come out for the early sunrise show, allowing us each a private viewing spot so we each feel we have the entire Grand Canyon to ourselves for this one special moment. In the still silent air I can hear the whoosh whoosh of the birds’ flapping wings as they go soaring by. These birds are the subjects of my envy. They soar and fly around the Grand Canyon, taking in all the most stunning views and vantage points that I long to experience.

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Even sitting here on the Canyon’s rim, I hardly believe what lies before me. Is it real or just a large illusion placed before me? I want to delve into this place, to interact with the Canyon, explore its depths and appreciate its enormity. I want to hike down into the Grand Canyon, camp at its bottom, kayak through its creator, the Colorado River. From the first moment I laid my eyes on this magnificent creation, I knew I would need to come back.

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At the top, the Grand Canyon’s rocks date back hundreds of millions of years, while those lying on the bottom are as old as 2 billion years. This show has been in the making for longer than my mind can even fathom. From my vantage point at the rim, the Colorado River is small, slow, peaceful, but it is a strong and impressive force. Over several million years it has carved out the most beautiful canyon the world has ever seen. Even now it flows with force, eroding away the rock ever so slowly. You and I and everyone we know will see this spot exactly the same way, even though it’s a constant work in progress. It just changes so slowly that we will never know it to look any other way.

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My peaceful spot for admiring the Grand Canyon is being threatened by the noisy tourists and families that are arriving now. It’s time to find a new spot. That won’t be hard, the South Rim offers up 14 miles of trail along the rim. I begin to walk further from the visitor center and I can’t help but to smile so big that I let out a small giggle. I actually cannot believe that I’m here at the Grand Canyon. No amount of anticipation, or looking at pictures, or reading descriptions, has prepared me for what I’m seeing and experiencing here. The Grand Canyon absolutely went above and beyond all of the grand expectations I had for it. This may just be the most beautiful place I’ve been in my entire life.

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