Saturday, May 27, 2006, Sedona, AZ
On Tuesday we headed towards the Grand Canyon. It's one of the places in the world that we all hear about in school and think how wonderful it would be to one day see it. We were driving toward it with mixed feelings. Partly we were concerned that we were getting very close to Memorial Day weekend and so many people had warned us that it was impossible to find somewhere to camp on this weekend. And we were not really sure that we wanted to stay on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon right through the weekend. When we arrived at Jacob's Lake, the last major place before the Grand Canyon National Park, I called to find out if there was space at the campground. I was told that although she didn't know about today, she could tell me that it was booked out from Wednesday through Friday. I was of a mind to give up there and then, but Juergen thought it was worth at least driving in and checking it out. If we had to drive out again to find a place to spend the night, we still had time.
We drove through the Kaibab National Forest to reach the Grand Canyon NP. We climbed constantly and the scenery became quite alpine. Lots of large pine trees - mostly Ponderosa Pines - with other non-evergreens mixed in. And huge alpine meadows in between, some with small wet areas that almost become lakes. I commented that it really wasn't the scenery that I'd been expecting on the approach to the Grand Canyon, which always looks totally arid - like it is in the middle of the desert. I hadn't realised that the rim is at a height of well over 8000 feet in many places.
We arrived at the campground, and Juergen went up to the gate and got us a campsite. I sat in the truck in awe and wonder!!! I had really expected to be turned away. Then we drove down the road and got our first glimpse of the canyon. I must admit to being a little underwhelmed! You can only see a small part of this giant from one vantage point and as you will see in the photos, it is very difficult to portray. But as we looked at it from more and different vantage points, I began to sense the enormity of it.
We parked at the end of the road by the Visitors Centre and the Grand Canyon Lodge and walked down to the canyon rim. There is a trail overlooking The Transept, that actually goes back to the campground, so we walked along it for a bit and just looked at this enormous hole in the ground from a number of different viewpoints. Eventually we climbed a staircase that brought us to a verandah of the Lodge where you could sit in the sun and gaze at the view.
Since we had decided to stay only one night on the North Rim, we started off early on Wednesday to see the sights before moving on to the South Rim. After a very cold night (about 5°C outside when we got up), it was a beautiful day with clear blue skies - the only mark on the sky coming from the trails left by jets. We drove down to Cape Royal, where one can see the Angel's Window - a large square hole in the rock. There is a viewpoint on top of this outcrop, but I didn't have the courage to walk over the 'window' to get to it! From Cape Royal you can see various large outcrops with names like Vishnu Temple, Freya Castle and Wotan's Throne. From here there is also a glimpse of the Colorado River, the only place on the north rim that it can be seen from. I was beginning to understand that the Grand Canyon is not just one canyon which the Colorado River runs down the middle of, but a lot of side canyon's and huge eroded structures in the middle of them which make it difficult to work out where one canyon meets another. It is just too big to really take in!
We also drove to another lookout point - Point Imperial, which is dominated by Mount Hayden - before leaving the National Park, driving back through the Kaibab National Forest to Jacob's Lake and then on to the Alternate 89 which will eventually take us to the entrance to the South Rim part of the Park.
Continuation on > Page 2 > !