Its age? Its height from the river to the highest point on the North Rim? Its width from the South to the North Rim? The spectacular night sky? The ever-changing colors and shadows? That consarned fog that hid and then brilliantly lifted/separated to reveal the jewel that was the Canyon? Getting lost when tramping back from the South Rim and wandering into the wrong parking area?
All of the above added to my recent experience at the Grand Canyon, but what really made it wonderful was the people I met: most but not all retired; Cowgirl Ms. P, who almost missed the bus when she spotted a nearby Starbucks at a rest stop; the goat-raiser; the former New Jerseyite now enjoying the west coast of Florida; the Texans; the Coloradans worried about the recent Boulder floods; the Swede whose lilting speech immediately transported me back to my visit in 1999 to Uppsala and the wonderful cathedral whose pipe organ rattled my bones; and so many other memorable people. Our “fearless leaders,” Jeff and Dave, were both patient and firm as we, their charges, wandered (like non-herdable cats) whenever the vans stopped or they walked with us to the Rim, and sometimes over it! This particular Road Scholar adventure moved to the top of the list of similarly-sponsored adventures I’ve enjoyed.
Persons who’ve never been to the Canyon may want to consider exploring its challenges while enjoying the myriad views. The book I purchased: Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon (by Ghiglieri and Myers) continues to confound me with the stupidity of people who should know better even as it makes clear the risks that too many visitors have unwittingly ignored and, as Jeff once remarked, “died to regret it.” We saw examples of such carelessness several times, as when several women and men posed beyond the fencing and/or walls for that “perfect” picture or raced along the trails when a steady walk would have accomplished the same goal without risking an inadvertent stumble followed by a looonnnnngggg fall over the side. One such recounting in the book made me wonder if the gentleman who fell 1200 feet thought himself a bird without wings before he made fatal contact with the stones.
Our occasional encounters with the birds (the condor at Navaho Bridge comes to mind) and the animals of the Canyon (especially the mule deer and elk) also added to our engagement with the place. I continue to chuckle at the encounter of the field mouse who thought there was safety under one bed in a cabin on the North Rim until the squeals of one of our members urgently encouraged it to go elsewhere.
Spectacular sunrises were exclaimed over by those early-risers determined to take them in. I prefer to remember the rainbow we caught while hiking along the South Rim, and the sunset while dining on the North Rim. In short, the colors amazed, whether they were created by the sun on the rocks, the shadows on same, or the ever-changing sky, with or without the rainclouds that created rushing rust-colored water in the washes we crossed.
The canyon, visible from space, is indeed GRAND up close, too. There’s just no other word that even begins to do it justice.