America Day 4 – The Grand Canyon

What a day. Woke to a hard frost in Flagstaff, what a nice little thriving town it is, tucked up under Mount Humphrey which had a little frosting of snow on its cap. Nice leisurely start, drove west along I40 to the historic town of Williams, not much happening there, then headed north – I had booked a plane flight over the Canyon and wanted that to be my first sight of it. Only eight of us and all with a window…. and seeing that Canyon opening up was awe-inspiring to say the least (sit on the left of the plane for the best views).

You fly over the Kaibob State Forest, miles of Ponderosa or Yellow Pine, and all of a sudden the ground drops away… the Colorado river snakes through it with frequent rapids. You can do a ten day white water rafting trip… oh to be younger!

I have to admit it brought a tear to my eye – firstly, because I never thought I would see this, and secondly, the slap in the face reminder of how small and fleeting is human existence – this thing has been here for a couple of million years. Imagine coming across it while happily riding through a forest! Apparently the river is now running through solid granite and only deepening the canyon by about an inch a year, but a lot of rock debris gets washed down after falling, so it’s continually getting wider.

The plane flew along the south rim, over the Small Colorado river (bright turquoise from the mineral content), and down along the North Rim before landing safely. Magnificent.

Then a short drive from the airport up to the edge. More gob-smacking views.

Could not take the grin off my face at this time! It was a lovely day with scattered cloud which made the vista change all the time with shadows and sunlight. The colours were intense, and a young American family and I watched an eagle riding thermals below us for about ten minutes. Divine.

None of the photo’s I took, nor professional ones, can really do justice to this place.

One of the things that has really got to me about the American West is the sky – a vast and ever-changing canopy. The air quality is splendid, visibility can be up to 110 miles… the end of the Canyon in this pic is about 60 miles away.

Driving along the South Rim there are numerous places to pull over and simply drink it in. At one of them I met this crazy guy from Sri Lanka who is two years into a round the world trip by motorbike. He started in Switzerland, has already driven through Asia and Australia, and now on his American leg. Name was Rayan or something similar…

His website is on the back of his bike. He is doing it on the super cheap, says he worked his backside off for years to fund the dream of a lifetime. Nice young man and I wish him luck!

Next stop the ruins of a pueblo near the canyon rim inhabited about 800 years ago, enhanced by the fact that a couple of old Indian women were busy collecting piñon seeds in the brush! She said they still always collect every year but the young ones aren’t interested… There was also a small but informative museum there.

I didn’t ask her what tribe… wish I had

And the final stop – the Watchtower, which was custom designed and built about 80 years ago, using styles and techniques native to the area but not a replica of anything. A folly really, but what a good one!

So… Jimi Hendrix cranking on the ipod and up I went, spectacular views from the top and also from a platform to the side. You’re not allowed on the roof though… bummer.

On the far horizon are the red cliffs that form the edge of the Painted Desert. The sky!

No more canyon pics! Suffice it to say it is everything it’s cracked up to be and more besides. What a glorious day… and the drive back to Flagstaff enhanced by this……

Freezing cold but completely happy when I jumped out of the little car to take this.

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