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Over the years I have made several trips to the Grand Canyon National Park:
- 2001 (South Rim, also visiting Wupatki and Sunset Crater),
- 2005 (South Rim, hiking on Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point, hiking on the Grandview Trail to the mesa),
- 2007 (South Rim, hiking down on South Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch, hiking on the Loop Trail Near the Phantom Ranch, hiking up on Bright Angel Trail),
- 2008 (South Rim, hiking down on South Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch, hiking on North Kaibab Trail, hiking up on Bright Angel Trail), and
- 2009 (North Rim).
- 2009, Yes again! (South Rim, hiking down on Bright Angel Trail till Indian Gardens, then cutting across on Tonto Trail till South Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch, hiking up on South Kaibab Trail).
- 2010, Hopefully, hopefully.
As described in the National Geographic's Guide to the National Parks to the United States, the first time visitors to the Grand Canyon are never prepared for what they are about to experience.
As they follow the northbound Highway 64 through the arid and scrubby stretch of land leading towards Grand Canyon, they cannot imagine what is about to unfolded. The featureless landsacpe shows an increase in taller evergreens as the road approaches the park entrance and continues beyond. Then, all on a sudden, at a place called Mather Point, the entire canyon appears almost magically in front of their incredulous eyes. Billions of years of earth's history neatly recorded in stacks of rocks, but ethereally suspended in space. Silent and surreal.
The first description that comes to the visitor's mind is of an ocean of rocks, of all hues and color intensities, of lights and shadows, but frozen in space. However, as you wait to catch your breath from this unexpected vista, something strange and subtle starts to happen -- hundreds of giant and smaller canyons all the way to the small folds in the rocks -- all apppear to slowly gain mysterious fluidity.
If you are musically inclined, you would think of a beautiful symphony. If you have an artistic bend, some of the best paintings man has ever made will come to your mind. If you are carrying the germs of literary inclination within you, chances are a few poems will come to your mind. Finally, if you are a hiker or a photographer, or a geologist or a naturalist, you will immediately realize that you have arrived at your ultimate destination.
However, above all, a feeling of smallness in yourself facing the greatness of nature will slowly dawn on, and then overwhelm, you. Your normal busy life will suddenly seem too distant, almost inconsequential, and you will feel that you have somehow come home, as if you always resided here, being one with the nature, and just took a temporary leave to do some small chores.
The Grand Canyon National Park is situated in the southwest of the United States, in the state of Arizona. The canyon is formed by the Colorado (meaning, color red) river and the numerous stream that feed it. The long and momentous geologic events that have shaped the Grand Canyon over more than a billion years are still active today. There are many scholarly theories describing how the canyon was formed. However, all these scholarly theories and TV programs that include sophisticated 3D animations somehow cannot convince you how this mesmerizing landscape was created. But, you don't need to be convinced, it is just there for you to enjoy!
A visit to the Grand Canyon is usually done at the south rim or the north rim. These are the rims of the canyon; the river is about 10 miles from the rims. The north rim is about 1000ft above the south rim, colder, and is closed during the winter months. Even during summer it is frequented by fewer visitors than the south rim. The birds fly distance between the rims is about 19 miles, which, if you want to drive, would require a whooping 212 miles.
Hiking down the canyon to the Phantom Ranch area at the Colorado river is a strong invitation that is difficult to resist. However, getting reservation at the dormitories and cabins at the Phantom Ranch is another ardous journey, that may require equal persistence and patience. The Phantom Ranch has limited accommodation and due to its immense popularity it fills up very rapidly. The reservation opens on the first day of the month for the same month of the following year. Yet, the spaces for the entire year ahead, including the month, get occupied in a mere couple of hours. One person at athe Xanterra reservation told me that within a couple of hours, the telephone operators field almost 60,000 calls from all over the world! Alas, this is the only way to get a space at the Phantom Ranch (other than the camping spaces), one cannot pre-reserve these space, and there is no waiting list.
Photos from previous trips
[Click on any image.]
Last Revised January 30, 2010