“There are no words or pictures that can accurately capture the views of the Grand Canyon,” someone standing next to me uttered as we gazed out at one of the view points.
This was my third visit to the Grand Canyon. I made a brief foray to the South Rim when I was much younger, and stopped at the North Rim three years ago, but didn’t have much time to linger. My prior visits provided snapshots of the canyon – each from a single location and moment in time. On my last visit I vowed to return and spend more time. When I found out that my friend Donna had similar experiences and aspirations, we decided to plan a trip after the summer tourist season was over.
After checking into our RV park at Jacob Lake 42 miles north of the Grand Canyon, we headed straight for the rim. It was already late in the afternoon and we parked ourselves on chairs along the low wall bordering the porch of the Lodge to watch the changing light.
It was threatening to rain, which provided additional depth and light patterns. As the light began to fade, we sat mesmerized, not wanting to leave. We took turns slipping away to get coffee from the Roughrider Saloon. Since Donna was going to drive back to Jacob Lake, mine was a Grand Canyon coffee, complete with 3 different coffee liqueurs!
As dusk approached and the sun sunk towards the horizon, it peeked through to highlight selected cliffs. I took deep breaths of the cooling air and sighed in contentment.
All of a sudden, we looked through the windows of the lodge and saw a bright glow on the western horizon. Everyone on the porch got up en masse and headed through the lodge to the porch on the opposite side – just in time to capture the brilliance of the fading sun.
It was raining as we wound our way along the road to Cape Royal the next morning. The aspens were starting to turn. We passed through two different burned areas – one of them quite recent with the pungent smell of damp ashes. The National Parks Service had several educational signs discussing the benefits of lightning burns to rejuvenate the forest.
By time we arrived at Cape Royal the rain had stopped and we followed the paved trail out to the point. We stopped to take pictures of Angel’s Window and noticed people looking like ants as they walked across the top.
At the point, we discovered that this location jutted out into the canyon making it the closest distance to the south rim.
“Visiting this location really gives me a better grasp of the size of the Grand Canyon,” I told Donna. As I gazed in awe at the ripples of color, I couldn’t help but think of Haydn’s oratorio, “The Heavens are Telling,” that our choir had been practicing before I left on the trip.
On the way back to the parking lot, I followed the trail out to the end of overlook on top of the Angel’s Window. As I looked over the edge, I could see the Colorado River snaking through the canyon far below.
After lunch, we checked into the National Park campground and were lucky to get a spot along the periphery where nuthatches, chickadees, bluebirds, juncos and a variety of woodpeckers flitted and swooped among the trees. A Least Chipmunk busied itself eating acorns.
We followed the Transept Trail over to the Lodge where we encountered a Mule Deer doe and her two fawns. After listening to a ranger talk about the California Condor, we followed the Bright Angel Trail out to a point where there was a spectacular view of the canyon. Through my binoculars I could see the late afternoon sun reflecting off of the windows of Grand Canyon Village directly across on the south rim.
On the way back to the campground on the Bridle Trail, I pondered that I had achieved another goal on this trip – the opportunity to hike on a variety of trails.
We lingered over breakfast the next morning enjoying the views from the picnic table outside of the camper and wanting to savor our last moments on the plateau. And then it was time to head towards Flagstaff for our final night before home.