Tuesday, March 6, 2012

We went to see a hole in the ground...

And it turned out to be pretty impressive. I've struggled
with this post ever since. How to describe a sight that defies description? What is there to say about the Grand Canyon that has not been said before? Not much.

So the only good option is to go over our adventure and retell it the way that we saw it from the very beginning of the day.

We had instructions to be at the office of the campground at 9:00 am. Our family is SO good at getting to places on time that we woke up later than we meant to and we still got there almost early.

 This is a picture of us at 9:00 am. The door is open, and as soon as we finish washing the dishes and sorting out the coat problems, we will walk out of it. 

This is a picture of the First Mate, walking to the bright orange van that will take us to the Grand Canyon. It is approximately 9:05. Fortunately, the other family going forgot their camera, so we weren't actually the last ones ready.

The Grand Canyon is about forty-five minutes from Williams, AZ, which is where we were staying.

 Forty-five minutes is a long enough drive to put anyone to sleep. Fortunately, our tour guide Marvelous Marv spent this time pointing out interesting local landmarks, and pointing out wildlife, like this elk.

So we arrived really excited, to see the Grand Canyon, and we all piled out of the big orange van. There was plenty of scrambling for jackets and backpacks and water bottles, but eventually everybody got everything sorted out, and we made our way to the visitor's center.

Where we soon learned that we didn't know very much about Grand Canyon. We didn't even know basic things like the question answered before we even entered the building.

Answer: twenty-two people died here in 2011. Around five million people visited.

After a short video that explored some of the theories on how the canyon formed, the ecosystems of the canyon, some of the history, etc. we took a short hike to the edge of the canyon.

Just for some scale references, those are people standing on the rock in this bottom picture, and they aren't all that far away.
The North Rim, level with the First Mate's nose, is 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim, and is ten miles across the canyon, as the crow flies.

It's a vertical mile down to the bottom.

And in this picture, if you don't look straight at the screen, you can see what looks like a small hill on the horizon. It is actually an ancient volcano sixty-four miles from the place where this picture was taken.

That is not us out on that ledge. 

This is us, not on the ledge. 

So then, after we finished taking pictures of ourselves at the edge of the Grand Canyon, we ate some lunch, and decided to walk a little way down the Bright Angel trail into the canyon. Marv pointed out the farthest point that we were allowed to walk to, and we began.
 Despite the unseasonably warm weather that day, the trail was very icy. In the tracks from the mule trains going down into the canyon, we could clearly see the marks from the tungsten carbide spikes on the bottom of their shoes. The trail didn't exactly look inviting. 

And then came the signs. 
"When mules pass
Stand to the inside of trail
Follow mule guides instructions"

On the other side of this tunnel, the trail became so icy that the only climber we saw coming up was pulling himself up using the canyon wall. We decided to abandon our trek there...

 rather than following it all the way down. (Just kidding, that's an all day hike.)
 Instead, we captured this shot of a Canyon Raven. It took quite a while, as the bird kept flying off at the last minute.

And we spotted this little scrub jay.
 The buildings in the middle are four miles away on foot or mule.

In the middle, the little splash of blue is the Colorado River.

Like all good things, our visit at the canyon had to come to an end. So we all climbed back into the big orange van and drove back forty-five minutes to our campground. 

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