No picture or video will ever prepare you for that moment when you arrive at the edge of those 7,000 feet cliffs and set your eyes into the vast, superb and majestic Grand Canyon. It’s such a breathtaking experience that will leave you in awe of nature and its wondrous works. Billions of years of geological and bio-atmospheric conditions have sculpted and modeled layers and layers of rocks transforming what was once a mountain into a plateau of diverse peaks and valleys whose colors change at every time of the day.
The sun bathes the rocks in different shades of yellows, oranges and reds making the landscape in front of you alive and of an intimidating beauty that will swallow you. The vista is also surprisingly different at every view point, one can never get tired but motivated to walk and explore this giant in all its splendor.
After parking our RV at the Trailer Village in the South Rim part of the Grand Canyon National Park, we went to the visitor center where we watched an introductory video on the history of the canyon. From there, we walked to Mather Point and spotted some more scenarios and wild life (some crows, hawks and turkey vultures flying over the plateau like they own it.) We caught a free outdoor Park Ranger program on the formation of the canyon and saw some three-dimensional models and displays with beautifully crafted artwork at the Yavapai Point and Geology Museum. Here we were able to use some big telescopes to get a closer view of the other side, the North Rim.
We decided to admire the sunset at the Canyon Rim, specifically at the Bright Angel Lodge, (where we also stopped for dinner, since barbecuing was prohibited at the campground for fire restriction alerts.) Again, no picture does justice to the real painting that dances in front of your eyes; it’s pure magic and poetry. I loved strolling around the little pathway that leads to the Lookout Studio and loved even more browsing inside this romantic little cottage. It’s a small store with a wide variety of interesting merchandise featuring art, photography, rocks and items celebrating the California Condors that frequent the area seasonally.
At dusk we headed back to the visitor center for the annual Star Party (I couldn’t believe our luck to be there right when this event unfolded) where dozens of locals or aficionados kindly display and share their huge telescopes with everyone to admire the firmament. The first planet I saw was Saturn and I was so excited to see all the rings and even the shades so clearly that my “wooowww!!” caught the curiosity of fellow star gazers. We made friends with a nice couple from the UK, some chaperones from Colorado and hopped from one telescope to another waiting for our turn to look into the universe. It was so pitch dark and exciting, it really felt like a party. We saw myriads of stars in a nebulosa (donut shaped) and star cluster made of 200 million stars! The sky was so clear and unaltered by any artificial light that you could almost see all the galaxies without any telescope, so fantastic! Back at the campground, I was so happy to fall asleep with our skylight open into the starry night.
The next day, we jumped in one of the free shuttles (they efficiently serve the South Rim Park at any time of the day with rides at every 10 minutes) and went up the red line to the furthest view point in the South Rim, the Hermit’s Rest. We so enjoyed driving through the beautiful road that traces the canyon; you can take pictures from the bus and decide where to stop based on the map but also on the driver’s suggestions. They all act as tour guides as they drive, they graciously explain the features and characteristics of every sight and based on their advice, we got off at a couple of stops (Mohave Point being the best with close views of the Colorado river!) One thing that I was surprised to see is that, when you drive on the road alongside the canyon, especially in the sections where you’re surrounded by trees on both sides, you might think you’re in the mountains. The air smells so good and clean that you have the illusion that you’re even in Yosemite! I would never have thought that the Grand Canyon Park could be so green, I pictured it being just a giant collection of rocks inside out. LOL! Also, by riding the bus, I noticed that the residential area is pretty big and well organized, when I imagined the Grand Canyon to be deserted (with the exception of the camp grounds, the visitor center and the grocery store.)
We continued our tour by driving East down to Desert View with the Watchtower being our destination. At 7,438 feet, Desert View is the highest point on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, and the Watchtower rises an additional 70 feet. Designed by Mary Colter (another woman architect!! Girl power!) and built in 1932, its design was based on towers Colter found at ancient pueblos in the Four Corners region. The Watchtower has a circular staircase that takes to a beautiful room featuring famed Hopi artist Fred Kabotie’s murals of petroglyphs, pictographs and artifacts. There is a second-floor rooftop terrace overlooking the canyon, the Colorado river, and Plateau, and Navajo lands. The tower also hosts a gift shop that offers authentic Native American arts and handcrafts, along with other southwestern gifts.