The beauty of the Grand Canyon
This is the 6th part of a series that describes a trip we took several years ago. If you have not read the first part, click here.
I woke early and climbed out of the tent to look around at the Jacob Lake Forest Service Campground. After all the KOA’s it was nice to sit in my camp chair sipping my coffee and only have trees for company. After the hot days it felt strange to be chilly, but our elevation here was 7900 ft. I decided to let the kids sleep late, and I simply relaxed, listening to near silence, only the rattle of the Mexican jumping beans on the wooden picnic table. This was our one purchase from Albuquerque.
Our campsite looked like the west of my memory, and imagination, tall pine trees with no underbrush, deep blue high elevation sky, with the feel of a clear soft air. A humming bird zipped through camp visiting the flowers.
Yesterday during the drive I had had a scare only the mother of driving teens can understand. Joseph was driving through a beautiful rugged landscape. The road had been straight for miles, and slowly we began climbing spectacular mesas. The height of the mesa was deceptive as we drove upward; the car took a long wide curve, and started downhill with a sheer drop of thousands of feet, just under my window. Right by Joseph’s ear I screamed, “Slow down, slow down, slow down.” I was in a total panic. Startled, he struggled to not run off the road. The sudden height scared me and my screams scared Joseph. He responded well, but I felt extremely helpless. Once the panic of my screams wore off, the kids teased me, saying, “Mom is afraid of heights,” but it was more than that. It was a helpless, completely out of control feeling.
In Tuba City we bought milkshakes, and I drove, back in control. It was hot, and my car wasn’t driving correctly. Worried about the strain on the engine, I turned off the air conditioning, rolled down the windows and instantly felt hot, drained, and dry. I could see energy leaving my body.
We drove, and drove. Everyone fell asleep but me. I was driving on 89A, still flat. After a time I began to see a faint purple line far down the road. After an hour of driving the purple line had become a purple wedge along the horizon. The sun was setting and the purples, pinks, and blues in the distance were fabulous. The colors softened as the air cooled, in slow paced waves. The purple wedge developed into a wall called the Vermillion Cliffs. We crossed the Navajo Bridge over the Colorado River and stopped to enjoy the view. The water snaked along a riverbed, passing through various shades of purple and then continuing on to work on the Grand Canyon.
It was dark when we finally arrived at the campground. We set up by flashlight, quickly gulped down a supper, and collapsed into bed, our forgotten firewood resting beside the fire ring.
Now we were all well rested, and happy with the cool weather and beautiful campsite. After a lazy morning we decided to see the Grand Canyon. I had no expectations about what we would see. We entered the park and paid for a National Park’s Pass. Following signs we drove through wooded areas for quite some time. Driving down the tree lined road I wasn’t sure where the canyon, or parking would be. I was just driving. Suddenly the trees parted on the left. At the edge of the road the canyon fell, deeper than our vision. Once again I felt vertigo while driving. The trees had hidden the steep canyon, and the suddenness of the fall made my very security on land feel like a lie.
The Grand Canyon was everything we expected and more. We explored the North Rim, just leisurely moving from one pull out to another, following every trail, stopping to look and simple stopping at times to absorb the beauty. We felt no need to rush, no need to be everywhere, just a need to look. The wind was brutal, and strong, and the canyon deep. The paths were full of people. There were times I held on to Laura for fear of the wind blowing her away.
I had been told more people visit the South Rim, that the wait to enter the park could be an hour or more during the busy summer months, and that the crowds were huge. We chose the North Rim for those reasons, and although there were lots of people, I never felt crowded. The immensity and grandeur of the canyon erased the presence of the people.
That night we enjoyed our campfire and relaxed. I sat in my chair in the ring of light, and enjoyed the crackle of the fire. Beyond the firelight it was dark, like only forest service campgrounds can be. We were finally camping.