Day 19 - Wednesday 3 August 2016

Grand and vast gashes in the landÖ

The Grand Canyon

I woke up this morning with the alarm. It was 5.30 (4.30 Arizona time). I got myself ready, out the door and on the road headed east towards Page by 6. The first light of the day was barely poking up. It was that beautiful very early light and stillness only felt at that really early hour of the day. Today I was headed for the Grand Canyon, the East and South Rimís, which consisted of driving about an hour and 15 minutes to Page (and it was a most charming drive watching the sunrise over the mountains in all forms of purples, reds, and oranges through golden yellow and the eventual blue sky), a quick petrol stop at Page, a further hour and 30 minutes or so to Cameron and the turn off to Grand Canyon followed by another 30 minutes until the East Rim of the canyon was reached.

That beautiful peaceful time of day Nor... A misty eastern rim of the Grand Canyon Watchtower to the left, East Rim, Grand Canyon

It was about 9.30 in the morning by now. The weather along the final hour of the drive had gotten progressively worse (if you think rain means progressively worse that is, if you like rain then progressively better). As I neared the entrance to East Rim there was light rain. It bothered me not as I made my way past the Desert View Visitors Centre and to the Watchtower that I could see in the near distance. A little further and there was the Grand Canyon in all of its vastness, spreading out as far as the eye could see. There was fog lying in the canyon to my right, clouds sitting on the very highest peaks to the left and open canyon below. Yes it was extraordinary. A strange sensation came over me. I was cold and I felt myself for the first time since being here in 3 weeks shivering.

After a while looking around beyond the very empty of tourists lookout points (one benefit of the cool and damp was very minimal tourists) I was back in the car heading west along the rim of the canyon. I made stops at Lipan Point and Grandview Point, with each vantage point showing the canyon in all its glory. My final stop was the South Rim visitorís centre to get some information about trekking down into the canyon. I had read the night before that Ooh-Aah Point was good for a day trip. I inquired about this and promptly received a map. I was to catch the South Kiabab bus to the South Kiabab Trailhead and descend. The descent was relatively easy. There were many Germans and French on the trail, not many Americans or any other accents and everyone looked fit and able for the downward spiral into the canyon (I had also read that only 3% of visitors to the canyon actually go down into it.)

Beautiful rock flanking the South Kiabab trail, Grand Canyon

I arrived at Ooh-Aah Point in about 20 minutes so I carried on to the next point on the map, Cedar Ridge, a spectacular ridge that overlooked a spire coming out of the canyon and vast views in all directions around. I perched my self on the very edge of the ridge a little ways off the trail, set up cameras on time-lapse and did some writing exploring the landscape phenomenologically in terms of it being a disturbance in the tensions evident.

The ups and downs of South Kiabab trail Layered rock, just awesome. Looking out towards the downward edge of Cedar Ridge Looking upwards towards Ooh-Aah and the pinnicle of South Kiabab trail

I spent about an hour and half perched on the ledge watching small processions of humans trekking further in and mules with humans on them making their way out. The odd bird would fly overhead, one particularly loud one that was squawking for some time that resonated over the canyon, and cheeky nutty little squirrels everywhere attempting to nick some of the food out of my bag. I amazed at the 2-3,000 feet cliff faces that plateaued to what appeared to be the canyon floor, but then turned into other canyons that sank to some unknown invisible depth below, and probably a further 2-3,000 feet.

I thought much to myself about line. How this canyon formed by erosion and by the meandering line caused by gravity moving water downwards in a spiralling linear fashion over millions and millions of years carving its path eventually into these massive gashes in the land. (Paul Kleeís remark of a line being a dot going for walk came to mind). Essentially this was a dot that has been on a walk for a very long time, with line being usurped for gashes. Perhaps this place should be called the Grand Gashes.

As my time on Cedar Ridge progressed the sun slowly made its presence felt, gradually appearing from behind the clouds and lighting up the canyon changing its visual appearance each time that it reflected on the canyon surfaces below. Colours changed, various parts of the canyon revealed itself with more clarity, different points within it changed with the light. Spaces altered. I imagined being a bird, I imagined being a piece of rock. I imagined myself coming back here another time with my family and it being exactly the same. Thinking about time and space is inescapable in a place like this.

Looking out over the edge of Cedar Ridge

The trek back up I wasnít looking forward to but the time had come, I drank some water and commenced the climb. It was a steady going upwards with no respite unless you made yourself stop, which I did only once at Ooh-Aah point for a drink before making the final ascent to the top. The round trip hike was about 3 miles in length but the ascent made it seem much tougher and everyone seemed to be feeling it. Iím glad I did this trail though as when I got back up to the visitors centre for a quick look at Mather Point (recommended in last nights reading) it was so ridiculously crowded with tourists (lots of American and Japanese this time, and mostly overweight) swinging selfie sticks in the air, shouting at their kids to get away from the edge even though they were no where near it, and having their photo taken with arms spread in the air in a carefree conquering fashion of course with the still canyon in the background.

Mather Point is the classic Grand Canyon image that if you were to pick up a tourist brochure then that would be the image that you see. It was human chaos at Mather on a grand scale. I took photos of 3 lots of people in the same manner described above just to avoid seeing more selfie sticks being unravelled. I couldnít even face going down onto Mather Point as the throng of people was just too much. I deviated left as I saw some people who had climbed down onto an edge (and who were getting their photo taken on it of course) and I climbed my down there too.

One of the many great gashes within the canyon More beautiful rock Ooh-Aah Point Awesome sky before hitting the interstate

At least being amongst 15 people was better than 150. I perched myself on a edge nearby, next to where the 15 others were swapping photos of themselves with canyon in background. I wrote some more and watched two birds (ravenís I think they were, which I thought was pretty cool as I was wearing my ĎNevermoreí t-shirt in homage to Edgar Allen-Poe) glide across the cliff faces before sailing off down into the canyon. Behind me I noticed the skies looking angry and getting very dark grey. It was now about 3.30 in the afternoon and probably time for me to hit the road headed back to Sedona. I walked up past the throngs of visitors, found my car parked all the way over in carpark 3 (remember this is probably the busiest national park in America, but it is so well organised in terms of amenities and I guess it has to be with the huge volume of visitors that it gets) hopped in and commenced the approximate 2 hour drive back.

Within 5 minutes of driving a thunderstorm of great magnitude hit. Iím glad I got out of the canyon when I did as it was heading straight for it and Iím sure many tourists would have felt it. For the next 10 minutes the windscreen wipers were working flat-out, visibility was difficult and flash flooding was affecting the roads as I drove through fast forming puddles covering half of the roadway surface.

My drive to Sedona went through 3 more brutal thunderstorms, I followed highway 64 south for an hour (nothing special), then about 30 minutes driving east along interstate 40 to Flagstaff (nothing special here either), a few miles along route 66 into Flagstaff (where I took a wrong turn then had to back track, mild panic ensued) before finding my way southwards onto highway 89a down into Oak Creek Canyon and finally Sedona (a very beautiful leafy forested and mountainous road to finish of the dayís driving with). Once in Sedona I found something to eat, purchased a few supplies and was soon back at the casita. I said hi to Hassan, Charlotte soon arrived and we talked a bit more for a while. My eyelids were headed south so I declined the offer of dinner with them, went into my casita, unpacked, put on some laundry and went to bed. I was shattered.

More great gashes in the canyon