I was 50 years old before visiting the Grand Canyon for the first time, even though I’d lived in striking distance most of my life. Dave Sherrill and I had ridden to Flagstaff from Grand Junction on our motorcycles for Memorial Day weekend. We got up early one of the mornings while there and rode to the Canyon. I was awe struck by the visit that day and the reaction when returning many times since is the always the same. This is our second visit in the year 2016. We enjoyed a day there from a stay in Flagstaff with Aaron and family and Jessica and family in June. I want to share some photos though they never do justice to what we saw.
We got up early and drove up Oak Creek Canyon from Sedona in the morning darkness to Flagstaff and then down Highway 180 to the Park. We arrived about 8:15 – the winter sun on this day of the Winter Solstice was still low in the morning sky. It was mostly cloudy with the sun breaking through here and there – the combination of shadows from the canyon formations on themselves and the shadows from the sun peeking in and out from behind clouds gave the views from the overlooks a sense of depth I’d not experienced in other visits.
The temperature was in the mid-20s as we stopped at the first overlook on the spur to Hermit’s Rest. It felt chilly with a slight breeze. The Park road to Hermit’s Rest was open to personal autos this visit. Most visits the overlooks on this road can only be accessed on shuttle buses that run every few minutes. On those visits, you exit the bus with a group at the overlooks you choose, spend the time there you want and then catch another shuttle to the next one. A visit with access by your own vehicle is very nice. There’s a measure of freedom and convenience that the shuttle buses don’t provide. We were almost by ourselves on the overlooks in the early morning cold – the Park became busier later as the sun warmed the air into the 50s by the time we left. There are a number of overlooks with places to park on this road which is 12 miles long – it begins close to the center of action at the village by the train station. There is a walking trail which connects all the overlooks. We walked the trail from Hermit’s Rest back toward the Pima overlook for a mile and return. We saw only one other group on the entire walk – a large family of visitors from the Middle East who, though I didn’t understand their words, were smiling and laughing and taking pictures and being amazed just as we were.
Each visit to the Park renews a sense of reverence which seems to engulf as you look out at the landscape. The vastness – the myriad of shapes carved by the elements in rock – the manifestation of the power of natural forces working over time – the realization that creation exists in a continuum – that beauty and wonder are worked by submitting to the forces of their existence – that good things were created and exist not in isolation, but in mutual cooperation. The wonders of the Grand Canyon are evidence that good has always existed – we don’t have to create good – it comes from aligning ourselves and joining with forces that have always been its subsistence. The experience is intensely spiritual. I’m sure this sense is not just in me – it is seen over and over in the faces and eyes of the visitors encountered during a day at the Park. The sense of reverence is a blessing – as much as the experience shouts my insignificance; it also proves that even in seeming helplessness each element exists with purpose.
We hope to be back to the Grand Canyon someday. It will continue to beckon our return.