July 17, 2012

The Canyon Is Grand...

This summer, I spent my vacation in and around Phoenix, Arizona with Sugar, my dear friend from college. Sugar wanted to come out west to visit her sister in law, who lives in Tempe, (pronounced Tem-PEE.) We decided to take a two day excursion out of town and head north to the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon is actually a part of a huge national park. The canyon itself is enormus, spanning a length of 277 "river" miles, as many as 18 miles wide and one mile in depth. There are two rims, north and south, just 10 miles across. However, one would have to drive 215 miles, however, to the north rim from the south. We visited three points on the south rim.

The formation of the Grand Canyon is the story of the power of water. The Canyon was formed by the Colorado River which flows from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California. For 5 or 6 million years, the volume of the water has varied, based on the season and amounts of rainfall. Each rain washed sparsely vegetated soils into the river. The combinations of the steep gradient and heavy sediment loads contributed to the erosion of the canyon walls. This is considered a relatively recent development in the Canyon's history, however, as the rocks in the Canyon walls reveal approximately 12 goelogic layers that are 2,000,000,000 (that's billion) years old.

Grand Canyon National Park visitors in cars can pay one flat fee of $25 to drive through and see the canyon from four points: the Yavapai Geology museum, Verkamp's Visitor Center (inlcuding pioneer history,) Tusayan Museum of Native American cultures, and the Desert View center in the east. There is also a free shuttle bus system that allows visitors to see many more points, but limits the time at each stop. (We saw many people running to catch their buses.) You can also rent a mule to climb down the canyon (something we were tempted to do but did not.) There are also bicycles for rent, hiking trails of varying degrees of difficulty and even overnight camping in some areas. Information provided by the National Park Service Grand Canyon brochure.

Visitors on an overlook

My photos here were taken from three different overlooks of the south rim of the canyon. We were there mid-day on a cloudy day for which there was a 50% chance of thunderstorms. Although we only experienced light rain for a few moments, we could see a storm off in the distance and I tried very hard to capture lightening, which looked spectacular when it occurred.

The storm in the distance

The Grand Canyon is breathtaking. There is no other way to describe it.

Photographs do not do it justice.

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