Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Road Trip: Grand Canyon Unlit and Illuminated

Never arrive at a campsite at night, especially for your first visit, and especially if you have any inclination towards wimpy-ness.

It was way too dark. And it was cold. All we could see were shadows of the looming forest trees, the barely discernable street signs and the occasional brave (or slightly crazy) person headed into the blackened forest for a nighttime shower. I was just a little bit leery.

Okay, time to set up. We shone the headlights toward our lot and took down the camping gear. Well, when I say “we” I really mean my much more savvy camping companion, who very confidently claimed that he could assemble the tent with his eyes closed. Don’t need my help? Great, no argument here. I’ll just sit patiently in the warm safety of the car, and write. Lost in my thoughts and words, I hardly noticed when ten minutes later the tent was still in a flat pile on the ground. Maybe I should be helping…the consideration of lending a hand vanished as quickly as it appeared when I saw an unidentified flying creature breeze by the windshield. I’m sure he can figure it out on his own.

He eventually got it, lined it with sleeping pads, bags, and warm blankets. After a quick cup of hot tea courtesy of Jetboil (the greatest camping invention of all time) it was time for bed. Thankfully, the pure exhaustion of the day kept my wimpy fears at bay and I fell asleep.

The morning came faster than I wanted it to, but since we had missed the sunset over the Canyon last night, we had to catch the sunrise. So at 5:30 am (I hope this ridiculously early rising is not becoming a habit) we loaded up and headed for the nearest Canyon viewpoint. We were just a tiny bit late for sunrise–it had kind of already risen–but it didn’t matter.


Awestruck would not do justice to the feeling I had when the Grand Canyon first came into view. This natural wonder is beyond amazing. Its vastness is something that cannot be explained or comprehended unless you are standing at the Canyon’s mercy on your own two feet. It was bigger, grander, and more incredible than I could have ever imagined. As I stood at an unnerving point to pose for photos, I was literally and figuratively at the edge of life. I had never felt more alive–or freaked out–but I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything.

We took a bike ride around the rim in the 56-degree morning air. It was cold and the air was thin, so I didn’t last long before taking a much needed food break. A peek into the Hopi house to look at the beautiful, hand-made Native American treasures, and a full tummy later, it was time to head back. The difference between the Grand Canyon unlit in the starry night and illuminated in the morning sun was stark. Its glory is much better appreciated in the safety of daylight. It is sad to leave this place knowing that we have barely scratched the surface, but our time was well spent. I am sure the power of this Grand Canyon will call me again one day and I will come running. But for now, on to New Mexico…


Verity said...

Setting up camp at night time is the worst! We once went on a girl scout camp and only got there at night. We couldn't find an easy place to but up the tents (huge bell tents that are extremely difficult to raise, involving ropes, complicated folding and a lot of pulling and swearing). We basically set it up on the flattest place we could find (which involved bedding back a small sapling tree and sleeping on a slight slope). The next morning we found out that half a minute into the bush there was a perfectly flat campground. But the tents were so hard to put up we just left them :)

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