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To the Grand Canyon!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Most people I spoke to told me that I had to drive two hours north and see the Grand Canyon.

Thing is, I was so enchanted by Sedona I could easily have spent the entire stay there. But I listened, and while I was still at home I started looking into lodging near the South Rim. 
After a couple of hours of snooping around online I decided to make a day trip of it and return to Sky Canyon Ranch. Sedona isn't cheap, but the Grand Canyon area is out of sight. I didn't fancy spending my honorarium on a crummy motel on historic (noisy) Rte. 66. 

So I got up early and north I drove, winding through canyons on the scenic route. The biome turned northerly, with tall spruces and firs, and this roadkilled elk calf. And a bit of the car that got him.
I got out to examine him, as I'd never been very close to an elk outside of a zoo. Man, he was huge, easily three times the size of a whitetail, and he had a long way to grow.

My excitement mounted as I got closer to the canyon. I kept trying to imagine what it would look like, this vast crevasse in the earth. 

I found my old friend Cliff Rose, Cowania mexicana, big as a tree. 

I walked toward the first overlook. A rock squirrel (Otospermophilus variegatus) scurried out to bomb my first photo of the Grand Canyon, giving me one of my favorite shots of the trip. Hello and welcome to the South Rim! Step this way and be blown away!

Holy cow. I knew it would be large, but I wasn't expecting infinite. 

I stood transfixed, along with a bunch of other people who, I surmised by their slack jaws, were also seeing it for the first time. 

There would be other overlooks, each with its own perspective. I spent the whole day driving from one to the next, looking at whatever wildlife I found along the way. 

Another earless lizard? Blue belly...I'm only more confused, looking through my reptile guide. Help?

Another overlook. My God. This place is incredible. You're looking at the lip of the canyon there. No railings, no nuthin'. You have never heard so many people yelling at their kids. GET BACK! COME HERE! NOW!! GET OVER HERE NOWWWW!!

They can't put a guardrail around the whole thing. So they don't. And there's a refreshing lack of warning signs, too. Hey. You knew it was The Grand Canyon, right? It's a big hole. Don't fall in.

Because I didn't come here to listen to people screaming at their kids, I'd take a brief gaze at the public overlook (right off the parking lot) then look for the nearest trail that would take me to an unofficial overlook. There I saw things like Indian paintbrush, raising gaudy hands to the sky

with a little rabbitbrush added in

and a beautiful Steller's jay rasping at me

Hey. Watch that edge, greenhorn.

Looking out at this, I felt very, very small and very, very lucky to be here, to have friends who cared enough to kick my butt out of Sedona and encourage me to come here. The Grand Canyon: if you haven't seen it, just go.

I'm going to throw a little kink in the blog with the next four posts. We'll go back to Costa Rica, and I'll tell you how our visit and presentation at Don Alvaro's macaw ranch went. It's been six months since we were there and I owe you a report and my thanks.


This was amazing! Amazing is faint praise for something on the scope of The Grand Canyon, but it will have to suffice. For all its jaw-dropping beauty, however, it somehow inspired some random silliness going through my mind. Such as:

An elk somewhere with a car grille mounted above its fireplace mantle. (Thank you Gary Larson, for helping to hone my silliness quotient!)

The squirrel popping out of nowhere dressed like Joel Grey in Cabaret, narrating the experience for you.

No railings around the Grand Canyon: God's I.Q. test? Darwinism at work? Either one works for me.

Ah, I hope this silly mood lasts all day!

Thanks for reminding me about how I felt when I saw it for the first time. I have been seeing your photos from South Africa on Facebook and remembering my time there in 1998. Anyway, I really appreciate the work you did before going so that your blog followers will not have a lack of stimulation while you are away. Can't wait to read about Costa Rica next!

Poor elk,amazing photos thank you so much for sharing. Warm regards from Portugal_BB

A friend who recently returned from Ireland told us that it was the same way there. No guardrails, no warning signs, just an expectation that people would use common sense on the cliffs and fishing/tour boats. He too found it refreshing...and now I want to see the Grand Canyon.

Gorgeous post. Thanks.

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