Tuesday, October 19, 2010

north rim v. south rim

The experience driving toward the Vermilion Cliffs was amazing, trying to take in the scope of one's surroundings. After crossing the fledgling Colorado River, the drive alongside the cliff's colorful face was awe-inspiring. Then we came to a pull-off for something called the Cliff Dwellers. The roadside was populated by giant stones the size of cars, many of them precariously balanced forever on a smaller rock. They seemed to defy logic and gravity and as I explored them close-up, dipping my head under an impossible mass that had to fall someday, I sincerely hoped they would remain upright a few moments more.

There were women selling handmade jewelry in front of one of them and the remnants of an ancient brick home built into another. It took something pretty astounding to distract from the expanse of our scenic surroundings, but the otherworldly rocks, suspended in disbelief, were worth stopping for. I said a silent prayer for Wile E. Coyote and we headed toward the Grand Canyon's North Rim.

As with the South Rim, the route to the North Rim is a straight line. One road, running north and south, that goes to the edge and back. But the area around the North Rim isn't as built up as the South Rim. The South Rim is closer to big cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix and gets a lot more visitors. The South Rim has an IMAX movie and busloads of European tourists, the North Rim has a rustic lodge surrounded by dozens of tiny log cabins, each one populated by polite retirees. And at 8,000 ft, the North Rim has 1,000 ft higher altitude than it's southern neighbor.

We parked near the cabins and walked along a narrow pathway that takes you far out onto a ledge. There were guide rails and a strong chain link fence (it would be a black eye for the parks department if too many visitors plummeted to their deaths in the canyon) so we held on tight, braced against the wind and enjoyed the view.

It's difficult to write about the Grand Canyon and try to provide a description that begins do to being there justice. You can try to do the sight justice by taking a photograph, but the results always look sad and flat by comparison. The tiny photo shares little of the experience of standing on the canyon's edge. Well, my digital camera takes little movies, so this should do the trick.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Grand Canyon in all its glory:

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