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Red Rock Road Trip

 Saturday, 9/6/97 

Grand Canyon: The Adventure Begins

"Do nothing to mar its grandeur for the ages have been at work upon it and man cannot improve it. Keep it for your children, your children's children, and all who come after you...." ---Theodore Roosevelt, at the dedication of Grand Canyon National Park
Upon my arrival, I discovered Arizona was apparently having a Governorless Weekend in my honor (the convicted Governor vacated office Friday, but the new one was too busy to be sworn in until Monday). I also discovered a more localized Ugly Political Baby when I rented my GMC Jimmy (nicknamed The White Whale, in honor of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson). In Phoenix, there is an *incredible* 21% sales tax on car rentals, *plus*, you have to pay a $2.50 Grapefruit League fee for minor league baseball. I didn't bother to ask why local taxes were subsidizing a private business. I just got the hell out of Dodge.

1st view of the Canyon (11kb)

The 3 hour drive from Phoenix might bore many, but it got me in the "southwest" mindset. Everything to the horizon was freshly alien to my eyes, and the horizon seems a whole lot farther away than it is in Georgia. Highway 180 heading northwest out of Flagstaff was particularly unique, taking you up over 8000 feet into lush forest, including horse pastures filled with blooming wildflowers. I cursed that my gear was still packed for air travel.

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view from Mather Point (15kb)

Mather Point. For the first sunset, I did the touristy thing, and headed to the closest place to the South Entrance, Mather Point. It is very popular, an excellent place to view the sunset, and being a Saturday the crowd was thick. However, most folks stay where there are rails. Little corrals for humans, to keep them from the danger of Nature's Abyss.

"As long as I retain my feeling and my passion for Nature, I can partly soften or subdue my other passions and resist or endure those of others." ---Lord Byron

Canyon buttes in silouette (8kb)

But at Mather, and most of the other points, a short hike along the rim trail will give you the same view, some solitude, and allow you to come to your own terms with "The Edge." Some feel they must challenge Mother Nature by pushing The Edge. I saw one young man on a 3 foot wide precipice, lying on his back with his head & shoulders hanging off one side, and his legs off the other, stretching as though just getting out of bed. Of course, if you get up on the wrong side of *that* bed, it's quite a rush, though rather brief.

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sunset light from Mather Point (11kb)

Take heed. The Edge is a dangerous and unforgiving place, and equally magnetic to those who want to truly "experience" the Grand Canyon. It is not somewhere to take chances, nor are they required to enjoy the view. But I saw people take amazingly stupid risks for no reason other than to thrill or impress. Me? In the course of my research, I read that last May, a man just slipped on some gravel *near* The Edge, and went over. In places, it's 3000 feet down. I loved the rim trail, but I was hyperconcious of my position and the terrain.

"Nature takes as long as it needs, because it can. Nature owns time. Men only borrow it."
--- David Liebowitz

Canyon shadows (11kb)

My first view of the canyon affected me differently than I expected, quite unlike Yosemite, where your first view is tantamount to Mother Nature whopping you upside the head with a 2x4. Having seen so many images of the Grand Canyon, my first impression was one mainly of simple recognition, and a deeper realization of the scale that no 8x10 glossy can convey. People are moved to express profound thoughts, like the woman who came up behind me, and on her first look, said, "Lawd, that's a BIG hole."

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sunset light from Mather Point (12kb)

But, in my opinion, true appreciation of this place requires the added element of time. Over the course of a day, or even one sunset, one realizes Mother Nature is using a time-released 2x4, as the play of light on the shapes and contours is mesmerizing. And it never ends....

"Life admits not of delays; when pleasure can be had, it is fit to catch it: every hour takes away part of the things that please us, and perhaps part of our disposition to be pleased." ---Samuel Johnson

sunset in the Canyon (11kb)

At one point, it appeared the setting sun was gone behind the clouds for good, and I sat back to reflect for a moment before leaving. I thought about the fact I rose at 5am EDT, and wouldn't get to bed until the equivalent of 1am EDT (a 20 hour day). So as I prepared to leave....it came back. A rich red glow hit the peaks, and Mother nature made it clear more film would be required.

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after sunset, from Mather Point (10kb)

When I was finally leaving, I noticed a young guy with a Georgia Tech t-shirt, and said, "you're not from....?" Yes, it turns out he and 3 buddies had just completed a non-stop 1900 mile drive from Atlanta, just to see the Grand Canyon, and experience the same first sunset I had. You can get away from home, but not necessarily the homies.

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