The Grand Canyon — Just Being There

It’s the planning before a trip that almost kills it. I’m not a happy-go-lucky trip planner. It’s my nature to over-engineer, to want to tie down every little detail, to fret about all the uncontrollable and unknowable elements that constitute an adventure. What if? What if? What if?  Then I worry about things that might happen while we’re gone, everything from an early hurricane to a water leak that floods the house. Once all those concerns are tamped down, the existential ones begin. What are we running from? What are we running to? Do we really want to go anywhere?  Did I ever tell you I’m a really fun gal?

Sometimes a trip is just a trip. I’m sorry now that I was still wrapped too tight to go down into the Grand Canyon. After our experience at Bryce, I understand now that (a) I had the physical ability to do it and (b) our experience at Grand Canyon would have been even fuller, more dimensional, and we would have in some ineffable way, become part of the canyon.

This insight, however, is like life in general, where the “if onlyies” can only be seen backwards, and each step along the path, even those tentative ones where we edge up to the rim, have to happen before we can enjoy the lush valleys of life, before we build the emotional strength to descend into arid canyons, play among the rocky amphitheatres and struggle, victorious, to the sky.

I don’t mean to leave the impression that we just walked to the rim and peered over. Over our three nights there, we hiked both paved and unpaved portions of the rim trail, from Mather Point all the way to Pima Point, near Hermit’s Rest, where we caught a shuttle back. We rousted ourselves out of bed about 4:30 one morning to go out to Yavapai and Mather Points to watch a sunrise. We walked the Trail of Time.

The Grand Canyon Village, at the South Rim, is a crossroads of pilgrims from all over the world. Roughly five million visit every year. The average visit length is two hours.

Two hours. I thought that was a typo when I read it in some park literature. That was before I saw the tour buses lined up like runners at a marathon line, the bass notes of diesel engines ever-present. Tour directors blew whistles at their charges and barked instructions like drill sergeants. “Okay, people. Look at your watches. It’s 10 o’clock. One hour! Got it? The rim is that way! Be back eleven o’clock! Not back? Long walk to Los Angeles!”

Most of the visitors we saw were Japanese, Chinese, German and French. This was true not only for the Grand Canyon, but Zion and Bryce as well. We heard many languages, and saw beautiful children. We mingled with folks at the geology museum, rim restaurants, and on the more highly traveled paved portions of the rim trail.

Mostly, though, we found spots out on the unpaved portions of the rim trail, areas where most visitors had neither time, inclination or perhaps ability to wander, and we stood or sat, and just took it all in.

Next: Hoover Dam, then Las Vegas

14 thoughts on “The Grand Canyon — Just Being There

  1. Personally, I believe even the peering over the south rim of the Grand Canyon is sufficient in wow factor — when we most recently visited, our children were much to young to do very much but peer over, and the looks on their faces said it all.

    Your sunrise photo is astounding!


  2. I’m loving your road trip, Beth. I, too, used to over-think and over-plan a trip. That’s why I have come to love escorted trips where all those details are not my job. My job is to show up on time and have fun. I did, however, spend four glorious days at the Grand Canyon before my Road Scholar escorted hikes upriver at Marble Canyon. Two of those four days involved mules.

    I simply cannot imagine you and Buck in Las Vegas. This I will have to see.


  3. Beth,
    Thank you so much for this. We are in the middle of “planning” a Memorial Day weekend getaway, and I am so annoyed at myself for how much I am fretting over the details. You remind me that I am not alone in this act of being imperfectly human, and that it is okay to just “take a trip” every once in a while. I love the photos, too. The color and depth you capture is simply amazing.


    1. Thanks, Kate. I’m so grateful to be in the “digital point and shoot” camera age, where I’m no longer afraid to try to take pictures. My little Canon PowerShot SD950 is getting some age and mileage on it, but I love it.


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