a slash in the earth

Posted: September 3, 2016 in Photography, Travel
Tags: , , , , , ,


For as long as my memory stretches I have seen movies and television shows set at the Grand Canyon. I have seen countless photographs full of color, shadows and light shot by world-class photographers. I have read about the mule trains and the meandering Colorado River. I have flown over this enormous slash in the earth, looking down at its jagged edges and deep ravines from 35,000 feet. So I assumed an actual ground-based visit would only confirm what I thought I knew: the Grand Canyon would seem as familiar as the New York skyline.


The Grand Canyon Railway deposits travelers near the famous El Tovar hotel. A climb up a couple of stairways takes you to the hotel entrance with the south rim of the canyon looming a few hundred feet north. From this distance I already realized I seriously underestimated what I was about to see. As I continued toward the rim the canyon’s majesty hit me like a roundhouse kick. I felt the tears start in my abdomen, push their way up past my pounding heart, then squeeze through my larynx on a march to my eyes. I am not one who likes to cry in public, so I gathered myself as best as possible lest I start blubbering right there among the other tourists. Yet a few tears escaped because some things just cannot be contained.


In the past I listened to people talk about how the canyon assumes a new face each season, how each day the shifting clouds reveal hidden secrets, how no two visits are ever the same. I listened, but did not hear. A few hours at this one small area of the Grand Canyon illuminated everything they said. One, two or three visits are not enough. A week, a month is not enough. A lifetime is not enough if you hope to fully appreciate what an unbelievably awe-inspiring miracle of geological evolution this is.


As you grow older reality exceeds expectations less and less. Sometimes you doubt it ever will again. I am glad my doubts were crushed and I felt that beautiful sensation one more time. Even if it meant shedding a few tears in public.


  1. Rick says:

    I want to ride that train one of these days.


  2. Lee says:

    It is an amazing, profound place. I saw it first at age 21 (me, not it), and my young reaction was “That’s one hell of a hole!”. It wasn’t until later that I began to have some comprehension of how old it is. On a raft trip down the Colorado, there’s a place called the Great Uncomformity you can easily hike to where you can put place one hand a foot above the other hand — and where the top hand is touching rocks that are “only” 500 million years, while the rocks under your bottom hand are 1.7 billion years old.
    The other thing that struck me was that it’s constantly changing — not just its look based on lighting, etc, but it itself, but sooooo slowly. On our raft trip, we observed a small rock fall. Our guide has spent perhaps a 1,000 days in the canyon in the past 25 years, but this was only the second rock fall he had ever witnessed. Imagine how many such rock falls were needed to create the canyon as it is today.
    I recall hearing once that if all the humans who ever lived were piled up in the canyon, it would hardly make a dent in “filling it up”.
    All of this gives a different perspective on who we are and what our lives encompass….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. rangewriter says:

    I’m glad you had the opportunity to moisten the air above the abyss. It isn’t grand for nothing, eh? The light playing across it makes it come alive. I bet you would enjoy it with snow, as well.
    I have a friend who has been going there, usually by herself, at least once a year for at least 15 years. She’s hiked in and out, meandered around, taken a plethora of classes and group trips, and yet she still hasn’t gotten enough.
    Oddly, I’ve been once and that was enough for me. Majestic as it is, it’s just not the kind of landscape that turns me to jelly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • John says:

      New Jersey, as gorgeous as parts of it can be (shhh, don’t tell anyone), does not and cannot properly prepare a person for the overwhelming impact ff the western landscape’s majesty, including the GC. I suspect being in Idaho equips a person markedly better to deal with this type of stuff. Or maybe I’m just a softie.


      • rangewriter says:

        Well, most of my friends from Idaho AND Wyoming also adore the GC. But as a child, growing up in expanses of nothing but shadows drifting over barren country from one horizon to the next, seems to have jaded my weary eyes. I go weak at the knees over forests and waterfalls. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

Whatcha got to say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s