Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Eight hours at the Grand Canyon’s south rim

The Grand Canyon has been named one of the seven natural wonders of the world and, while I enjoyed the views at Bryce Canyon more, walking around and into this massive gorge carved out by the Colorado River was still incredible.

I began my visit at Desert View, which is the highest point on the south rim and provides a good look at the river. There’s a watchtower with Aboriginal decor that was built early in the 20th century that offered some different focal perspectives.

From there it was on to Mather Point, which was quite crowded because of its close proximity to the visitor centre. I walked west along the Rim Trail to Yavapai Point and then got off the trail and climbed out on to a rock overhanging the canyon to try and get a few more dramatic photos. It was probably stupid, since I learned later that a young man plunged to his death near Mather Point doing something similar that same afternoon, and it was the only time I did that while at the canyon. So kids, let this be a lesson to you: Stay on marked trails.

After dropping off my luggage in my room at Yavapai Lodge, three friends joined me on a free shuttle bus to Bright Angel Trailhead, which takes you down more than 1,300 metres to the canyon floor. It’s a two-day journey if you plan to hike the 30.6-kilometre round trip to the Bright Angel Campground and back, and I only had an afternoon and early evening to spare, so we ventured about two kilometres down before returning.

We passed through the upper and lower tunnels and stopped short of the first resthouse. With breaks to take photos of the stunning vistas, it took 40 minutes to hike down and 25 to get back up.

The next goal was to walk to Hopi Point to see the sunset, and the 3.2-kilometre route along the Rim Trail took us past Trailview Overlook, Maricopa Point and Powell Point. The rocks seemed to change colour as the sun dropped before it went down for good at 8:49 p.m.

The immensity of the canyon (446 kilometres long and an average of 16 kilometres wide) is jaw-dropping, considering the part I could see only comprised a small part of it.

The shuttle bus returned us to where we had picked it up earlier in the day, and a restaurant near the lodge served me a salad, garlic bread and a heaping portion of penne with meat sauce along with a pint of very good locally brewed wheat beer for $21.95. It was a clear night, which made for some great star-watching considering the relative remoteness of the area.

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