The Grand Canyon

MARCH 2009…

I have decided not to document my travels based on when I was there, but rather, on how much inspiration I came home with. On the top of my list, with truckloads of inspiration, is none other than my “big picture”, the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon, to the uninitiated, may look like just a pile of rocks. They are not wrong, of course. But, it is an extraordinary pile of rocks 446 km long and 29 km wide carved out by the Colorado River in Arizona, USA, over millions of years. That’s like 10 of Singapore placed end to end in an east-west alignment.

Given its mammoth size accumulated through the gruelling passage of time, it is no surprise that the Grand Canyon sits on the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Compared to other wonders of the world (natural or otherwise), the Grand Canyon may not be as cheerful in colour, unique in architectural design or mesmerising in interactivity (think northern lights), but it still takes your breath away. The key is to see it in person.

Mather Point at the Grand Canyon South Rim.

The panoramic view of the Grand Canyon from the South Rim.

Not being a competent driver, I took a bus coach tour from Las Vegas to get to the Grand Canyon South Rim. As with most bus coach tours, the day starts early at 7.30 am with the hotel pick-up. After lunch and a photo stop at Hoover Dam, it was well into the afternoon by the time we reached the Grand Canyon National Park.

Mather Point at the Grand Canyon South Rim.

The Grand Canyon is so huge it is demarcated into the North Rim and South Rim, each with its own attractions and Visitor’s Centre. The South Rim of the park is open throughout the year, while the North Rim is usually closed for winter. So, do check out the park’s website before you head there.

Mather Point at the Grand Canyon South Rim.

The first thing that hit me when I reached the Grand Canyon was its sheer size. Even with the safety railings, I still got a serious case of acrophobia when I looked down into the 1.6 km-deep canyon.

As I moved down the side of the canyon, the juxtaposition of the cliff edges gave an ever slightly different view and feel. Much to the detriment of my camera. Because for every 10 steps I took along the edge, I took an equivalent of 10 photos in various combinations: portrait, landscape, 25% zoom, 50% zoom, etc. I clocked close to 100 photos in that 1 to 2 hours.

Till this day, I have not managed to identify a representative photo or a favourite one, because they all look equally spectacular (and similar).

The Bright Angel Lodge at the Grand Canyon South Rim.

The Bright Angel Lodge at the Grand Canyon South Rim.

Due to the limited time we had at the park, my area of activity was largely confined to the Visitor’s Centre, Mather Point and the Bright Angel Lodge. This is the usual bane of day-trips. So, if time is on your side, do consider an overnight stay to see all the sights and fully appreciate the scale of the canyon.

You could explore a trail or two, hike down the canyon, sail the Colorado River in a raft, hike back up, ride a mule and see the stars at night. Not interested in breaking a sweat? Take to the skies for a bird’s eye view in a helicopter tour then. The Grand Canyon has it all.

The Grand Canyon National Park is truly one whole adventure on its own, rather than an afterthought (my bad). But for the time-starved city dweller like me, the splash of refreshing nature, even if it only lasted two hours, was all I need.

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