March 27, 2015 — You almost don’t have to go to the Grand Canyon, right? If you live in the U.S., you hear about it all the time. You’ve seen tons of television, movie, and Internet footage of it. You’ve listened to a thousand similes and metaphors using it. You’ve witnessed David Copperfield float across it, Cindy and Bobby Brady get lost in it, and Thelma and Louise drive into it.
But that’s going to happen when your country’s most impressive geological feature is also one of the tops on the entire planet and possibly solar system. And its seeming omnipresence in American media and conversation is why I guess I waited this long into my life before even trying it to see it with my own grapes. Still, I couldn’t make it the point of the trip. For us, the Grand Canyon was one stop on a more massive road trip that just happened to encircle it. I was fully prepared to treat it like Clark Griswold. “Great. Let’s go.”
Our route had us entering at the east entrance of the southern rim of the canyon. It was January, and the northern rim was closed for the winter. We pulled into the Desert View lookout point right before sunset.
And we saw it. And it was grand.
Finally, night began to fall, and we reluctantly pulled ourselves away from the gargantuan gorge to check into a hotel. The next morning we were up early enough to see a group of Rocky Mountain Elk dodging trees in the forest (although it wasn’t until later, sorting through the plush toys at the visitor center gift shop, that I was able to name the species). I at first thought that would be the highlight of the day, but when we got out at the first overlook we came to, the entire canyon had changed.
It was full of clouds.
We hurriedly took pictures, thinking it was morning fog that would quickly burn off. But it stayed, thick and stuck like it was spun cotton candy. The bright fog pushed against the sides of the canyons like it had its own tides. I checked the Internet right quick, and the breaking news for the canyon was that we’d inadvertently timed our once in a lifetime trip for a rare natural phenomenon: a total temperature inversion.
Once we learned it was there for the day, we meandered from lookout to lookout, marveling at the phenomenon and the regular lack of guardrails. I’m surprised there aren’t more deaths at the canyon out of pure nature hypnosis. I mean, seasons don’t fear the Reaper. Nor do the wind nor the sun nor total temperature inversions.
|If you look in the upper right corner, that's my wife—just for some scale|
Once we hit Hermit’s Rest at the west end of the rim, we doubled back to exit out the east side. There, the fog had dispersed, if it had ever actually gathered at that end in the first place, and we could see the bottom again, so we got out and peered down like the Roadrunner watching Wile E. Coyote fall. And I don’t know which was more staggering, the open air or the sea of clouds.
All I do know is, man, you must go see the Grand Canyon.