We left Monument Valley, headed for the Grand Canyon. The name evokes childhood memories of awe and wonder, dreams of what it must be like to be at, see, and experience. Is it hot? is it cold? where did it come from? exactly how big are we talking here? what if you fall off the edge? some kids are lucky and their parents take them when they’re young, others have to be content with their dreams and what people tell them about it, until their old enough to get there by themselves, preferably with a loved one. Once you walk to the canyons edge, the answers come pretty quick.
When you’re traveling across the country, it’s inevitable that you will cross through indian territory. The Navajo tribe and reservation is the largest in the U.S. a great portion of it is the Painted Desert, which lies between Monument Valley, and The Grand Canyon. Truly a magical desert, filled with lizards, cacti, insects, dinosaur bones, and their petrified tracks, beautiful colored mountains, hills, and flatlands, the sky, and landscape mixing into one glorious canvas, evoking images of the Jurassic. It’s a high desert, so the clouds are unusually low, and come in curious shapes and sizes. The scenes change fast, if you are paying attention. Enthralled by this desert for years before I’d seen it, it certainly lives up to it’s name. This is Indian territory. You know because they leave it like they found it, thousands of years ago. In the same way you know when you’re in white man territory, strip malls, Burger King, Denny’s, Wal-mart, it’s obvious.
Suddenly the desert turns into the Kaibab forest, land of many uses, and as you are rising you notice a deep crevasse, a profound crack in the ground. Eye opening, this is hardly the beginning. The unnamed canyon disappears, and you are surrounded by alpine forest. Beautiful, sunny, fresh, clean, crisp air scented with pine, the feeling of something big is close by in the back of your mind, along with the possibility of seeing elk or even a mountain lion, more on the forefront. For 25 miles you drive until you reach Desert View.
The Watchtower is located at Desert View. Majestic, masterfully designed, and placed in the landscape perched at the edge of the Grand Canyon. It was surprisingly cold when we stepped outside of our van, no warning from the sunny skies and inviting atmosphere, except for the odd snow drift, crusted with dirt and ice, extending their mortality in the shadows, hiding from the sun. Finally, after a light stroll from the parking lot, we step to the edge of the canyon.
Words cannot describe the first impression of the canyon. It’s enormous, gigantic, miles across, the empty space that is essentially part of it, and a direct byproduct, immense. You look down into the canyon, and it seems to go straight down. You are watching birds fly, from well above them. Ravens flying around, playing games with your mind. You now know what it feels like to be an eagle, watching all birds from above. The great Colorado river, miles below, snakes and bends through the canyon like a blue ribbon, carving through the rock ever deeper. The mighty canyon walls speak of it’s power. On a quiet windless day, the infamous crystal rapids roar can be heard faintly from above. It’s hard to tell what’s bigger. The canyon itself, or the space it creates? you’ve only scene a fraction of it.
The setting sun, glinting and reflecting off the water below, golden and blinding. Thoughts of science, geology, and the great creator pass through your mind as you try to process something this large, on a physical scale. There’s nothing bigger than the Grand Canyon, it’s the biggest thing on earth beside the Pacific Ocean. Massive, beyond comprehension.