Yesterday I returned to the Grand Canyon after an absence of more than 40 years. I came here the first time when I was on home leave between assignments in Kenya and Malawi for the American foreign aid program. Even after all that time, the Grand Canyon looked familiar.
It is, of course, the most famous, most beautiful, and most spectacular hole in the ground anywhere. The Grand Canyon is also one of the most photographed places on earth. It would probably rate high on any list of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World.”
Like all landscapes, photographing the Grand Canyon is a matter of timing. It looks best the first thing in the morning and the last thing in the evening. But even then it is a difficult subject to pose because of the shadows of the canyon walls often block the sun from the river.
To me, photographing the Grand Canyon without showing the Colorado River that made it in millions of years is like trying to explain the joy of sex without ever have seen a woman’s body. But most of the Grand Canyon’s overlooks don’t show its creative force. Even the one almost satisfactory photograph that I took yesterday shows only a small section of the river. I captured this view just half an hour before sunset from the Navajo Point Overlook, the one furthest east from the park headquarters:
My first foray yesterday to the Grand Canyon came in the early afternoon. What a difference the stark light at midday makes on the Grand Canyon’s vibrant colors and immense form:
I figured that the best use of my time yesterday afternoon was to take a hike. While the park has several hikes down into the canyon that at first impression sounded attractive, when I looked into them they sounded too much like hard work. The most famous of these hikes is a steep descent of more than nine miles and more than 4,000 feet to Phantom Ranch, where the park has primitive overnight accommodations. Instead I chose to walk my allotted 10,000 steps on the much more pleasant Rim Trail.
The day was short-sleeve weather. It surprised me, because the South Rim of the Canyon is more than 7,000 feet high and this is, after all, March. And patches of snow still remain on the ground.
The number of visitors here also surprised me. At the first overlook I stopped at, Mather Point, hundreds of people crowded around. A large proportion of them were speaking languages other than English.
Yesterday I not only ended my day near the Colorado River but I also started it in Needles. Getting up just at sunrise to photograph the much tamer Colorado between Arizona and Colorado, I captured this rather different view of the mighty river: