Magnificent. I could stay there forever, just taking photos and writing poetry. Not only does the view change each day, depending upon the weather, but it can change minute by minute depending upon the clouds, the wind, the angle of the sun . . . and of course where one happens to look.
We are not ones to plan ahead, and we know that it is advisable to make reservations at the Grand Canyon months, or even a year or more in advance. But we can’t even imagine what that would be like, to know a year or more ahead where we need to be on a certain date. There’s a definite risk to traveling with no firm itinerary, but it’s OK – we’re self-contained in our little RV, and I sleep in the same bed each night no matter where I am. And so, we found ourselves approaching the Canyon’s North Rim with no reservations whatsoever – and no misgivings, either! At Jacob Lake we found a campsite for two nights. This is the nearest campground to the Rim offering electricity and water hookups; it is 43 miles away. Once we arrived there, I called the reservations number for the national park campground, and we procured a campsite for the following night; they had one night available. We were in! We could have two whole days at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Wow!
That’s our little secret about traveling the way we do. The national parks campgrounds DO have cancellations and no-shows, and we have always been successful using this strategy. About 15 years ago, we even got a cabin for one night at Yellowstone – and it was Friday of the Fourth of July weekend! That was when we tented across country, before we had an RV, and I do confess that I was nervous about that one because we were already IN the park, which is the size of Rhode Island AND Delaware put together, and if there was no place for us, we would have had a big problem on our hands. So there is definitely risk involved, but we’ve always been lucky, and so we continue to just show up.
Being at the Grand Canyon is difficult to put into words. One thing we’ve noticed (and we were there once before, in 1997) is that when people see it, especially for the first time, they become quiet. If they talk, it’s often in a whisper. There’s something about this place, this sacred, stunning place, that makes adjectives inadequate, leaving in its stead the astonishing awe of the visible majesty. There is little to say and much to perceive.
The first notable thing about being there is a feeling of timelessness. The North Rim gets only about one tenth the number of visitors as the South Rim, so it’s not crowded. There is no Internet, and at the national park campground, there are no hookups for electricity or water or sewer, which isn’t a big deal for us, and in fact it was pleasant knowing that I was isolated and immersed in a basic, no frills lifestyle. We were not connected to the rest of the world, and it gave us a sense of otherworldliness. Ahhh, nice! The pleasure of enjoying the now, the moment at hand, became the focus and the rest of the details dropped away.
Because photography is something that I am passionate about, I just couldn’t wait to get out there with my camera and lenses. When we visited the Canyon in 1997, I was using film, and so the quantity of photos I was willing to take was relatively small. I also decided to play with a roll of black and white, which limited the results while that roll was in the camera. Now of course with digital, it’s a whole new experience and I took full advantage. The light can be tricky, with bright light and deep shadows, so I really needed to use the skills I’ve learned along the way – bracketing the photos by f-stops to make sure I caught the light in the best exposure, or fooling the light meter into proper exposure by metering the camera into the bright light, holding the shutter at that halfway point, and then aiming down into the canyon to get the far off cliffs and colors at their best. It takes a while to sort through all those shots because a lot of them need to be deleted – I’m still working at it and have about 280 photos remaining in the collection out of probably 350 to start with. I am truly happy with many of them.
So now you’re wondering what I took pictures of. Mid-afternoon play of light and clouds. The low light of evening with its soft changing colors. And sunrise with the first play of sunshine on far off cliffs and ledges and canyon walls. I also took pictures of the trees – many of them look to me like the gnarly driftwood I have collected along the Atlantic shoreline, but these are living! The beautiful pathways, steep downs and ups along the canyon rim. And a couple of birds and flowers; sometimes there is great beauty in the small as well as the grand. If you’d like to see more of my photos than what is here, this link will take you to my flickr page for more.
I left the Park satisfied and tired, content and filled. Life is good.