St Joseph, Michigan, USA
We were all set to witness the most spectacular natural wonder of the World…the Grand Canyon…simply grand! The South and the West rims are considered to be the most beautiful and one fine morning we left from Las Vegas to take a look at one side of this rocky structure.
There were a few stops and change of vehicles involved in the entire journey, as, much of the roads nearer to the West Rim were untreated…sort of dirt roads on which all sorts of cars and buses couldn’t ply.
As we drove, our first stop was Lake Mead, one of the lakes that were created by blocking River Colorado and a little away was the first photo stop, the Hoover Dam…one of America’s greatest engineering marvels. The river looked beautiful here and the entire combo of the river, dam and the clear sky was breathtaking.
Our journey continued on the deserted roads of Arizona, not a soul to be seen anywhere, totally barren and rugged yet hauntingly beautiful. We stopped at a junction from where we were to change over to another vehicle that was fit to travel on the untreated roads that started from there. We waited amid the barren landscape with nothing around except the beautiful Joshua trees. These picturesque, spike-leafed evergreen trees are common only in the desert regions of the United States and Arizona is one of that regions.
Next 30 minutes we were on the dirt road. The smell of sand and dirt filled our noses as the road snaked through the thousand year old Joshua tree forest and far away we could see the canyon walls….heavenly!
We reached the central point of the west rim from where other buses took off for the two points, Eagle’s and Guano and it was also the helicopter base. As we were booked for the helicopter ride, we quickly reached the landing strip. Soon we were aboard and the moment the helicopter took off, the beauty was beyond compare. Miles and miles of chiseled rock, deep curves, gorges and crevices…black, brown, gray…did anyone say that the rainbow was beautiful…I beg to differ. And among these dark shades of rocks was the River Colorado; green in color and beautiful. We landed at the base of the canyon, it was warm but breezy. A long flight of stony steps and a moderate walking trail led us to the pontoon on the river from where we would take a boat ride on the Colorado. A 30 minute boat ride on the Colorado gave us a closer look at the canyon and its high walls. The river looked magnificent when it meandered between two gigantic walls that formed a V shape.
It was time for us to return to the base and visit the other view points; Eagle’s point being the first. This point is also made famous by the controversial skywalk. Depositing all bags, cell phones & cameras, we ‘did’ the skywalk. With glass floors through which one can see the canyon thousands of feet below, the feeling is a bit unnerving, but the views… priceless. Spending some time there watching a tribal dance and clicking some mind blowing shots of the canyon, we left for our next stop, the Guano point. The canyon here is more like a tableland; of red rock and with an absolutely flat top…so flat that one would think it was manmade. I picked up a couple of medium sized rocks which I brought home, washed, dried and preserved as a memento.
Next day, we were once again on the roads, this time on the historic route 66, the first national highway of US that took us to the South Rim of the Canyon. As we reached the South Rim, the first impression was just mind blowing…the sheer gigantic size of the rocks, the superb intricacy of patterns on the huge rocks were too beautiful. Unlike the West Rim, the Canyon walls here are inaccessible, far away and huge. Yet we could make out the shapes, designs and most interestingly the play of colors on the rocks as the sun moved from the east to the west.
The south rim has a beautiful walking trail that runs parallel to the Canyon walls and reaches the Yavapai geological museum which has mind blowing views of the Canyon. On our way to this museum we were awestruck by the variety of shapes, colors, deep chasms and serrated edges of the rocks and only felt how insignificant we were when compared to Nature.
The museum could not offer us any view as it was too crowded so we started walking back on the same path to reach the sunset point that offered superb views of the walls and rocks during sunset.
The fresh air was awesome and we were captivated by the soft shadows of the rocks on rocks. As it was time for the sun to set, the multi-colored sky gradually gave way to an enigmatic horizon onto which the big round red ball dipped… It was such a magnificent sight that it seemed even the cool breeze quieted down to watch the display…for a change, there wasn’t any twinkles from all over, rather there were colours…yellow, red, bright orange; it was so beautiful, such a simple natural phenomenon, made so special by the mystical ambience. The temperature dropped perceptibly and we began to feel the chill and realized that it was time to return.
What we see as today’s Colorado plateau was formed millions of years back by some force of Nature. The river, since then is carving its way through the rocks and has created this magnificent Canyon. As we gazed down the deep gorge, far below we spotted a patch of blue-green, the Colorado River, meandering away along the rift and when I listened with my heart, I even heard its gurgling sound that was quietly fading away in the horizon…bliss!
The article was first published on the Economic Times