After driving all night through Arizona and Nevada, we finally arrived at the edge of the canyon just as the early morning fog was beginning to lift from the snow-carpeted ground. The dawn snowfall had just prevented us from seeing the emerging sun herald the beginnings of new winter’s day. But after a short wait at the view deck at Mather Point, we could see the fog gently fade from view. Soon the sun’s rays were piercing the early morning calm to reveal the vast and magnificent expanse of the Grand Canyon.
Our trip to the Canyon took place during our last year of living and working in southern California. Two friends visiting from the Philippines had asked us to take them either to Yosemite National Park or to the Grand Canyon. We’ve already visited Yosemite so we opted for the latter. Along with a teammate and his family, all eight of us made the overnight trip, driving more than 500 miles from our home in San Diego to the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
We’ve seen photographs of the Grand Canyon numerous times before but were unprepared to experience its vastness in real life. 277 miles or 446 kilometers long, the Canyon stretches as far as the eye can see. Steep rocky walls in varied hues of red, orange, yellow and brown descended more than a mile to the floor of the canyon where they met the raging waters of the Colorado River. Here and there were patches of green trees and shrubs. The light snow that had fallen added its contrasting white to a canvas of earth colors and presented us with a spectacle we had not seen before in photographs of the vast canyon.
At the South Rim, the most popular and accessible destination inside Grand Canyon National Park, we drove along Desert View Drive (Highway 64) to get to the different viewpoints. Mather Point, Yavapai Point, Moran Point, Lipan Point and Desert View are just a few of the almost two dozen viewpoints. We first headed for the Grand Canyon Village for breakfast and some shopping before proceeding to the viewpoints.
Yavapai and Lipan Points have the better panoramic views of the Canyon, with Yavapai Point also offering views of the Colorado River below. Desert View lies at the eastern end of Desert View Drive and we were able to see the edge of the Grand Canyon here including the desert to the east.
One can experience the Grand Canyon from three areas: the South Rim (which has already been mentioned), the West Rim and the North Rim. The West Rim includes Grand Canyon West and the Havasu Canyon. Havasu Canyon is the location of the famous blue-green waterfalls of Havasu, Navajo and Mooney. The North Rim is 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim and therefore cooler. The views of the canyon from the North Rim are quite different from that at the South Rim. It also has plants and animals that cannot be found in the South Rim. Because of heavy snow, the North Rim is closed to visitors during winter. The South Rim, however, is open at all times of the year.
It might be snowing at both the North and South Rims during winter – the South Rim is about 7,000 feet above sea level – but the temperatures at the bottom part of the Canyon along the Colorado River are similar to that found in Arizona’s desert regions. Although morning snowfall was light when we visited the Grand Canyon, it had become heavy by the time we left and headed back to Flagstaff where we would spend the night.
Our initial plan was to pass by Sedona and Red Rock Country on our way back to San Diego the following day. However there was heavy snow when we woke up at our small hotel in Flagstaff. Consequently, we were advised by the hotel staff to just avoid Sedona altogether and to drive back the way we came. We were somewhat disappointed, of course, but as we drove back to San Diego we were more than thankful that we got to experience for ourselves one of the wonders of nature on this planet.