National Park Week: The beauty of the Grand Canyon

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Cedar Ridge, South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon has been a drawcard for visitors well before it was decreed a national park in 1919. Native American tribes have called this area home for thousands of years, and tourism has been a feature since the nineteenth century. I cannot imagine ever being able to look out at the view without being awestruck – the sheer scale cannot be appreciated through photographs.

There is ongoing debate amongst geologists regarding the specifics of how the Canyon was formed, and just when the formation took place. However, there is a general agreement that over millions of years the Colorado River and its tributaries cut out the canyon we see today. For a more detailed discussion, you can look here. The result is breathtaking, and lures you back for repeat visits.

Both Ashby and I have visited the Canyon before, but under quite different circumstances. I was here five years ago as part of a Trek America trip I did across the US. We camped out and I hiked into the Canyon. Ashby came here as a small boy, travelling across America with his Mum. We opted to stay two nights as we had a long drive day to get to the Canyon, and wanted the chance to hike down. Luckily enough, we managed to snag one of the last available campsites – the campground full sign went up not long after.

Camping at the Grand Canyon is a cool experience. It’s cost effective and close to the action. Each site has a fire pit, picnic table and good amount of space to call your own. There is a great set up, with grocery stores, restaurants, and lodging available if you want it. Millions visit each year but it is still possible to find your own little spots of solitude (at least when you visit in April – summer might be a little more difficult). The weather varies from snow in winter, through to be 40°C days in summer. The shoulder seasons appear to be the best time to visit, particularly if you want to hike.

Hiking the Grand Canyon

We opted to do the South Kaibab trail, mainly because it is touted as one of the more stunning day hikes to do in the Canyon. Whilst I had done this particular walk before, it was five years ago and my memory for these things is not the best. Conscious of the warm weather, and the deceptiveness of walking downhill first (oh so easy to overestimate your ability to get back up) we set out midmorning.

We made it down to Skeleton Point for our lunch break. The Colorado River snakes along the Canyon floor below and a multi-day rafting mission along it has now been added to both of our bucket lists. Any activity in the Canyon itself requires some pretty intense planning, as mule rides, rafting and accommodation are often booked months in advance.

The walk up is obviously slower, but a good time to stop to admire the view. We took our time, but this was quite an accessible walk (despite my lack of fitness) as long as you have plenty of food and water. Mind you, it was warm enough in spring time – I do not think I would want to tackle this during the heat of summer!

One of the real highlights, however, of our visit to the Grand Canyon was hearing a Ranger Talk on the wondrous creature that is the Mountain Lion. It deserves more than a few lines, so I will reflect more on that in my next blog.

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