Travel Diary
 
May 18, 2003
Grand Canyon, AZ


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The Grand Canyon is big. Huge in fact. It's bigger than the pictures you've seen. It's bigger than the numbers you've heard. Little prepared us for walking up to the edge the first time. Or all of the times for that matter. There really aren't words to describe just how big it really it. We'll try anyway.

The Grand Canyon is measured in length by the Colorado River which runs through it. The river is 277 miles long. For perspective, the Grand Canyon is longer than the distance from Chicago to Detroit (as the crow flies). That's 80 miles farther than New York is from Boston. That's farther than Vancouver, BC is from Portland. That's big. Really big.

Our perspective was challenged, however, by simply looking across this Grand Canyon. From Grand Canyon Village on the south rim across to the north rim is a distance of approximately eight miles. That doesn't sound like much when you read "eight miles". The distance is wide enough though, that on an average day the other side appears hazy. Everything nearby doesn't look hazy, but across to the other side is curiously hazy. The haze is simply a result of looking through eight miles of air. Think about standing on top of your house and trying to see something eight miles away. From where our house was in Kirkland, that would be like trying to see the Space Needle.

Nothing prepared us for the depth either. It's deep. Really deep. On average, from the edge of the south rim to the river, the depth is approximately 5000 feet. That's almost a mile down. A mile!

When you look into the Canyon, it is easy to be confused by the size of things when you see the river. It looks like an appropriate size for the hole you're looking into. But then the numbers confuse you once again. On average, the Colorado River is about 300 feet wide. That's one football field wide. That's a big river. And it's a mile below. Wow…

In any case, all this talk of size really boils down to one thing. You have to experience the Grand Canyon in person. No photograph will ever do it justice. Not even the fancy professional work you've seen in movies or on postcards. Certainly not the photos we're posting here. It's an amazing thing to see and it will play games with your sense of size and scale because it is so big. Huge. Grand.

Sunrise on the days we were there were not particularly spectacular, but it did give Pete a chance to get up early (around 4:30am) to have a special moment with the local wildlife. For perspective, the squirrel is about 5 feet away. The north rim in the distance: eight miles.

Grand Canyon Squirrel

Sunset on our first night was spectacular. After the sun went down, the clouds continued to catch the light which resulted in this "fire" in the sky.

Grand Canyon Fire In The Sky

Here's gratuitous proof that we were at the Grand Canyon together.

Pete and Mary at the Grand Canyon

This image is looking down the length of the Canyon to the west. You can see the river approximately one mile below.

Grand Canyon Colorado River

As the sun set, the light brought out the colors from the different layers of the canyon walls. It is estimated that the layers at the bottom of the canyon are 1.8 billion years old.

Grand Canyon Late Day Sun

Finally, here's a photo of another beautiful sunset.

Grand Canyon Star Sunset

From here we're on our way to the concrete Grand Canyon - Las Vegas.

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