Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Grand Canyon

July 19

We weren’t planning to visit Hoover Dam, since we’d been there before, in 1997. But the road from Henderson to Grand Canyon City takes us right through the dam area, so we can’t avoid stopping to gawk once again at this amazing feat of engineering in the middle of the beautiful Nevada desert.

The views on this trip are beautiful, as we wend our way to the National Geographic’s Grand Canyon visitor center. “This, “ says Garry, “is the jumping-off point for the activities in the canyon’s South Rim.” I grimace at his unfortunate word choice.

Once at the visitor center, we have a host of treats ahead of us. First, a preview of what we are to see – a movie on the big IMAX movie screen that has us marveling, holding our breath, and ducking, as the larger-than-life scene takes us on a glider plane’s-eye-view of this natural wonder, the Grand Canyon.

Then, we head on a small tour bus with our able young guide, Angie, who gives us a fact-filled tour of the south Rim. This high plateau, over 7,000 feet high, is the third highest plateau in the world. She introduces us to the trees that live there: the Ponderosa pine, which smells like butterscotch; the Pinon pine, whose tiny nuts are harvested carefully by native workers (who are the only people who are allowed to gather the pine nuts which are used by industry and the public as-is or in making pesto); and the juniper, with its large blue berries.

Angie fills us in on some of the fascinating lore of the native peoples of the canyon, early pioneering explorers, and recent follies such as the fellow who only two weeks ago drove his car off the ledge in a Thelma-&-Louise gesture to end it all. (He accomplished his mission. The car is yet to be retrieved from the bottom of the canyon.) She also gives us little geology lessons, as we peer in amazement at the breathtaking, multi-layered, multi-colored scene before us.

Although our tour is four full hours long, it is only a little taste of the overwhelming marvels of the canyon. So much more to see and do: hike the trails, raft the rapids, fly into the center. Too much for one afternoon, for sure. Perhaps we’ll get back some day.

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