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Travel: The Grand Canyon

 

At the Mather point overlook, the sunlight hit peaks of the mile-high rocks, just as when its middle portion are still blue. Shadows and highlights moved faster than my own head movements. I pulled my jacket, scarf and hat closer to my body. It’s 7:07AM, in a bitter -2 degree winter morning. This is my first time to catch the sunrise at the Grand Canyon.

 
I’ve been here for a day, but it’s difficult to fathom the grandiose Canyon at first glance. Mainly because people just might be too tired when they arrive. Visitors often come a long way — my mom and I was in the car for twelve hours driving from San Diego. It’s easy to say, “Okay, I’ve seen the seventh wonder of the world. I can leave now.” I pity those who have dismissed the Grand Canyon just like that. It’s one of the fewest places in the world with safe access to billion-year old rocks; oldest historical evidence of North American population, and multi-colored sunrises and sunsets. 
 
Mather Point at 7AM

 

11 AM
4PM
 

As a local artist said, “You only have two hours to paint/draw quickly, before the Canyon changes its colors drastically.” These drastic changes hit home. I had just accepted a job offer as a programming assistant/editor at a commercial studio. That’s as big as a change gets for a 22-year old alien permitted to work in the US (my current visa status, verbatim).  Even if I’ve done several internships at media companies before, this is my first real paid “job” out of school. I’m driving my own car, filling out tax forms, applying for social security, and have responsibility now to a career. As soon as I get back from this trip, I’m starting my first day at work — a big incentive to enjoy what I have in front of me. No internet and phone calls. Simply, a time to inhale all of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and its 11 overlooks.

February 12th, Tuesday

My mom have always wanted to see the Grand Canyon. She’s a full-fledged outdoor person who loves road trips (“Eventually, we all become our mothers.“) On our first day at the park, we went straight to the Visitor Center to double-check our Grand Canyon itinerary. We are only going to be here for two days so we want to pack as much activities as possible.


Their newspaper, called the “The Guide” is the most useful thing I found. It has bus times, maps and updates. As a first to-do, I chose an ambitious hike down to one of the most famous trails in the world, the ‘Bright Angel Trail.’ After a few yards walking down, my mom slipped. I fell on my behind too, almost breaking my camera lens in half. At that point, we decided to just back out. I’ve never declined a hike before, but it was just too dangerous without proper equipment: rain/hiking boots, mountain sticks and snow chains.

Bright Angel Trail
Note the icy path, deep plunge, and lack of equipment. Still happy though.
 
At noon, my Mom and I grabbed lunch at the Maswik Lodge’s cafeteria. I’ve always wondered how certain foods cannot be improved, like a Mexican burrito here that was as good as the authentic ones in San Diego. I gobbled up that 700-calorie meal and took servings from my Mom’s corn chowder. I highly recommend eating there — cheap, fast and fresh. 
 
Next up is a sunset tour of Hermit’s Route. I read up on Frommer’s and learned that the South Rim has two sides: the west (Hermit’s Route with seven overlooks) and east (four overlooks). Car, bus or hiking access is dependent on the season. The paved roads, signs and the overlooks have protective bars for tourists. I can only imagine the government’s investment in this national park. The contrast too — on one side you’ll see cement and metal, on the other, wilderness. How many people have fallen off these innocent looking cliffs? (Answer: 600 since the 1870). 

Living dangerously at Pipe Creek Vista

Out of all the seven other overlooks, my mom and I settled at Hopi Point (Frommer’s recommendation). There, we had a 180-degree view of South Rim’s west side and partial views of the Colorado river. 

 
Tourist shot of Hopi Point. This place could be filled up to hundreds of people during summer’s
peak season.
Mom
My mom with lit-up eyes and unmasked joy.
 
As soon as the sunset ended, we hurried back to our cars to prevent hypothermia. Those things are a real threat in deserts and we are in Arizona. I took a warm bath at our room Bright Angel Lodge, plugged in a heated blanket (one of the best inventions, ever) and drifted off to sleep early. 
 
February 13th, Wednesday
 
The first thing I did upon waking up was to look at the window. “The sunrise is coming!”, I shrieked.  My mom and I hauled all our belongings to the car and drove as fast as possible to Mather’s Point at the Visitor Center. As soon as we parked, I ran, and left her only with echoes of my voice: “This way!”
 
I wanted to catch the sunrise. And I did.
 
Mather’s Point Overlook at 6:50AM
An unedited, golden picture. At this moment, I wished I was a painter.

I thought about my impending work, the company of my beloved mother, the view in front of me, and how healthy and loved I was at that moment. I hid my camera in the bag. I smiled and took a deep yoga breath, to let all the Canyon’s first color sink within.

 

My first connection to the Grand Canyon was witnessing it at the crack of dawn. Hi from my mom and I!

 
Even though the drive to Desert View is last on our itinerary, it apparently has the best view of the entire South Rim. These are pictures on the way to the 25-mile drive there: Yaki Point, Pipe Creek Vista, and Lipan Point.
 
Yaki Point
Winter hiking OOTD at Yaki Point
Rim Trail
The ‘Rim Trail’ with leftover snow
At Desert View, there’s a watch tower designed by Mary Colter. An important figure in Grand Canyon’s history, this architect fought to preserve ruins and honor natural structures. One of them is Bright Angel Lodge, where we stayed at. Anyway, this is the Desert View Watch Tower.
 
 

 



 
Here at the park, the colors change as fast as the rocks are old. Gold, blue, brown, pink, red — all within hours of each other. The Vishnu Temple, a rock formation at the Grand Canyon, has evidence of existing for 1.5 billion years. That’s half the age of planet earth. Four years ago, I wanted an American education. Then I wanted to work. Now, I have achieved all that. And I want more – tenure, challenges, creative freedom, to learn and enrich in a professional setting. The Grand Canyon goes through changes so easily and honorably, as if a mere checklist. That’s one lesson for a mere youngster like me. 
 
The best picture of all?
 
Saved the best for last.