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American Road Trip, 1998


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1998-07-27 - 22:01:59

Grand Canyon

MONDAY, JULY 27, BLANDING, UTAH — Felt rather cool in St. George this morning, and it didn’t get much hotter. The three-hour drive down to the Grand Canyon got better as it went on — entering Kaibab National Forest, rising to 7- and 8,000 feet, the air became really cool and tall pines and rolling meadows had me wondering if I was in Arizona or New England. Cool air, tall pines, forest smells. The sky stretched a clear blue for miles, only a few puffy clouds to accent the scene. Entering Grand Canyon National Park and getting closer to North Rim, my heart quickened knowing I was nearing a long-awaited sight unparalleled. The road winded into North Rim and the pleasant cottages and lodge there. I parked and walked to the view without my camera at first. It was breathtaking. Amazing. I stood there listening to the silence, looking at the red sand, sheer rocks, towering formations and bottomless drops. The only sound (it was easy to block out the other people, who weren’t really that loud anyway, themselves taken in by the sight) was the wind whooshing across the crevasse. Out there, nothing but an amazing natural treasure.

I bought a book and some postcards so I could write a few right there and went back for my camera, then walking along the trail out to Bright Angel Pt. A think rain fell for 20 minutes, but only added to the mysticism. I spent an hour just looking into what the Colorado River had cut into the northern Arizona desert.

At the lodge I sat in a wooden rocker and wrote cards to Bryan, Mia and Michelle — people just sat there, talking, reading, and simply looking out at nothing but the Earth. Don’t see that too often. When I was finished, I sent the cards, wandered around, ate and left. And I’m still in awe.

The whole drive — though dragging on on two-lane lone state roads — provided sights the whole way. Blue sky to one side, dark clouds and lightning to the other for a while through Arizona — until I hit the storm. Sagebrush desert everywhere, flatlands leading to the mesas, tableaus and formations of the desert and, later, Monument Valley. Saw the mighty Colorado sweeping along in its brown chasm. After the rainstorm I passed through Mexican Hat, Utah, as the sun shone on the rocks as if made solely to illuminate the open spaces of Utah, Arizona, and the rest of the Southwest. From a distance near Page, Arizona, I saw Lake Powell — Edward Abbey’s least-favorite body of water — and drove on, not interested in a yuppie playplace. Out in those open lands, you wonder where the side roads lead, besides out of sight, and you try to predict the path of your route over or around the mountains that lie in your way. When you come to the top of a hill, looking down you see the ribbon highway wind over the hills and across the plains, and you know it’s yours because there are no others.

Grand Canyon drive down through Utah into Arizona — desert sagebrush on all sides stretches out to the rock formations and mesas. Below, south, lies the Canyon. Long, straight highways lead into the hills — the Kaibab Plateau and National Forest. Ahead sits a mountain wall and I look to find the road snaking into the desert haze. In the mountains the air gets cool — tall pines reach up and it begins to look and smell like cool New England summertime. Hand out the window — the air is cool, crisp, clearer here at 6,000 feet and dipping, climbing. But at 67 construction standstill, the sun on my arm is hot again, though the air still pleasant. Cars parked — engines off, we sit patiently, me enjoying the pine mountain air while yellow dirty construction vehicles maneuver in Arizona wilderness.

Vast America
Stretches out far in the West
In all directions

Sunset shining red
Illuminating the rocks
As if by design

Previous page: Las Vegas
Next page: Moab

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