Tag Archive for ‘landscape’

And on to 36 Degrees North – The Grand Canyon!

And on to 36 Degrees North – The Grand Canyon!

As I’m sure everyone knows the Grand Canyon is simply huge – in its size, its geological and human history and spectacular scenery. Even though we had all visited before, the Grand Canyon is (to use an unfortunately overused descriptor) truly awesome. This year is the 100th anniversary of becoming a National Park and though we were visiting early in the season once again we were surprised by the huge numbers already there.  Kudos to the National Park Service not only for its conservation measures but also for its traffic and people management skills. It would be shambolic without them.

Our first view this time was from a flight above the canyon in a small plane. Not to be boring but the Canyon is about 450 river kms long, up to 29 km wide and 1.6 km deep.


Our plane flew about 1000 feet (300m) above the top of the Canyon and we had a great view of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers running through it and yes the water colour does vary.


Looking really closely we could just make out some of the famous rapids ( above right – the white water about a third of the way down) and a few boats moving down the river. From this height the rapids look quite benign but many are evidently very challenging with huge waves, big drops and big rocks. Brave souls who take that on now in kayaks, zodiacs or similar, imho; but braver still were John Wesley Powell and colleagues who travelled in four small wooden boats along the river and took on the rapids in wooden boats in 1869. Nine set out and six returned.

Took lots of photos out of the window – they are never great in my opinion but give an idea of the scale of the Canyon and the erosion by the river over millions of years as the plateau was uplifted and then wind and water did its bit.

We did a couple of walks along the South Rim – the North Rim (behind the trio below, bottom pic) is a bit higher and is closed in the winter – we could still see snow on it from the plane.

Rim walk flag

The rimwalks are well organised with shuttle buses dropping walkers at sites along their routes and the many information markers that can be read along the walks. The flag at the Visitor Centre was half mast for peace and police officers memorial day.

Deer view

Not only are the geological shapes spectacular but the colours are amazing as well – generally there is a reddish colour but there are lots of shades of brown and grey as well. In the top left pic a path can be seen snaking its way down into the canyon floor and there is a close up below. It apparently takes 4-6 hours to walk down and 9-11 to walk back up – or – if you book far enough in adavnce – you can ride a mule down and back.  There is accom on the canyon floor. Or for the truly fit, there is also a rim2rim2rim ultra running course which is around 45 miles (72km) which you could also do! I believe the record is about 6 hours!!


There are always a few jokers who go out over the fenced view points to look over the edge or more likely to take a selfie or photograph someone else……


We had our own private venue for happy hour – just outside our rooms – even if a bit chilly by the evening!

End of the day

Next post will be also along the Colorado – from Lake Powell.



Onward and upward to Yosemite and on with the cold weather gear. We stayed at the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite which is in fact outside the Park near the exquisitely named hamlet of Fish Camp. Set among tall trees, where even a communications tower was camouflaged to look like a tree, it was a great place to step off to Yosemite.

Tunnel View

Despite the cold, it proved to be a really good time to visit the park. The snow melt was well underway and all the waterfalls were running furiously. The view over the valley at Tunnel View was spectacular against the vivid blue of the sky, opening up the vista of a huge glaciated valley with spectacular cliffs and huge rocks carried there in bygone ice ages and waterfalls descending from hanging valleys standing out against the grey of the rocks and the green of the trees. (Guess who was a geography teacher in a past life!) The Merced River runs down the middle of the valley.


The photos don’t do justice to the majesty and size of the valley. While the valley was crowded with people the day we visited – or seemingly so to us, though apparently nothing compared to the summer – people are really dwarfed by nature, both physically and in its timeliness. Spot Cherrie in left hand pic below against the size of the trees and the valley sides. Bridal Veil Falls (which is the one that can be seen in the Tunnel View photo at the top) is so fierce that it produces its own wind and temperature microclimate, with ‘mist’ and then ‘rain’ as you approach it. Thundering noise too.

Bridal Veil

The famous El Capitan had many climbers inching their way upwards the day we visited. Hard to spot with the naked eye and not visible on my photo, we took turns to look at some through a telescope. It was astonishing just how many were climbing. Some take days to do it – I can’t imagine being suspended up there at night.

El Capitan

I can’t really begin to describe the vegetation. The huge sequoias are just that – huge! Many other pines and firs are there too – lovely piney aroma all around from them. Many of the ponderosa pines are suffering a disease that causes them to die – bits fall off and then the tree may fall over. Apparently a big problem at the moment. Also parts of the park were extensively damaged by wildfire last year. Devastating to look at, and a huge problem where there are dwellings etc but fires have always been part of the landscape and needed for regeneration – so as we have in Australia there are planned burns in the off season to reduce the undergrowth now. The dogwoods were out and their splashes of cream decorated parts of the valley.

dogwood 2

The native Americans had stories about the valley’s creation and it’s been a national park since 1890 in the modern era. These pics are of a pioneer centre where buildings from various parts of the park have been gathered together. I found the covered bridge interesting – I’d always though the cover was for people crossing it but apparently its there to help stop the bridge deteriorating in the weather.

Pioneer Centre

It was chilly as you can see – but for the next stop we will need to de-layer! Death Valley – here we come!