on April 27, 2010
Ok, so yes, there is more to Arizona than the Grand Canyon. A whole lot more, in fact every visit I've made has moved it higher up the list of one of my favourite places I've ever visited. And I fear that the fact that the Grand Canyon has been touted as being so 'grand' and that it's so often listed as a place you 'must go' that people tend to gloss over what it really is. I think it begins to fall somewhere in amongst Disney Land and Hoover Dam for places you need to stop and see, especially for family trips. Even I am guilty of this, and I love canyons. When we planned our trip to Arizona - the thinking about the visit to the grandest of canyons fell somewhere along the lines of 'and we need to make sure we get up to see the Grand Canyon, too.' I think it's so well known, it's sometimes forgot. But this is an experience that is well deserved of both it's name and it's fame. It wasn't until we were first driving in to the views along the South Rim that it really, actually hit me. I was standing at one of the most stunning, colourful and magnificent rock formations on the planet. It would have been worth coming around the world for on it's own. So when people say to you 'You really need to see the Grand Canyon' what they mean is 'You HAVE to go and see the Grand Canyon, because it's something that can not be explained, you can't grasp it from photos, and it will leave you reevaluating your place in the world, it's size, it's age and the whole vast and inexplicable joy of nature. You can not see this sight with out being overcome with awe. I was going to go into some of the geological history of the canyon and it's rocks, because it is profound and very impressive - but I've decided not to because (a) you're going to have ample time once you're there, at the visitor center and along the canyon itself to read about the details. And (b) because it's going to make an infinitely bigger impression on you when you are standing looking at it, and can get some idea of the age and time and scope that they talk about. On a more simple note - the Grand Canyon may be the perfect place to visit. It's easy to get to (as far as that goes) - a long, straight, easy road from Phoenix leads you right up through Flagstaff and easy road signs to the Grand Canyon. If you don't drive, there are any number of bus tours that will get you there. It's a very reasonable cost for such a thing. You pay $25 per vehicle for a 7 day pass which allows you access to the South and North rim. So if you find it's just too much to take in in one day - come back again as much as you want for the next 6 days. For families this is ideal - with no individual cost for each person. And if you are on foot, bicycle or motorcycle, then the cost is $12 for the same thing. And when you consider what an huge attraction the canyon is, and how much it must take to run, it's extremely good value. And once you pay this at the visitor center - you're off. That's you for the rest of the 7 days. There is very little in the way of 'managed' paths and places you go. You can go wandering pretty much anywhere you stop if you feel so inclined. There are signs to remind you that it Is a canyon, and there are a lot of steep drop offs (something to remember if you are traveling with small children) but it's not all roped and fenced off so that you can't get close to it. There are certain look out points where they have added some safety features so you can walk safely further out on to the ledge - but this is optional rather than mandatory. There are no rangers constantly watching you or telling you were to go. I found the whole experience gloriously refreshing (especially having just come from New Zealand) and left wanting to thank someone for realizing we are all adults and can be left to our own responsibility to enjoy one of nature's most beautiful achievements.For the photographer - you just can't ask for a nicer view, and if so I recommend you spend at least two days with your camera and tripod, because the light changes every few hours and suddenly it opens up an entirely new landscape. Just when you think you've taken more shots of red and orange cliffs and various shades of time and pressure on the base of the canyon - you round a new corner and find something out anew. I recommend you take a lunch, get there as early as you can and meander slowly your way along the South Rim until there is no more light left to give you. There's a superb gift shop near the end of the canyon, if you can make it there for sunset it's idea for those shots, and as the temperature drops with the sun, you can wander in for some really good mementos of the trip. This is a superb thing to do - and something no one should miss out on, especially given that it's still something you can see with out having your hand held while you do so - something that tends to disappear more and more. Our visit was in December, which turned out to be an excellent time to go. The day was sunny and cool - though far from cold - and the light was incredible. Not to mention that the tourist ratio was very small, and only at a couple of stops were there more than few people at the same place that we were. It's a huge canyon, after all, it's easy to find a spot to enjoy it all on your own.
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