We got up bright and early, as we had a big day ahead of us. Instead of worrying about packing and unpacking the van we decided to stay an extra night at the Cameron Trading Post since it would allow us to focus on the task at hand: exploring the Grand Canyon. Last year our travels had brought us to Phoenix, however it wasn't in the cards for us to make it there. But not so this time around. Yippee!
The drive through the Painted Desert to the entrance of Grand Canyon National Park was a real treat! No doubt that it got its name from the lovely hues that characterize the landscape; from soft pastel yellows, pinks, blues and greens to the deep rich reds of the soil.
Then appeared the first signs of the amazing geological phenomena that is Grand Canyon.
Wonder of Nature
Considered one of the great wonders of the world, Grand Canyon offers a powerfully unique landscape of colorful and distinctive rock layers carved by the Colorado River. Some 70 million years ago the Rocky Mountains began to form, pushed up by heat and pressure as the North American Tectonic Plate overrode the Pacific Plate. In the process a large section of what is now Utah, northern Arizona, western Colorado, and a corner of New Mexico rose from sea level to elevations of thousands of feet, forming what is known as the Colorado Plateau. Remarkably this occurred with very little deformation and alteration of the sedimentary layers. This is what set the stage for the carving of Grand Canyon.
Shedding Light on Its Mystery
Curious as to how Grand Canyon came to be? Here's what I learned in the park's brochure:
"By five or six million years ago the Colorado River flowed across the Colorado Plateau on its way from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California. Each rain washed sparsely vegetated desert soils into the river. A steep gradient and heavy sediment loads created a powerful tool for erosion. As the river cut down, the canyon deepened. Tributaries erode into the canyon's sides, increasing its width. Erosion carves faster into the softer rock layers, undermining the hard layers above. With no foundation these layers collapsed, forming the cliffs and slopes profile of the canyon. Erosion wears away the ridges separating adjacent side canyons, leaving buttes and pinnacles."
The result? Grand Canyon, which is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep. "Often described as Earth's greatest geological showcase, the ensemble of stunning dimension - the melding of depth, width, and length - sets it apart. Nowhere else features such a dazzling variety of colorful rock layers, impressive buttes, and shadowed side canyons." In other word: absolutely breathtaking!
We only had to drive about 30 minutes before we came upon the park's entrance and began meandering along the 25 some miles of Desert View Drive. We paused several times on the way to admire the incredible views.
Our first stop was at Desert View. Upon first setting eyes on the Canyon's majestic sight Don and I stood silent and awestruck. I couldn't help but shed tears of joy, unable to take it all in. Once again we couldn't have hoped for better weather; while it was a little chilly at first it did warm up as the clear day progressed. We learned that winter is when the view of the Canyon is the clearest, as pollution creates a haze in the warmer months.
The Colorado River. Hard to believe that something seemingly so small could create such a dramatic geological phenomena! Its size is virtually the same as it was 5 million years ago.
We climbed up the watchtower, which offered a 360 degree view of the area. The interior was decorated with Native American art.
Our next stop, Yavapai Point, has been determined to be the most representative of Grand Canyon's geology.
Hum, I think I better take a little breather here for those of you, poor folks, that are still on dial-up. ;-)
Be right back with the rest...
P.S. I finally laid my hands on the Gouda Cheeze recipe I wrote about in a previous post. You can see it here.