We’re back on the road after spending all day yesterday exploring the Grand Canyon. I’d been there once before, on the Mama Bus trip almost three years ago. The road trip we’re currently on is mostly for my dad. Because he needed to stay behind and do some intensive work while we were on our last cross-country road trip, he hasn’t seen most of the national parks or cities in the U.S. It’s been fun to go back and see the Hoover Dam, redwood and sequoia forests, Grand Canyon, and more with him.
We were up and at it relatively early yesterday morning. The sun drove us out of our tents before it got too late, and after a quick granola breakfast we were in the van with cousins Ruth and Bruce (they drove in from Vegas to camp with us for a few nights) and on our way to the Grand Canyon.
It’s a breath-taking sight, that “hole in the ground”. It’s impossible to really grasp the sheer size of those rust red walls, or the distance between one rim and the other. Our minds simply can’t wrap around the dimensions of the formations spread out below. I could see the Colorado River winding like a dull brown rattlesnake through the pillars at the bottom of the canyon. The silt and rocks it picks up on its journey are grinding the bedrock away bit by bit.
It was interesting to learn that the river, rainfall, etc. have already cut through all the softer layers of rock and that progress from here on out will be much, much slower. Most of what we could see was ancient limestone, sandstone, mudstone, claystone, and so on. The very bottom layer was black, a stone known as Vishnu’s Schist. I have three teen brothers. You can imagine the smothered sniggers when we learned that. At any rate, this rock is extraordinarily hard. From what our guide told us, it’s formed when lava slowly cools beneath the surface. Apparently the Colorado can’t get through it at the rate it’s carved thus far, so the Grand Canyon will get wider faster than it’ll get deeper.
It was also interesting to learn that the Grand Canyon is in no way the biggest, deepest canyon in the world. There’s one in the Himalayas that’s about five times as deep, and there are several that are much wider. That doesn’t make the sight any less impressive. Still, Bruce pretty much summed it up as we stood there taking it in for the first time that day… “Well, there it is. The West’s biggest ditch.”
The colors were incredible as well, of course. Layers of rocks, different shades of red, pink, orange, yellow, white, brown, black, and even pale green made the canyon look completely unrealistic; like nothing I’d ever seen elsewhere. I’ve heard it’s especially wonderful at sunset and sunrise.
Yet it wasn’t the colors or the size of the canyon that really impressed me. It was the way that time was documented in the rock. Even the uppermost layer of rock is older than the dinosaurs. How cool is that? The farther we look down into the canyon, the older the rock, and while technically all rock is older than we can really comprehend, to be able to look down the canyon walls and literally see the passage of time was wonderful to me.
We’re headed on again now. I believe we’ll be in Colorado tonight. It’s a relatively long drive, but I like it when we have a long day on the road. It gives me the opportunity to get some writing done, and the view out my window is incredible today. The desert alternates between red and dusty green, with huge sloped rocks and craggy boulders jutting high into the sky. The blue above contrasts wildly with the red below. Wish you were here with me to see it!