Sunday, May 8, 2011

Arizona - Grand Canyon

When we finally reached the Grand Canyon, the breath-taking view met all our expectations.  My earliest memory about the Grand Canyon was watching the Brady Bunch family ride mules down one of the trails.  I was therefore delighted to witness this mule trek in person although I had no interest in trying it myself.  Descending steep narrow windy paths with no guard rails while sitting on a big animal is not my idea of a good time. 

I did however walk down for a little bit on the Bright Angel Trail which winds all the way down to the bottom of the canyon and is shared by both mules and hikers.  Walking down and admiring the sunset was great but coming back up would have been the issue so I didn't go too far down. 

The next morning, we did spot the mule caravan heading down that trail, as well as hikers way down towards the bottom of the canyon.

Starting early in the morning, we took a 5 kilometre hike along the South Rim before hopping on the shuttle bus to get to the rest of the stops.  The weather in Arizona swings up to 20 degrees from morning to midday
so it was a bit chilly when we started but comfortable as the day wore on.  Getting the early start meant we had the trails and views to ourselves for the first few hours before the other tourists showed up.

Along the way, helpful signs explained about the topology and history of the Canyon.  The signs are usually on the trail away from the rim, or tucked safely behind guard rails.  We were surprised to see one sign precariously close to the tip of a cliff with no rails or other protection.  Curious, Rich gingerly eased up to it to read "Danger, don't get too close to the edge".  Ironically he would have never considered even going out on that ledge if the sign had not been there.

Given the expanse of the canyon, it is impossible to rail off the whole thing to protect senseless people from taking careless risks in search of the ultimate photo opportunity.  We saw several candidates for the Darwin Awards, including one man who had scampered down not one but multiple ledges.  Another woman was traversing the trails in high heels.

At the far east end of the South Rim is the Desert View Watchtower, a 70ft structure built in 1933 to provide spectacular views of the canyon while using local stones and materials to blend into the environment following the principals of organic architecture.
Winding staircases lead to multiple circular viewing balconies all the way to the top of the tower.  The walls inside the tower are covered with images depicting Hopi mythodology and religious rites.
It was in the gift shop of this tower that I finally learned the name and legend behind the image that we have seen repeatedly on everything including sculptures, paintings, t-shirts.  The Kokopelli is a fertility deity depicted as a hunch-backed flute player.

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