A Night At The Grand Canyon

Posted by on Jan 20, 2010 in Travel Tales | 2 comments

A Night At The Grand Canyon








 “When the silvery night was assuredly asleep,
The evening’s frisky perfume faded into an oblivion deep;
Passionate and alluring…the beat of distant Indian drums,
Heeded only by sleepless crickets in sultry hums.
An yearning regained for a renewed day,
The clouds whispered your name over the Canyon grey
Rumbling rain dotted the river bed,
Soaking the purple rays into the Settlement, now untread.
In a gentle flicker of an ageless earthen lamp,
Through the haze of the dusk on the Canyon ramp…
I notice your silhouette…the coyote cries,
I hold you…my passionate lips seek her passion’s prize!”

It’s not hard to imagine a passionate romance when the Grand Canyon is the destination. Even before I made my first ever visit to the Canyon, I had already and almost immediately pictured the Colorado River, winding its way seductively through nature’s red, pink, brown and beige painstakingly made sculpture, and brought to me fantasies of scenes straight from romanticized cowboy tales and movies!

Let me start with the word ‘Indescribable”. Or “Awesome”? None of these words even begin to describe it! I was stunned, bowled over, open mouthed, incredulous, amazed, bemused, stupefied, and filled with the most powerful thrills down my spine.After the most inconspicuous entry, I stared at this spectacular formation that laid out in all its vastness in front of me.

If the word “grand” is one overused sobriquet, there’s one place that actually deserves it: the Grand Canyon. In fact, it might be too modest a description to apply to one of the world’s truly awesome natural wonders, a mile-deep slice through the northern Arizona desert that exposes layer upon layer of vivid geological history in painterly swaths of color.

I am always a bit of a cynic when it comes to very popular tourist attractions, my philosophy being if you can see it on TV or in a good book of photographs, that’s good enough. It helps, of course that I have a vivid imagination and the ability to shut my eyes and transport myself to a location by the power of thought alone! But no book, film, words or even dreams could come close to the sensation of wonderment that overwhelmed me when I first looked down to the bottom 5000 feet below, and across to the other side 30 miles away of the Grand Canyon. Its sheer size defies human comprehension, its variety of rock forms and colours defy imagination, its variety of weather conditions within a few miles defy believability. One moment I was baking in sunshine whilst 20 miles across in a deep dark blue gorge there was driving rain, and flashes of lightening!

Most moments were spiritual for me. I punctuated these spiritual moments of soaking up the magnificence of it all, with chatting to people from all over the continent and the world, often taking pictures of couples. My camera couldn’t stop clicking. it was only a point-and-shoot Pentax that I used to carry those days, but in my mind, I was storing image after image..moment after moment..frame after frame!

I must have arrived at 11am and left the Canyon at 7.30pm with a 2 hour break for a picnic of sandwiches and apple cider- in the surrounding pine forest and a trip to the Imax theatre where on an enormous curved screen perched on steeply raked seats for maximum vision, I saw the most incredible film of the history of the Grand Canyon. It started with only a disappointing one eighth of the screen being used. Then in a jarring senses-defying breathtaking moment, it filled the screen with shots taken by a helicopter borne camera swooping deep into the Canyon then soaring high above it.That was a spectacular visual!I got back to the Canyon to take shots of the sunset over it and record the constantly changing shadows as they lengthened and finally disappeared for ever . The yellow, brown and rust coloured rocks changed to gold, crimson and finally deep brown as the hot Arizona sun settled down for the night.

It was just another romantic night saying goodbyes to the daylight, till the next morning!

Which means,I need to go back to the Canyon,several more times. I haven’t yet witnessed the break of dawn, the lash of the rain on my face. Nor have my feet flirted with the auburn dries of Fall, nor have the flakes of snow danced on my tongue!

The next morning at Tusayan, 15 miles away from the Canyon-where I was staying in a cozy little bed & breakfast, brought in plans for a trip to Jerome,post a informative session with David, the receptionist.With the Grand Canyon I had a pretty good idea already, what to expect visually. All I knew about Jerome was that Winston Churchill’s mother was born there! In my mind’s eye I visualized a pretty town punctuated with pristine tea parlours and poetry readings.

I drove across the arid Arizona desert for what seemed like hours, but was in fact only about 40 minutes. In the distance I could see a range of low hills, misty blue at first, then slowly deepening in hue until I could see they were sand coloured on the top and punctuated with pine trees on their lower slopes.The views were spectacular, deep gullies and towering slopes alternating with every bend.

6200 feet above sea-level. I parked my car, and stepped out. The sun was sweet with its shine, not too harsh, not too kind! The view from there was so unexpected, that I almost forgot my love affair with the Grand Canyon in an instant! I was swept off my feet by the most incredible sight of towering mountains to the left and right framing what seemed to be an endless plain stretching almost further than the eye could see over a mile below.At the very bottom was the town of Jerome, a 19th century mining town that was once the copper mining centre of Arizona and the fifth biggest town in the state. Jerome was the talk of the Territory, boomtown of its time, darling of promoters and investors. The mines were nourished and exploited by financiers who brought billions of dollars of copper, gold and silver, from its depths. Changing times in the Territory saw pack burros, mule drawn freight wagons, and horses replaced by steam engines, autos and trucks. Fires ravaged the clapboard town again and again. Landslides destroyed whole sections of it. Jerome was always rebuilt. Dependent on the ups and downs of copper prices, labor unrest, depressions and wars, Jerome’s mines finally closed in 1953. Its population went from 16000 at its peak in the 30’s to 50 by 1953.

From boom to bust, from great to ghost. Now it is attracting tourists, artists, artisans, musicians, historians, and families. They form a peaceful, colorful, thriving community built on a rich foundation of history and lore. (Je)Rome was not built in a day, as they say!

The steep descent-drive to the town itself,looked exactly as if it came straight from pages of a cowboy novel with rustic wooden buildings clinging precariously to the rough-hewn rocks of the mountainside.

In the town, a sign above an erudite green painted building proclaimed it was the Spirit Room.Intrigued and curious to my true self, I walked into a smoke filled room invaded by loud rock music and faced with a long bar in front, a pool table in the middle, and brightly coloured but well executed murals. One mural extolled the virtues of the 19th century ladies of the night whilst the other consisted of a dozen can-can girls doing what only they ‘can can’! Ah well, no fortunes got told here, but I had a drink and played a game of pool with some “ladies” anyway!

It was 5.30 PM. The idea was to leave for Phoenix,via Sedona.

As I neared Sedona, small outcrops of rock became apparent at various locations. Again, the closer I got to them the bigger they got! And the redness was fascinatingly striking.

My car rounded a bend and came across a Roman Catholic Church perched incongruously high above me on a mound of rock, yet blending perfectly with its surroundings.

Then I was truly homeward bound, by now a 90-minute journey. As I begrudgingly left the area, I could see the stunning scarlet silent sentinels of Sedona’s spiritual sanctuary recede slowly in the distance.The feeling of spirituality was strong here, for some strange reason.I am sure, I could resonate with generations of Native Americans endowing these inert masses with a soul.And if they could speak today, I am sure it would have been with a very deep, reverberating voice.The voices play on my mind even today, almost haunting me. My trip to the Canyon and the red country of Arizona, really left me wanting for more. A lot more.

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  1. Nicely worded (especially the poem at the top) and very vivid. Reminded me of my visits to the canyon.

  2. Thank you Atul! I need to really go back to the Canyon. Its been just one visit, I haven’t seen even 1/8th of what the Canyon has to offer.
    Did you know Raj had trekked all the way down to the Colorado river, one time(before he met me!)?

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