My wife and I have gazed in awe at the magnificent crags and crevices of the Grand Canyon several times on our western road trips in recent years. In addition to providing endless panoramas for landscape photography, the utter humility of standing amidst such natural grandeur creates an emotional stirring in our inner souls. A revisit to the South Rim in late August, in the company of my wife’s father, thus gave us the opportunity to celebrate his 91st birthday in a truly spectacular way.
Devising a strategy to make this western vacation as convenient as possible for our finicky and sometimes cranky guest, we opted to book two, leisurely nights in a simple motor inn along the Route 66 corridor in popular Flagstaff, Arizona. We could then day trip the less than 100 miles distance to the canyon easily from there. After enduring 100 degrees + temperatures in the previous, Las Vegas leg of our trip , the cooler confines of Flagstaff, lying at over 7,000 feet elevation, would definitely be a welcome sight for all. One of our favorite western diners, “The Place” was located within walking distance of our motel as well. Think gigantic biscuits plus interesting, Route 66 memorabilia and you might understand what makes this cafe a worthy visit.
Over the years in our visits to this grand abyss, we have witnessed an extraordinary number of unexpected splendors there. A slow moving snowstorm, on one occasion, formed on the opposite North Rim and slowly encroached on the canyon as we gazed in awe at the pristine beauty of snowflakes silently falling in the distance. A rare sighting of a California condor effortlessly gliding toward its favorite rocky perch during another visit became a motivation to take birdwatching more seriously. A last glint of sunlight shining on the rim as we hiked in evening dusk once revealed startling glimpses of the raging Colorado River between steep cliff sides in the deep depths of the canyon.
To be honest, such serendipitous moments of the Grand Canyon were merely obtained through pure luck on our brief and tightly scheduled visits to the canyon in the past. So it seemed particularly rewarding that our resolve to slow down our pace to accommodate our elderly guest enabled us to relax more and thus take higher quality pictures. Several examples immediately come to mind. Riding the crowded tram ride once seemed a violation of our rugged travel independence to hike to various overlooks. Yet on on this latest visit, we enjoyed new perspectives of the canyon via the park bus shuttle with minimal, physical exertion. Furthermore, our leisurely lunch at the Market Cafe, distanced us from the crowded throngs of tourists so we could appreciate the close, family time together. Taking more time to gaze over the Mather Point vista, as well, enabled us to observe in more detail the stunning shades of color/shadow in the surrounding topography.
Sadly, the Grand Canyon was our final stop on this whirlwind summer vacation as we concluded our latest road trip with an uneventful drive through the Mojave Desert back to Las Vegas. In honor of my father in law’s 91st birthday, we treated him to a lavish Italian dinner at Carmines at Caesar’s Palace Forum Shops. As we awaited our midnight flight back to South Florida, I uploaded a spectacular photo of Grand Canyon as the newest screensaver on my iPhone. As I return home to witness my country so divided by -isms today, be assured that this image will be a positive mind distraction for me amidst such daily turmoil.