Searching for Sunset at the Grand Canyon

We stop in Kanab for lunch at the Rocking V, which was recommended by the potter in Toquerville (and by my friend Dawn). It is a funky, inviting spot with innovative food, a lovely crafts gallery, and wi-fi. (Time to send some mail.)

Not much dramatic scenery at this point, so I am eager to reach the Grand Staircase overlook.

I have been eager to see this – a photo I saw somewhere showed the layers of stone laid out like a giant, perfect, multicolored staircase. It is an amazing photograph and I want to see this for myself. The ranger at the Grand Staircase visitor center had confirmed that there was a viewpoint here and that the scene was stunning. I can’t wait.

It is hard to believe there is a scenic overlook here. We drive through miles of flat, dry plains. Far off in the distance to the northeast a long red ridge stands above this plain. In the distance directly ahead (to the southeast) another rocky ridge rises. The view point must be up there somewhere.

It is indeed on that smaller ridge, but the view of the Staircase in not so grand. Still lovely, but not the dramatic view of those otherworldly stair steps I was hoping to see. Still, that whole uplifted edge is really impressive. Additional evidence that the world is far more amazing and beautiful than I could ever imagine.

Of course, the Navajo selling jewelry in the parking lot also do a lot to assuage my disappointment, tempting me with lovely pieces of carefully inlaid silver.

Once I make my purchases, we continue on.

Slowly the landscape becomes wooded as we drive through a mix of grassy meadows and sparsely spaced trees. Then we drive for many miles through the blacked tree trunks left behind after the Warm Fire raced through earlier this summer, followed by more living trees and rich meadows. Other than one small resort area, there are no towns or shops or homes along the way. It is a rather long, dull drive through a very isolated area.

I’m anticipating a change in the landscape as we near the canyon.

There is none.

The North Rim of Grand Canyon National park lies within a pine forest. The landscape has some rises, so is not totally flat, but it is not dramatic. It is a pleasant, rather dull, woodsy area. Seemingly nothing very special.

We follow the road into the park. It is a long way between the nearest accommodations outside the park and the park lodge. I am glad I was persistent and found space inside the park.

We forgot about the time change, so check in an hour earlier than we realize – before check-in was actually supposed to start. Opps. I only realize this when the lady selling mule rides makes a big deal of the time change. (AZ doesn’t go on daylight savings time, although the Navajo Nation – Monument Valley – does. So weird.) The desk staff found us a cabin and checked us in without saying a word about it. A nice start to our visit.

Our cabin is half of a tiny log duplex, set in a sea of similar cabins. There is no view of the canyon, just a few trees and lots of other cabins. But it is inside the park and comfortable enough.

And the staff is amusing. As we unpack and organize we watch a couple very unmotivated young women occasionally swish their brooms above the paved walkway outside our door. The pine needles and cones lying there are allowed to remain mostly undisturbed where they have fallen

We quickly head out to Bright Angel Point for some late afternoon photography. To reach the point we walk along the narrow top of the ridge that separates the Transept (a side canyon) from Roaring Springs Canyon.

Like walking along the river in Zion, the way is crowded. (Ok, “crowded” is relative. We did have to share the path with other people.) But here, instead of looking up at the scenery, it falls away dramatically below us. The day is hot and bright with a blue sky and clear views across the canyon. We can almost see the development on the south rim. But between here and there, there seems to be nothing but dramatic wilderness.

The view on all sides is simply stunning.

We move along the rim, watching the light change as the sun drops lower in the sky.

Once the light is almost gone, we retire to one of the large patios that flank the lodge. The best seats – along the edge – are long gone, so we choose seats farther back and sit back and relax.

Soon we are surprised to find that real sunset show doesn’t reach its dramatic finale until it is just about dark — there is a brief period when the canyon again brightens and glows brilliantly before the sun vanishes.
I watch most of it from a perch on a corner of the rock ledge that surrounds the patio. Marveling at the colors and wishing I had a tripod. . .

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