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Grand Canyon Variety Pack

I mentioned in the last post that about 4.5 million visitors come to the Grand Canyon each year. And, I was surprised to learn that about 25% of those visitors are from outside the United States – no wonder it felt like a visit to the United Nations at times.

Now you get 4.5 million folks together from all around the country and around the globe and you’re going to get a lot of different ideas on how to experience the magnificence of the Grand Canyon. In fact, there’s something for everyone!

Candidly , most won’t venture too far from their car or tour bus at one of the 17 overlooks along the South Rim. Some will stop to take pictures at the iconic overlooks like Mather Point; others will venture outside their comfort zone and climb out on an unprotected ledge; others will arrive early or stay late to enjoy a sunrise or sunset.

For me, it was about the hiking and photography that I wrote about in the previous post. And, sometimes it was also about what I came to call “mountain goat photography” . Or, in other words, venturing out onto ledges and points that no sensible man, let alone a mountain goat, would climb on to get the image.

In fact, I learned this art of jumping on rocks and ledges from a local photographer and former Artist in Residence at the Grand Canyon – Adam Schallau – who taught/guided me one day in the Canyon on the “…need to jump on rocks…to get to the best vantage point…” [ Check out Adam’s work at and on his Facebook Fan page at – all around great young guy and outstanding photographer ] I definitely can recommend Adam if you want to learn the art of “mountain goat photography” 🙂 Great stuff!!

The hiking was also incredible and really heightened my awareness of the immense scale of the Canyon walls and ridges. As one guidebook noted “…One of the challenges to appreciating the Grand Canyon is that its vastness can make the canyon difficult to relate to. The stunning scale can leave an impression of unreality, or even flatness. To cure this, try a short walk down one of the Canyon’s trails. It takes only a little effort to gain a personal sense of the astounding size and vertical character of the great gorge…”

The wonderful trail system was built out over the last century as the NP was being developed. Some of the trails are improvements on ancient American Indian routes. Others have been carved out of rock with more modern tools.

I had a chance to hike sections of two of the main trails that descend into Grand Canyon – the Bright Angel Trail and the South Kaibab Trail. Both draw scores of hikers daily. I really enjoyed the less crowded Kaibab Trail and one with an initial section that stays atop the narrow, exposed Cedar Ridge and that offers hikers fantastic views of the canyon.

Now maybe hiking isn’t your thing – no worries – take a ride into the Canyon instead. In fact, hitch a ride on a mule – yup – a mule – perhaps the most celebrated way to get down into the canyon.

But the choices don’t even stop there – maybe your thing is a Harley – then very cool – take a ride. I was amazed at the number of Europeans who came to tour the American West by that uniquely American vehicle – a big hog of a Harley.

Others came by huge tour buses and then occasionally acted like silly school children upon seeing this outstanding natural wonder

Others came to fly over it and not just climb on it

And others came to see the birds including the condor – back from near extinction and doing quite well in the Canyon. At least Number 87 looked like he was doing well 🙂

And others came to see the unique architecture – like the Watchtower at Desert View or Hopi House.

The Watchtower was a favorite of mine too – a re-creation by famed architect Mary Colter of the strange prehistoric towers found scattered over parts of the Southwest. It was built as an observation tower as well as a means to bring a better understanding of the American Indian – its interior in covered with wonderful Hopi artwork by Fred Kabotie as well as artist Fred Geary who copied drawings and petroglyphs found in ancient pueblos and cliff dwellings found throughout the region.

So – you get the picture – there really is no shortage of ways to see this wonderful place – but you really should see it – after all Teddy wants you to…

“…as one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see.”

–from the speech which President Roosevelt made at the Grand Canyon, Arizona, on May 6, 1903

Take care. Safe travels. See you down the road…

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