I took three days for a trip up to the Grand Canyon. The canyon is about a 4 hour drive north of Phoenix. I took I 17 north but made a detour to Sedona and the Red Rocks. This is a good place to photograph. Red Rocks state park charges a small fee and I was surprised to find that there is not much you can see from the car except Cathedral Rock which has been much photographed. When I saw it I realized it has on occasion been very popular for calendars. There are numerous paths and trails to walk along Oak Creek. I, however was unable to take advantage of these even though the ground is fairly flat, I will however warn you once again to look sharp and stay on the trails.

The Red Rock Loop Road is a good drive with many formations that seem to beg for your cameras attention.

Photo by Jim Hoffman, ANaturalSight.com

After a quick lunch in Sedona I resisted the urge that the thought of the Grand Canyon was placing on my mind and took the slower route north up route 89A thru Oak Creek Canyon. This beautiful drive thru peaceful pine forests is one you should take.

You no longer notice any Cactus here above 5000 feet.

Photo by Jim Hoffman, ANaturalSight.com

There is a nice visual surprise for you at the end of route 89A. The San Francisco Peaks, the highest in Arizona over12600 feet, pop into view directly in front of you.

Photo by Jim Hoffman, ANaturalSight.com

Here I returned to I 17 north for a short drive to I 40 west at Flagstaff towards Williams. At Williams I picked up Arizona Route 64 north and am now about 54 miles south of the Canyon. Driving north across the Coconino Plateau the land stretches out flat as far as the eye can see. Along the way two North American Bald Eagles soared overhead searching for their next meal. They are always a pleasure to see circling high over me as I continue on towards the Canyon and I take this sighting as a good omen. Soon I am driving thru Valle which here on Route 64 is nothing more than a gas station. I decide to top off the tank and find out latter what a good idea this was, the next gas is over 40 miles in Tusayan and is $0.70 more a gallon. Must have been the eagles.

I arrived in Tusayan where my motel is located. I had made a reservation the day before so since I was only 1 mile From Grand Canyon National Park and it was 3:00 PM I continued on. At the south entrance I was prepared to pay the $20.00 per car fee and head for my first look. Here I was surprised by the fact that since I am 62 years old I qualify for a Golden Pass for $10.00. The pass is good for the rest of my life and grants me free entrance at most National Parks and monuments. Ahh, the eagles again!

I drive another mile north from the gate to my first view at Mather Point. As I pull into the parking area I get a quick glimpse, my senses are peaked as I turn off the car. I quickly gather up a camera, not caring which one and get out of the car. It is cold and windy, glad I put on the hooded sweatshirt under my leather jacket back in Valle. Since the terrain is uneven and has a small hill I also grab my crip stick, ( cane ), and hobble off at what is now top speed up the little hill and thru the trees. As I progress along more and more of the Canyon is revealed to me until at last there it is, spread before me in all its enormity. I stop dead in mid stride a stare open mouthed at the sight before me. It grabs your mind and enwraps your spirit. I was not prepared for this and no matter how many adjectives and superlatives anyone has ever uttered or written about the Canyon they cannot really convey what it really is. I must tell you that I am truly sorry that my words and photographs cannot give you this experience. No one can, in picture, video or word; each must feel this for themselves. It is more than you have the ability to even imagine. Once I had the experience, now when I look at the photos, it comes rushing back and I am sure it always will.

I do not know how long I stood there before I realized I had a camera in my hand. It was up quickly and the trip of the shutter was almost continuous.

Photos by Jim Hoffman, ANaturalSight.com

Finally I back away from this wonder and turn around to head for the car. I have no idea how long I was at that first view. I get in the car as my mind screams more – more – more like some two year old in a candy store. I travel up the road to the next viewing area Yavapai Point. I found it hard to control myself as I parked the car and gather my equipment for my next view.

Photo by Jim Hoffman, ANaturalSight.com

After filling my mind and lens with this view I reluctantly gave into my strongly complaining stomach and headed back to Tusayan to find and check into my motel. After putting my bag in the room I went and satisfied my hunger. While having dinner it dawned on me that other than coffee, I’ve only had a hamburger since 6:00AM.

Not wanting to sit in the room and waste my brain on TV I found the IMAX theater I had passed earlier in the day. I went to see the IMAX movie Grand Canyon Discovery and Adventure. After having had an initial introduction to the Canyon I found this movie to be a must see before continuing on with my adventure the next morning. It really sets you up with some understanding of what you are about to see and experience. It gives you a good idea of what is going on far down below your vantage point on the rim. The shots from a kayak shooting the rapids on the Colorado River and the helicopter dipping and climbing around buttes and spires are truly captivating.

Just a short aside, I have a friend Jim Swedberg who is a kayaker and whitewater photographer who has kayaked the Canyon. You will meet him in a future article, just let me say, I now have a greater appreciation for his accomplishment.

I returned to my room worn down to the nub from the long drive and absorbing all the beauty I had seen that day. A shower and to bed, running the itinerary I had planned for the next day thru my head I drifted quickly off to sleep thinking one thought, must get up before dawn, must get up before dawn.

Keep reading on the next page for my next exciting day...

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