A VISIT TO ARIZONA IN FEBRUARY [Grand Canyon continued]
I am awake and ready to start the day 15 minutes before the alarm was set to go off. I make some coffee in the room’s coffee maker because I do not know what I will find at 6:00AM. I find this was a good idea as there was nothing available until the motels breakfast at 6:30AM and without coffee in the morning I become a bear. I needed to get out early because it is a 27 mile drive from the motel to Desert View at the far eastern end of the park and I wanted to be there to photograph sunrise over the Canyon.

Photo by Jim Hoffman, ANaturalSight.com

After this shot I slowly chased the advancing light back westward across the Canyon.

Photo by Jim Hoffman, ANaturalSight.com

The advancing light soon began to outpace me as I spent more and more time at each vantage point.

Photo by Jim Hoffman, ANaturalSight.com

I returned to the south entrance at 11:00AM and headed back to Tusayan and the Grand Canyon Airport. This is where I booked a helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon. There are several air tour operators here, but I based my choice on the IMAX movie. Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters was chosen to fly the IMAX camera so they certainly would be excellent for me and my Cannon camera.

Photos by Jim Hoffman, ANaturalSight.com

I scheduled a 1 hour flight rather than the half hour. I knew that from the spectacular things I had already seen from the rim that the half hour would certainly not be long enough. The hour costs more but what the hey, I’m on vacation! I knew, and you should realize also, that this is a flight OVER the Canyon and not down into it as was shown in the IMAX movie, that needed special permission! You will be flying just even and sometimes slightly below the rim, so you ask why should I spend the money if I am not going down into the Canyon? Well, the Canyon is 10 miles wide and a mile deep, from the air you see the bottom much better and get a different vantage point for your camera and mind.

My flight was scheduled for 1:00PM and I had to be there a half hour before to see a mandatory safety film and get my seat assignment. Seat assignments are based on how much you weigh so that the load is balanced. Here is something I discovered after boarding the flight, those of us who are on the chunky side get the outboard seats next to the doors and their large windows. However everyone cooperates and all can get their shots.

Photos by Jim Hoffman, ANaturalSight.com

After an exhilarating flight I returned to my car and headed back to the park to continue my quest. Realizing that I’ve only had a couple of cups of coffee since early this morning, I forced myself to take a few minutes to grab a quick lunch as it was going to be a long time until dinner. I wanted to be at the western end of the park for sunset.

The western end of the park along Hermits Road is the Grand Canyon most visitors see. This is where the Steam Train from Williams arrives and all of the tour companies come to. There is a shuttle bus service that runs this route during the season. During February the train and shuttle buses do not operate and you drive yourself. I did run into a couple of tour buses on this route, but they only had about a dozen people aboard. Parking at each of the viewing points was ample enough to accommodate all. At times I found myself alone at a viewing point especially off to the east end of the park since tour buses and shuttle buses when running do not go there. I found that most people I met at the Canyon only stay and see the western end of the park. At no facility did I have to wait in line for any view or service. Those I met were all friendly and considerate; I believe the Canyon has that affect on people. No where did I see even a scrap of paper on the ground the, Canyon views cause all to have a great respect for the surroundings it is as if one were in a great religious building. You just wouldn’t dare leave anything but your footprints behind.

Here on the western edge of the park you will find the Rim Trail. This walk offers continuous views, however a word of caution watch out for icy spots on the trail in places where the sun doesn’t reach for most of the day. My feet and legs told me this trail wasn’t for me, so I stuck to the road and viewpoints accessible from parking areas.

As the old saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun and soon I found the sun was fast heading for the western horizon. After having visited all the viewing sites during the afternoon I decided I wanted to shoot the sunset from Hopi Point. The sunset gave me a continuously changing scene. Colors change slowly and dramatically as the sun dips from view.

Photos by Jim Hoffman, ANaturalSight.com

As darkness overtakes the Canyon I head back to Tusayan and some dinner. Then to the motel, a shower, quick review of the digital images in the camera and little television just to get ready for being back with the rest of the world. As I was lying in bed and running the movie of the day that I have in my mind I realized that now I really understood the meaning of the word Grand! When I consider all of the possible combinations that could have been used to name the Canyon, Grand is the only one that truly works.

I was extremely thankful that cell phones, laptops and other electronic devices have no connection to the outside world at the Canyon and therefore are useless. I do fear that sometime in the future some mega communication corporation will offer just too much money to some group either Federal or Private to provide this annoying service to the area. If that happens then those of us who are addicted to these devices will not be able to control ourselves. Just thinking about watching the sunset while someone near carries on a conversation on their cell phone gives me creepy chills.

The next morning after a more than lea surly breakfast I checked out of the motel and headed back south on Arizona route 64. I found myself driving somewhat slower and looking more often in the rear view mirror as Tusayan and the Canyon shrank from view. I was in love. It really was the eagles!

I hope you have had some enjoyment accompanying me on this trip and I look forward to our travels together in the future. Please always remember to pay attention to the world around you, that way you will not miss many of life’s little and amazing surprises.

Technical Notes:

For those of you who have an interest I use a Cannon EOS Digital REBEL and a Cannon EOS IX film camera as well as a small but versatile selection of lenses. I chose these because of their ratings in trade magazines, size, weight and versatility. The size and weight were very important to me as I shoot from a canoe and on the trail when possible. I specifically chose the APS system for my use because of it’s ability to allow me to change film mid roll. I know there are many other cameras that are better in some of your viewpoints but I find that for me these are ideally suited for my needs and situation.

Copyright © 2005 - Jim Hoffman and Greg Aldrich - All Rights Reserved   back to articles