We awoke in the morning to the sound of wind and rain outside our room at the Yavapai Lodge, it wasn’t a promising sound. The worse possible day would be filled with heavy clouds that would obstruct the views of the canyon throughout the day. What we got instead was a day filled with wind, rain and amazing display of light as the sun danced in and out of view on the canyon walls. Oh yeah, it was also very cold.
It was pretty dark first thing in the morning, no sun light to be found anywhere. The rain was light but the wind was howling, at least on the rim. And the cold, the cold never really left us on our whole visit to the Grand Canyon. After picking up a cup of coffee for my wife at one of the lodges we headed down the Bright Angel Trail which takes you to the river below and back up to the North Rim. We only planned to travel about 3 miles down the trail, it’s about 9 miles to the river below. The trail is nothing but switchbacks after switchbacks. I did have some concerns, after all, I had a heart attack a few months prior in April and we were at an elevation of about 6500 feet. We decide to take it slow and really gauge ourselves for the return back up to the rim. A few years prior Janice and I hiked to the top of Halfdome in Yosemite National Park so we were no strangers to long steep trails. We hope to have the chance to hike the “Rim to Rim” hike in a couple of years. This hike would take us from the North Rim down to the river and back up to the South Rim, about a 20 mile hike. Stay tuned.
We ended up only hiking about 1 1/2 miles down the trail, not because of the strenuous nature of the trail but because the sun started to make an appearance in the canyon below. We thought our time was better spent seeing the canyon from the many vantage points of the rim as opposed to the single trail we were currently on. We hiked out at a very steady pace and felt quite good doing so, something I found very encouraging.
After reaching the rim we hopped in the car and proceeded to West Rim Drive. Prior to our arrival at the park I had found out that West Rim Drive was closed to private vehicles and the only mode of transportation along this route was by park bus, bike or on foot. None of these we’re great options when taking into consideration all my painting gear. It was at this point that I decided to talk to a collector of mine who worked for the National Parks about getting a pass which would enable us to drive our own vehicle. I’m happy to say the park was gracious enough to offer us a driving pass for the few days we were in the park. What a blessing that pass was, especially in the wind and rain. There was a small amount of guilt that set in while we were getting into our car while others had to huddle under trees in the rain and cold, waiting for the park bus to save them from their misery. We did our best not to make eye contact with those waiting for the bus but non the less we felt their glares. The guilt quickly passed and we were on our way to the next overlook in our well heated vehicle 🙂 The views along West Rim Drive were excellent, each one offering it’s own unique view of the canyon.
This particular day with all the wind, rain, rainbows and dappled sunlight ended up being the most spectacular day of our visit. Everywhere we went we were struck with a sense of awe at the views we encountered. It was an amazing light show that only a creative God can provide and one we won’t soon forget.
We finished our day at the same place we finished every day; enjoying a glass of wine and watching the people at the El Tovar Hotel.
The next day an a half were crystal clear and coldest of all the days. I spent an afternoon painting the Grand Canyon for the first time. Painting the canyon was overwhelming. The canyon is so large it’s hard to know where to start. The light also moves very fast. I can easily imagine taking years learning how to paint this amazing place, but I have to start somewhere. My next attempt will take place in the studio.
Here are a couple of photos from the day and a studio painting I recently completed.