April 9 – 10, 2017
There is plenty of camping available in the national forest outside of the Grand Canyon South Rim near the west entrance, but very little near the east entrance because once you leave Grand Canyon National Park east you enter The Navajo Nation, and non-tribal members are not allowed to camp on Navajo lands. The Navajo Nation covers 27,425 square miles and there are only a handful of campgrounds in designated areas, consequently, it requires some planning if you want to camp in or near Navajo lands because you can’t just pull over anywhere and sleep for the night. I found a lovely spot in the national forest south of the west entrance and decided to enter the park the next day so I didn’t have to rush my visit.
April is a very busy month at The Grand Canyon south rim especially as the North Rim doesn’t open until sometime in May (which catches a lot of travelers off guard). When one looks at pictures of the Grand Canyon they may give the impression that it’s hot there, and of course it can get very hot in summer, however, the average elevation at the rim is 8,000 feet. Therefore, standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon in April can be pretty cold and windy and there might even be snow, another surprise for winter visitors who don’t realize how high the elevation is.
I knew it would be busy in the park but even I was caught off guard. There were five lanes open at the entrance station and all of them were full and backed up for about a half mile. I knew I should have got there at 6:00 am but I’d been lazy; sleeping in and watching the beautiful Abert squirrels around camp. Once inside I learned that all four of the lots near the Visitor Center were full, as were the A-D lots. I drove through a couple of lots figuring I’d park if I got lucky but ultimately decided I just didn’t want to be part of that whole scene. After spending so much time in quiet, remote places, mostly alone, this was too much to handle. It was like a bomb hitting my senses, and it was totally overwhelming. I decided to take the Desert View Drive east of the visitor center and enjoy the views at the overlooks instead. As soon as I left the main visitor area the traffic decreased significantly and after a few miles, there was hardly any traffic at all.
Because I knew there would be no more camping for a while once I left the park (and I hate rushing when it’s not necessary), I took my time enjoying the views then camped in the only national forest parking area I knew of between the National Park and Navajo lands near the east entrance. It was too cold and windy for a fire, so I just relaxed inside Studley Van. Having a van instead of my little Mitsubishi Montero Sport has made such a difference in my life. I can now relax, stretch, write, watch movies and cook in comfort out of the cold and wind. I really love having the extra space, small though it still is, it feels like a palace compared to Mitzi.
I’m sharing these images, but I fear that they will do nothing for you. It seems that the world is so flooded with pictures of popular places these days that they just wash by our vision and leave no lasting impression on our minds. When places like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone first started to be photographed and sold by (now) famous photographers, and when it took days to get to them with some arduous travel involved, seeing or owning a picture of the Grand Canyon was really something. But these days, anyone with a camera or a smartphone can share their images on Facebook, their blog, or any of the numerous social platforms out there, and I feel they have lost some of their wonderment.
A favorite pastime of mine is to watch the visitors in these places; They come from other countries or States, in coaches or rental cars, hop out, glance at the view, take a selfie shot, then hop back in and drive on. Few take the time to sit on the rim and feel the air currents wash over them and chill them to the bone, or take a moment to breathe in the thin air and pick up the scent of distant rain or damp pine trees. Few see the black specks hovering on the thermals below the rim that may be condors or ravens, and watch their feathers flicker as they adjust their flight pattern. Few realize that the tiny ripples in the very small looking river below are actually huge, dangerous, white water rapids capable of tossing a big raft and drowning its occupants, because few take the time to really think about the sheer size of the canyon, or the time it took to create, and the almost incomprehensible amount of erosion involved in creating this wonder. It’s hard to put into perspective, really it is; and it takes deep thought, imagination and time, and time seems to be something most visitors have very little of, which saddens me because they miss so much.
The first time I visited the Grand Canyon was several years ago when I camped in the Kaibab National Forest near the north rim and just made it to the edge of the canyon in time for the sunrise. I’d seen so much beauty that year, including hiking through Buckskin Gulch (the longest slot canyon in the world), that I wasn’t expecting to be wowed by the view. However, I’m happy to report that I was wowed, and I hope that no matter how many times I visit the Grand Canyon in the future I continue to be held in awe by this geological wonder. I hope my senses never get numbed no matter how many pictures I see of it, and I hope that you too will continue to hold your breath each time you see an image of a place such as this and take a moment to pause, look at the layers of rock, and think about the amount of time that went into its creation.
This area is vitally important to the survival of many species, including humans, but it is under threat by the same species that holds it in awe. We cannot become numb, we must understand how essential these places are to the survival of this planet as we know it, and we must continue to love all places enough to protect them.
I sometimes feel like a hypocrite because I want to visit these beautiful places and I don’t want big oil to drill in them, yet I use gasoline to get to them. I know I have a significantly smaller environmental impact than the average person who lives in a home (a deliberate effort and part of the reason I choose to live this way) but I cannot be on this planet without having some impact, it’s impossible.
We sit on an apex; the tipping point of the earth, a point in time when our negative impact on this planet cannot be reversed. If humans become desensitized to such wonders, I fear there will be no hope, in fact, I fear it is already too late; so I will visit, enjoy, appreciate and love as much of this planet as I can, while I still can.
LIKE THIS CONTENT? ENJOYING MY POSTS? HERE ARE THREE WAYS YOU CAN HELP TO SUPPORT THIS BLOG:
1. You can help to keep me fueled up by buying me a cup of coffee. It’s easy, just click the link and see how easy it is.
3. You can purchase an image, card, tote bag, t-shirt or other items from my photography store at Tranquil Light Photography.com (or share the web page on your favorite social platform).
This blog: http://NomadforNature.wordress.com/