Thursday, November 19, 2015

Grand Canyon - Desert View Drive

The next day we headed back into the park.  The Grand Canyon National Park is huge, containing over a million acres.  There are miles of hiking trails, whitewater rafting on the Colorado River and burro rides down steep trails.  Since one of us was almost 6 months pregnant, we couldn't really do too much rafting.  Luckily there are plenty of overlooks, and it is easy to pass an entire day just driving around and enjoying the view.

We opted to do the Desert View Drive, which runs along the South Rim for about 25 miles. The views, of course, are amazing. There are several overlooks, some with views that peer down deep into the Canyon.


This view features a large rock formation that is appropriately named "Duck on the Rock."


It's hard to convey in photos the gigantic scale of the Grand Canyon. The Canyon itself is 277 miles long, and at some points it is up to 18 miles wide. At it's deepest, the canyon is a mile deep. Nearly five million people visit the Grand Canyon National Park every year, but it was easy to find secluded places with few other people around.


These shots were taken from the Grandview Point Overlook. Like the name suggests, this overlook provides a grand view of the Grand Canyon. The Colorado River is four miles away, and the Canyon is filled with several different ravines, mesas and buttes.



Further down we stopped at Lipan Point, which offered this view. I think this is Seventyfive Mile Creek, flowing past Escalante Point into the Colorado River.


It had been mostly sunny all day, but some thick clouds had built up over the North Rim when we arrived at the Desert View overlook.


Desert View is the last overlook in the park, the National Park boundary is just a few miles away. From here you can easily see the flat lands of the Painted Desert in the distance. We went to take some pictures, just as a small rainbow appeared over the edge of the Canyon.


The overlook is also home to the Desert View Watchtower, which was built in 1932 and provides a view four stories above the rim of the Canyon. The tower was designed to resemble an old watchtower built by the Ancient Pueblo Peoples. The inside features petroglyph-style paintings on the walls of the circular stairs that lead to the top. Here's a view of the outside of the tower, with a big storm dumping rain on the North Rim.

Desert View

And one last shot from Desert View, with the Colorado River running through the Canyon. It had been quite rainy in Arizona before our trip, and the river was looking a little muddy.


Our plan was to watch the sunset that night from the edge of the Canyon, returning to the overlook that we both agreed had the best view. Of all the stops, we liked Moran Point the best. The point is named after Thomas Moran, an artist who first visited the Grand Canyon in 1873. His paintings helped to popularize the Canyon, helping with it being preserved as a National Monument in 1908.


The overlook at Moran Point has a wide panoramic view, but we didn't get much of a sunset that night. A storm moved through, bring with it some waves of heavy rain.


And with the rain, the storm also brought with it lightning. Bolts began to drop down, striking the North Rim (which is about eight miles away).


I desperately tried to get the camera set up and focused correctly, hoping that I didn't miss all of the lightning while I was trying to get the controls right. But the lightning actually worked with me for once, and dropped a few bolts at the same time I was taking pictures.



We stayed out there until it got too dark to take pictures, and then headed to a restaurant in the park to get dinner (this is again when I'm thankful to have a very loving and patient wife who was ok with sitting at an overlook for awhile watching a storm while also being nearly six months pregnant.


It is rare that you can stand around and take pictures of lightning and not get rained on. While we were ok at Moran Point, the nasty weather would catch up with us. We finished dinner and started to drive out of the park, just as a huge storm hit. Lightning was close and nasty, and it started to hail. The hail was big, and it was pounding my poor car. The road soon became covered with hail, and it was slick enough that my car's traction control automatically switched on. It was bad enough in the car, but I really felt sorry for anyone who may have been camping nearby. But the storm slacked off, and we made it back to the hotel with numerous dents and dings in the car as a souvenir of the day.

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