Northern Rim of the Grand Canyon (Part 1)

We watched the sunset over the Vermillion Cliffs of Northern Arizona.

From Zion earlier that morning, we ascended 4000 feet into the Boreal forest and the remains of an ancient ocean floor. We were going to the Northern Rim of the Grand Canyon. As we came into the park, meadows of wheat colored grass were cast golden against the Aspen and Ponderosa pine.

Robbie: “I think we need to be quiet for awhile Mom, to take in all of this.”

The Aspen gleamed white against the afternoon sun, their leaves quivered with the wind. Strong gusts occasionally bent the bows and leaves fell to the ground. We noticed the Aspen grew on the edge of the forest, between the meadow and pine. And before our enforced silence, we talked about their root system, how the roots of one Aspen connects with another throughout the system. Robbie remarked, “that’s a good survival thing Mom, that way when one tree is suffering, they can come to help”.

There was a wind advisory out, gusts of 40 mile an hour winds billowed, sighed and screamed. The car shook at times as we traveled across the meadow and watched the light change.


Robbie: “Mom, I have wanted to see the Grand Canyon my whole life.”

And then by the side of the road, as if answering, the canyon appeared, not in vast form, but through the trees, peeks and glimmers, layers of stone jutting out, white, red, yellow, black.

Another world lay to our side and we burst out with a “WOOOO! Check it out!” We paused to take it in.

Robbie: “I don’t feel well Mom”.

Our bodies needed to acclimate to the high elevation. We got to the Visitor Center and sat in the Lodge, sipping water and gazing out from the deep sofa’s pushed up to the massive picture windows. Raven’s soared as we gazed out at the many layered cliffs of igneous and metamorphic rock. The room was hushed, despite the ballroom size and people.

Robbie: “Let’s go to the lookout, Mom!”

The lookout was 50 yards away, set out on a narrow outcropping several feet wide and overlooking the canyon. As we walked there, the wind blew pebbles and small stones in whirls in front of us. It answered the question of several days previous when in the Eastern section of Zion National Park, I wondered how the wind could shape the swirls in the rock, much less solidify ancient sand dunes.

The cliff we walked onto was a simple walk, but edges of panic started to seep in. I focused on the trees and the wind on my skin. My vision started to narrow. We got across the little bridge using the hand rails, and I fell to my knees, my legs shaking hard. The elevation and acrophobia was impacting me more than usual. I sat down and breathed under the lone bush, my eyes cast down and focused on the one still thing in front of me, a rock.

Robbie: “Mom, I won’t go near the edge, I promise.

Mom: “Thank you honey. I will be with you in just a minute.”

Gradually, I looked up to take in the leaves of the bush, the larger rocks, the guard railing. Tears oozed out of my eyes as I stood up. A kind man traveling with his adolescent son took my phone, and said he would take our picture. I let go of the rail and put my arm around Robbie. We stood together, my legs still shaking, and the man took our picture: beauty and joy intermingled with visceral fear. My vision widened, my breath slowed.

Robbie held my hand as we left, crossing the bridge. “Let’s go to the Ranger talk on Geology, Mom”.