Having lived in the great state of Arizona all of my life, I’ve had more than one opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon.
The first time I saw it, I arrived in the summer on a train that left from Williams where there were staged gun fight and saloons and a train robbery. I don’t remember how I felt when I saw the Canyon. What I do remember though was the old fashioned glass bottles of Coke, the sound of the train, the pounding Arizona heat that sneaks in with the sunlight and makes your body heavy and your eyes hurt. The second time I saw it was much the same.
But then I started in college in Northern Arizona and discovered the Canyon was not so far away as it had been. I could go there… anytime.
It took till my senior year to buy into the idea of the Grand Canyon at sunrise. I was a Resident Assistant, living in the dorms with a fellow staff of over 20 equally spontaneous and easily entertained college students, and we’d all decided after a night of smores and campfires that we would stay up ever longer, and at 4 in the morning would bundle up, hop in my trusty Previa, and drive ourselves out to the Canyon in time to see the sunrise.
The drive was one of the most terrifying drives I’ve ever made. The roads were icy, and the longer we drove the more deer and elk appeared. Some were standing in quiet silence on the side of the road to make you jump in your seat, wondering how it took you so long to see them. Others were with their herds patiently awaiting the arrival of the next car in the middle of the road. If you have ever tried dodging a dozen deer in a moving vehicle, you know how terrifying this can be.
We did make it though, and this time I actually remember what it felt like to be there. The air was chilly and the sky started out a lovely cobalt blue. Dozens, even hundreds, were arriving with us, but as the sun peaked over the edge of the canyon it was all silent. Thy sky lit up in the same colors as the Canyon, the cracks and crevices cast their shadows in deep contrasting, defining every edge.
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