Grand Canyon National Park: The Grandest of Them All

January 1996

"You might want to take a sweatshirt or some long pants.  It will be cooler out there."  

"No, I will be fine."  

We waited about 30 minutes while the pilot of our small plane completed his pre-flight checklist.  It was late January in Vegas and overcast.  The temperature was a very comfortable 70 degrees whereas at my apartment in the suburbs of Philadelphia it was around freezing.  Little did these people know that I was born and raised in the frozen tundra of Bradford, PA.  70 degrees was a nice summer day and 53 degrees, as it was on the rim of the canyon that day, was shorts and t-shirt weather.  

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Although relatively fit at 210lbs, the pilot took one look at me, then at the other passengers and said, "You're going to have to sit next to me in the front or we aren't getting off the ground."  I had only flown a couple of times in my life up to that point and I had a significant fear of heights (still do).  Being in a small plane at 5000 or so feet was going to challenge my fear and force me to confront it.  The pilot, although only in his mid-twenties like myself, executed the flight plan perfectly and my fears were minimized.  We landed next to the rim of the canyon unscathed and proceeded to a school bus that took us on a two mile tour.  Native Americans explained to us the history and lore of this magnificent site.  

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"Be careful standing at the edge and looking down.  I haven't lost anyone yet."  Yes, you could stand at the edge and look down over 1000 feet to the jagged rocks below.  You just can't fathom how powerful the water must have been to carve such a deep crater into these rocks.

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This contraption was erected in the 1800's.  It was a cable system designed to extract bat droppings from caves across the gorge.  Workmen would travel along the cables (like an old style zip line) to the caves, use suction tools to accumulate the guano, then transport it via the cable to workmen at this station.  The droppings would then be used for fertilizer on farms in the west.  

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This was a very enjoyable tour.  I was picked up at my hotel and driven to Boulder City where we boarded the plane and were flown to the canyon.  Once there, we were taken on the bus tour and fed lunch.  The entire process took about 7 hours and (in 1996) only cost $110--some of the best money I've ever spent.  The GC is worth so much more.  

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Have you been to the Grand Canyon?  What was the favorite part of your experience there and why?

For more information about Grand Canyon National Park, click on the link below.