Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


              The world is full of spectacular scenic vistas and marvels of God’s creativity. Last week Isaura and I drove to Carefree, Arizona where I was to officiate a wedding for a Marine friend and his bride. Since we were going to be in the neighborhood, so to speak, my wife and I decided to take in some sight-seeing. Neither of us had ever been to the Grand Canyon, so we made plans to take in this famous American landmark.

The wedding and the festivities associated with this special day was very enjoyable. After a pleasant brunch Isaura and I left Carefree on Sunday, driving north to the Sedona area some two hours away. Sedona was named after Sedona Arabelle Miller Schnebly (1877–1950), the wife of Theodore Carlton Schnebly, the city's first postmaster, who was celebrated for her hospitality and industriousness.

The beauty of the orange-red rocks to be appreciated has to be seen up-close and personal. This is a very popular area but even if all you do is drive along Highway 89, you will be stunned by the magnificent red sandstone walls of rock which rise from the ground like so many monolithic creatures. I thought to myself, “How could the Grand Canyon be any more spectacular than these red rock cliffs in Sedona?”

We still had two hours of driving before we would arrive at the Best Western Hotel in the city of Grand Canyon. We’ve stayed in many Best Westerns over the years, but this one was absolutely plush! And the price was very reasonable.

After a good night’s sleep, we grabbed a bite from the very well stocked Continental Breakfast. Our tour was with Pink Jeep Tours on Monday morning. And yes, the jeeps and mini-buses are all painted a shocking pink! Our guide/driver, Kyle, for the three-hour tour was delightful. I took notes so I could share the fun of this trip. The rest of the article is taken from those notes.

The morning for our tour was a beautiful, clear day. Blue sky and a smattering of snow from a previous snowfall awaited us when we opened our hotel room curtains. The temperature was a balmy 40 degrees. I mention this because Kyle told us that had we been there the week before we would have had entirely different weather. The temperature then was -19. That’s right! Minus 19!

We were able to drive right up to the gate of the Grand Canyon National Park. Again this seemed unimportant until Kyle explained that during the summer months you might have to wait in a line of cars and tour buses for an hour or more just to get into the park. The average number of visitors to the Grand Canyon annually is five million, most of who come during the summer. He listed a number of wildlife that can be seen in the park: mule deer, elk, foxes, big-horned sheep, bald eagles, mountain lions, wild turkeys, the occasional black bear, and the ever-present ravens.

The elevation of the South Rim is 7,400 feet above sea level. The Colorado River meanders through the cavernous gorge that is the Grand Canyon, roughly one mile straight down from the rim. If, on the other hand, you wanted to walk down to the river from the rim, it would take seven miles to get to the bottom. In the summer, Kyle said the temperature down at the river reaches 115 degrees. Sadly, the Canyon is not without a disturbing statistic. There are between 15-40 people who die annually in the Grand Canyon. Some expire due to dehydration, while others accidentally fall, or use the Canyon to commit suicide.

There are pine nut trees and junipers all over the flat rimmed area. One interesting point is that the juniper’s age can be determined by the size of the tree. Every 11 inches in circumference equals one hundred years of growth, so says Kyle. From where we stood at the Desert View Tower we could see Navajo Mountain in Utah, something around 100 miles away. It is only possible to see this mountain during the winter months when the air is clear.

As we stood on the South Rim peering out over the vastness of the Canyon, I asked Kyle how long the Grand Canyon was. Personally I had no idea, but I wasn’t ready for his answer. “The Canyon is 268 river miles long,” he said. A river mile, he explained, measures every twist and turn the river makes. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which is close to Las Vegas, Nevada, is another 1500 feet above the South Rim, making it nearly 9,000 in elevation.

We ended up at the Desert View Tower, a brick construction that was built in 1933 strictly as an observation tower situated on a prominent point overlooking the Canyon. Architect Mary Colter designed the tower which she then had built by hiring Hopi Indian laborers and artists. The brick was taken from ancient Indian structures that were in ruins in the 1930s, and built the 70-foot tower. It is a magnificent structure, rustic in design, but fabulous in its simplicity and purpose.

So if you’ve never been, and think you might want to go, check it out and make your plans. Kyle says the best time of year to go is in the months of September and October. But whenever you go, prepare to be amazed at God’s handiwork!

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