We are disarmed by the exorbitant room prices in the vicinity of Grand Canyon National Park.
We ended up choosing, as the base of successive road shuttles, one of the historic pieces of old Route 66, lost in vast Arizona.
Located almost 100 km away, Williams proved to be a small town in Main Street America style, bisected by the emblematic road and in which, only in appearance, little had changed over time. And yet, on the full fringe of Hualapai Indian territory, almost only Indians managed the dozens of row motels on both sides of the road.
The twilight took over the village and made dozens of neon signs blaze when, stunned from a journey that was already coming from the far Californian coast of the Pacific Ocean, we entered one of those practical shelters without a trace of our soul.
We slept much longer than we needed. We wake up to a new day of blue skies and radiant sunshine.
Even though a substantial proportion of Williams' guests were boarding the Grand Canyon Railway steam train to the Grand Canyon by that time, we remain faithful to our old but reliable Buick Le Saber.
We head north along the endless straights of Highways 64 and 180, in the latter, through a Kaibab forest covered with Ponderosa pine trees that foreshadowed the forced end of the route.
An hour later, we cross the south portal. We enter Grand Canyon Village.
The Abysmal View of the Grand Canyon
Eager to reward the senses, we headed straight for the abyss. When we confronted it, we finally realized why so many travelers regard it as America's supreme scene.
Onward stretched an exquisitely carved domain to the depths, hacked into layers and multicolored columns of rock from the most diverse eras.
Above, stray clouds, seduced by the sumptuousness and geological complexity, played shadow games.
For a moment, our jaws dropped open. We took advantage of the dazzle to regain our breath that was cut off halfway by the panorama and the rarefaction of those 2200 meters of altitude we were at, but which the depths (almost 1900 meters) and the incredible dimension of the precipice (446 km by 29 km) barely allowed us to notice.
We admire it from Yavapai Point, a viewpoint that honors one of the various indigenous peoples in the area, rivals of the great Navajo nation from the north just off Mather Point.
And as we hopped along Desert View Drive along the elevated edge of the South Rim, from other vantage points with natural verandas set over dizzying indentations.
From west to east, we perceive the view of the distant and elusive bed of the Colorado River to be favored by the configuration of the relief.
Around Lipan Point, the great fluvial responsible for that mutilation of the earth's surface, undergoes tight meanders.
To soon flow, almost unhindered, through the much more regular lands to the east of Tanner Canyon.
A Geological and Erosive Work of the Old Colorado River
An intense debate prevails among scientists, but recent studies have argued that the Colorado River set its course and began carving its lush basin in the Colorado Plateau 17 million years ago.
The enormous depth – not even the greatest in the world which is located in the Nepalese canyon of Kai Gandaki – and the superlative altitude of its slopes, most formed below sea level, is due to a massive survey (between 1500 and 3000 meters) of the Colorado Plateau over 60 million years ago.
This survey increased the flow gradient of the Colorado River and its tributaries, which dramatically increased the speed at which they flow and their rock wear capacity.
Climatic conditions during the ice ages also increased the amount of water drained into the basin, which again reinforced the erosion process.
Desert View Watch Tower: An Old Kiva-inspired Watchtower
We reach the eastern edge of the Grand Canyon, we find the tallest building on the South Rim. At first glance, the cylindrical tower looks like an old Native American ruin.
Inside, divided into four floors, we found that it was one of several buildings from the early 30s for a company named Fred Harvey that still promotes Native American culture and art.
It was built inspired by a kiva, a structure used in the spiritual practices of various Pueblos peoples and based on a solid metal structure that supported the current coating with a trustworthy indigenous look, because it was achieved with carefully selected stones.
For the opening, the company's mentor chose a traditional blessing ritual of the Hopi ethnic group, with songs, dances and speeches. Afterwards, the guests enjoyed a typical meal freshly cooked by indigenous women.
Even so, the watchtower proved consensual.
Part of the park's staff supported it, but those in charge of nature interpretation were angry with the novelty. "It stands out from the landscape like a wounded thumb, and calling it an Indian watchtower is, to say the least, misleading." Vents Edwin McKee, the leader of the naturalists.
The monument withstood controversy and frequent bad weather.
We took the opportunity to climb its cornucopia ramp to the top floor where we knew the view would reward us.
The Meanings of the Colorado River, the Painted Desert and Arizona on Fire
We saw even more of Colorado, both from the river – which later spawned a Little Colorado – and from the homonymous plateau that, beyond its bed, traversed the landscape that the 10,000 Maniacs New Yorkers extol in “The Painted Desert”, one of his most famous themes.
"The Painted Desert can wait 'till Summer. We've played this game of just imagine long enough...” sings Natalie Merchant, disillusioned with a love affair with someone she ardently desires to join and who tells her about her adventures in the Grand Canyon and its surroundings, but who postpones the union time and time again.
The evening did not fail. It brought a freezing cold that caught us on a longer-than-expected hike down a steep path. Back at the top, we both huddled inside the car, drinking hot chocolate to avoid freezing
Simultaneously, the sun was setting to the west of the gigantic river gorge.
It was breaking down in such a way over the countless silhouettes of its cliffs and in the sky above that it seemed to have set Arizona on fire.
Recovered from the impending hypothermia, we gave in to the seduction of the incandescent scenery and returned to the edge of the canyon.
From there, in the company of some other Neros obscured by the dim light, we were ecstatic to watch as the celestial fire was extinguished.
How it made the sky of a yellowish-orange fainter.
We pick up at the faraway Williams motel.
"So, did you like the Canyon?" asks us the Indian receptionist who had met us the day before, a forty-year-old Hindu from Gujarat. “I've been here for two years.
I only looked at him once.
You know, those who come from poor India and find an opportunity in the States, prioritize work.
I'll still be back there and explore more of the West!”
Grand Canyon, Arizona's Insurmountable Depression
New dawn, new trip to the abyss, accomplished even faster than the day before. On these sides, taking into account the quality of North American roads, only the Grand Canyon raises insurmountable barriers to travel.
Its North Rim is less than 20 km from the South Rim. As might be expected, neither federal nor state authorities have ever dared to propose building a bridge over the crown jewel of US national parks.
If we wanted to get there, we would have to face 350 km by road.
The saga of the Grand Canyon's obvious impassability goes back a long time. The Hopi Indians already inhabited it and roamed it for centuries when the first Europeans arrived.
In 1540, Spanish captain Garcia Lopez de Cardenas and a small group of soldiers were looking for the then-popular Seven Cities of Cibola when they reached its shore, aided by native guides.
Three of the men went down a third of the slope but had to return to the top because they didn't have enough water. “Some of the rocks down there are bigger than the tower in Seville,” they reported.
Several historians argue that the Indians avoided revealing the trails for the Colorado River to them and that no Europeans ever visited the canyon again for the next two hundred years.
Only towards the end of the XNUMXth century did Hispanic priests searching for a route between Santa Fe and California found a path known as the “Passage of the Priests”.
Today, this trail is underwater in the gigantic Powell artificial lake that we would visit later.
The Shuttle Mules Carry Visitors to the Depths of the Colorado River
We tried to join one of the mule caravans organized by the park and replicate its historic crossings.
We would only have a vacancy in a few good days. The muleteer on duty is sympathetic to our frustration. To compensate, he lets us pet two of his mules, to whom he spoke as if they were daughters.
"In a little while we're going down again, Lulu." You didn't feel like anything anymore, did you? But it will have to be!”
Lulu recognizes the name and affection.
It rubs its muzzle on its picturesque owner and inaugurates an exhibition of affection that we didn't expect from such creatures.
The wind rises before our eyes. It brings a storm that has covered the leaden cloud zone.
In three times, localized showers fall.
A huge rainbow protrudes from the bottom of the cliffs into the overcast sky.
The storm passes. And the wind drops enough for some of the helicopters flying over the canyon to get back into business.
We boarded one of them.
We open up the grand scene from the air, in the company of a group of Japanese women who, panicked by the turmoil, cannot hide their agony, much less appreciate the grandiose bottom into which they feared to crash.
We land safe and sound. We continue to the western limit of Hermits Rest. There we rest to contemplate the surreal view.