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Ode to the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is a wonder. Not only is it one of the seven natural wonders of the world, it is full of surprises and beauty. It is the size of entire countries, and it covers the majority of northern Arizona. It features billions of years of rocks, it has a section that is missing enough time between layers that three grand canyons could have eroded and then been washed away. It has faults, non-conformities, uplifting, and erosion. There are so many layers in the canyon that the colors create an entire palate. The river that winds through the center can go from the purest blue-green to the murkiest of browns. It looks tranquil from the rim, yet has some of the largest white water in the world. It winds, eddies, and flows as a cool oasis in the desert. If there is any experience to have in your life, raft the canyon. Into the river flow a variety of creeks. Each has its own personality, and displays the miracle of water in the desert. There is little more surprising or magical than finding the lush green of cottonwoods as you round a bend covered in prickly pear. The creeks run warm and protect the last of the native fish of the canyon. They are a cool relief in the blistering heat of the midday. Their colors add the greens of life to the canyon. They even contrast the red rocks with almost glowing turquoise. The waterfalls are among the most spectacular in the world and can provide showers and swimming holes or just a welcome-trickling spray to enhance the silence of the canyon with their natural music. There is rock hoping and cliff scrambling to be done. There are the flattest of trails in the stream beds and on the Tonto, and there are the steepest of climbs through Schist, Redwall, and Sandstone to return to the relative safety of the rim. Descent into the canyon is a leisurely stroll, but it must be done with caution. The ascent takes the strongest of mental fortitude and preparation with water and salty snacks to balance dehydration and hyponatremia. It is for the strong of body and mind, and it rewards those with the ultimate vistas. Your shoes transform colors and the fashion of the cities gives way to the hardy utility of the adventurers. You come across long stretches, climbs, and descents laden with backpacks full of necessities and comforts. The weariness of sustained exercise is tempered by the sheer wonder and majesty of the canyon around you. You gain the deep contentment of productive work and rewarded effort. The joy of relaxation well deserved. The peace of nature’s embrace and contentment of books near a stream, meals under a tree, sleeping under the stars, all in a warm environment that most often favors light cloths and sleeping bags. There are so many layers that you can find yourself enveloped in one of four worlds with almost no observation of the others. The world of the rim is that of high vantages, looking in upon the stepwise progression of temples named for gods and explores each descending with their own characters and complexities of ridges, canyons and amphitheaters eventually to the rare glimpse of the river. The world of the Tonto and Esplanades are those of the plains. The temples rise above, and occasionally a canyon will loom out of the otherwise gently rolling expanse of true desert. This is the driest of the worlds, for there is neither the snows of the rims nor the waters of the creeks and river. The world of the creeks is that of winding adventure, magic, and mystery. Here are where the most surprises are found from sculpted rock formations chiseled from the streams to cliffs and caves, springs and streams, falls and fauna. This is most musical of the worlds as well, for the others exist in near silence while the world of the streams is full of the sounds of water and wind, birds and insects, and very rarely the rolling thunder of storms or rock falls. The world of the river is that of power. The river and the unrelenting force of water is actively changing and digging out more of the canyon. The rapids roar, and the water relentlessly washes everything along with almost nothing that can resist it for even the briefest of times. Here one can only look up to the rim of the plains with no view of the other worlds but for the barest glimpses as you slide along. Sand banks and boulder fields line the river as occasional sanctuaries for plants and animals from the sheer cliffs that rise above. The water makes the most subtle of noises bubbling and hissing in eddies and currents. Then, suddenly the water will clash and clamor as it dashes through rapids and waves that can tower the size of houses above. The most wondrous of streams in their magical worlds are accessed from the river, a bare glimpse for the lucky few that can access them, protected by the most formidable defenses of the natural world from intrusion and despoiling. Here, the most fragile of life and living rock can be found, safe in the deep heart of the canyon.