It really is a Grand Canyon



We spent three nights at the Grand Canyon, our first-ever visit there. None of the thousands of photos of the canyon prepare you for what an amazing sight it is, or at least they didn’t prepare me.

(I didn’t blog from there because while the scenery is spectacular, the Internet connectivity is not so hot.)

I do not have words that would do justice to the canyon. If you have not seen it, go.

A couple of sidelights are worth noting. One is the wildlife.

On our first afternoon there, Teddy and I walked from the campground down to the canyon rim. At one point, we turned around and a huge female elk was crossing the path behind us.


She paid us no attention and continued on her way, followed by three more elk. Teddy wanted to chase them, though what he thought he would do with an elk if he caught one is beyond me.

They have clearly lost much of their fear of humans. One man, with a baby in a carrier on his chest came quite close to one elk, foolishly, I thought.

On our last night the elk came again, walking right through the campground.

The Colorado River may be the architect of the Grand Canyon, but there is some well-done human architecture here too, much of it by Mary E.J. Colter, who also designed La Posada hotel in Winslow.


We spent quite a bit of time at two of her buildings, Hermit’s Rest and the Desert View Watchtower, and we became big fans of hers. Her buildings look as if they have always been there. The Watchtower, for example, is of modern steel construction but its exterior is made of local stone and it appears to be quite old and rising from the ruins of another building.

Robin says Mary Colter was never mentioned in any of the architecture classes she took as an urban-studies major at Maryland. One wonders why.

A third thing that struck us about the Grand Canyon was how many people were there. Most places we have stopped on this trip, we have seen few other tourists. Here there were hundreds, probably thousands, even though this was the off-season and some facilities were still closed or just reopening. We kept trying to imagine what it must be like here in the summer. I think we won’t come then, or if we do, we’ll go to the North Rim.

One guide told us that the average visitor spends three hours in the park. How anyone can feel they have experienced the canyon in three hours passeth my understanding.

And if the average visit is three hours, then some people must spend even less time. They must walk up, look in the canyon, say, “OK, I’ve seen it” and go on their way.

It’s as mind-boggling as the canyon itself.


2 thoughts on “It really is a Grand Canyon

  1. Lawrence Biemiller

    I imagine Mary Colter’s not better known because, besides being a woman, she did a lot of work in parks and other somewhat-remote places (rather than, say, on Park Avenue), and because she was not a Modernist. I think La Posada dates to just about the same time as Mies van der Rohe’s German Pavilion for the 1929 World’s Fair in Barcelona ( That said, there’s a well-illustrated book of Colter’s work by Arnold Berke, a former National Trust editor.

    By the way, if you’re in the Bay area at any point, it’s totally worth staying at the Berkeley City Club, designed by Julia Morgan at about the same time. It was originally a women’s club with apartments; now it’s a club and a hotel with the niftiest indoor pool this side of San Simeon. And it’s in Berkeley!


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