Day 3 – Grand Canyon vol.2 (A Snowy Surprise)
Text by Nikolay Bratovanov
Images by Nikolay Bratovanov, Manol Manolov and Branimir Bratovanov © 2018
What we’ve had experienced during Day 3 was probably the most charming and at the same time the least expected event throughout the whole Desert Trip 2018! All of a sudden, we were granted this magical, surreal appearance of the Grand Canyon that, I am sure, none of us will ever forget!
The beginning of this memorable day started out quite similarly to the previous one – having breakfast and tea in the Williams Motel 6 lobby, and discussing the plan for our second, and unfortunately last day at the Grand Canyon. Sticking to the original schedule, the idea of exploring the South Rim by car, trying to access as many different vista points as possible, was approved by all. We decided to reach one of the easternmost South Rim parts of the Grand Canyon National Park, called the Desert View Watchtower, explore the area, and then go back west towards the Grand Canyon Village, stopping at the multiple vista points along the road – Navajo Point, Lipan Point, Moran Point, Grandview Point, and others.
So be it! Already familiar with the Route 64 leading to the entrance of the Grand Canyon Village, we quickly got into the car, this time me sitting behind the wheel. Passing through the National Park main entrance was a bit faster compared to the day before, probably due to the slightly earlier hour of our arrival. We then continued driving along the same Route 64, following the nice road that went parallel to the South Rim, in an expectation of the Desert View Watchtower which was around 23 miles away. Enjoying the landscape and the surprisingly empty road, we didn’t notice the passage of time and miles, and suddenly a huge parking lot appeared right before us. We could also see the watchtower already. Despite its impressive appearance and high popularity, I felt like this is not going to be the main attraction of the day, at least for myself. My suspicions were proven right the moment I perceived the huge number of tourists besieging the tower. Furthermore, at this point a person could already see the breathtaking formations of the Grand Canyon, compared to which a single 21-meters-high overcrowded stone tower looked completely insignificant. In contrast to my skeptical attitude (and I may also say Manol’s), my brother Branimir was slightly more interested, so at the end he was the only one of us to go inside the Desert View Watchtower.
Meanwhile, Manol and I decided to move aside from this overpopulated area and peacefully enjoy the magical views offered by the Canyon. It was the perfect weather to do so – sunny, quiet and warm springtime! At this point we also realized that, after all, there was something quite positive about the Desert View Watchtower for us – its presence had concentrated all the tourists in a close proximity, allowing a person to quietly admire and contemplate the beauty and immensity of the Grand Canyon from the nearby panoramic spots. And this is exactly what we did while waiting for Branimir to come back (which didn’t take long). Of course, we also didn’t miss the chance to capture some nice photographs. Despite being not so far away from the yesterday’s South Kaibab Trail area, this slightly higher location offered quite a different viewing angle, and most importantly – it allowed us to finally observe the Colorado River itself. Yes, we did visit (and actually touched) the very same river at the California-Arizona border two days ago, but seeing it flowing through the Canyon, carving its rocks, was a completely different experience.
We could spend hours on this edge where we were standing and admiring from, but it was already time to explore the area a little bit. My brother had already joined us, so the three of us decided to improvise a small hike, climbing down the nearest ridge which was located right beneath the Watchtower. Personally, my goal was to reach the rocky end of the ridge which featured some nice boulders, a lonely tree, and potentially – a spectacular 360-degree panorama. In order to do so, we had to take this narrow trail which started right off the Watchtower site. We were pleasantly surprised that despite the great number of people wandering about the area, the trail had somehow remained almost completely uninhabited (obviously the Desert View Watchtower was doing a great job). Unfortunately, this wouldn’t last long – almost immediately after our appearance, a number of tourists started to come along. Of course, having no illusions that we would be the only people sightseeing the Grand Canyon (especially being right at its most popular tourist zones), we had to ignore the crowds once again and continued further down the trail. Only after a couple of meters, we could already see another breathtaking Grand Canyon view – this time to the west.
The magnificent scenery that was revealed offered a huge variety of photography compositions in terms of shapes, colors, lines and textures. In order to properly capture this variety, though, a frequent lens switching was required, which definitely took some time. Our pace was additionally slowed down by my film photography enthusiasm, as the traditional process of taking a picture with a fully mechanical vintage camera from the 70s requires the photographer’s extra attention and usually takes about twice the time compared to modern digital cameras. Fortunately, the easy and not demanding nature of our schedule allowed us to peacefully observe the beautiful landscape, photograph the scenes of interest, and most importantly – feel the atmosphere of the place without being in a rush – something we always pay attention on when planning our trips. We believe that, at the end, such a relaxed approach rewards the traveler with much deeper, positive and long-lasting memories and experiences, as opposed to the superficial, hurried, must-see-everything, selfie-stick-captured perspective of nowadays mainstream tourism.
After a while, we were already very close to the end of the ridge. I was pleased to see that the relatively small area where a person could safely stand, observe and take pictures from was at this time uninhabited. The lonely tree was already in sight too, showing halfway from behind the massive rocks. Obviously, it was the perfect time to reach the edge! In order to do so, though, I had to climb down some of those boulders which wasn’t quite an easy task especially for a person with two cameras (total weight of around 1.5 kg) hanging on their neck. However, once I got myself on the rocky edge, next to the tree, I felt mesmerized by the immensity of this unearthly view. Indeed, at such moments a person realizes how tiny and fleeting human existence could be!
Not long after my arrival onto the rocky edge, small groups of tourists started to approach the place. Luckily, I had already taken all the pictures I wanted to, so it was time to get back and rejoin Branimir and Manol. In addition, there was another reason that made me speed up the pace a little bit – the initially nice and sunny weather was relatively quickly replaced by lots of dark clouds coming up right from the South Rim. As I got up to my brother he urged me to hurry up – ‘It’s about to start raining anytime now’, he said. And there was no doubt about it – the clouds were becoming thicker and darker, moving faster and faster towards where we were.
We managed to reach the Desert View Watchtower before the raining had started and then headed to the large parking lot where the car was awaiting. It was time to get back to the Grand Canyon Village and meanwhile stop at some of the many vista points which were situated along the road. The first one we’ve picked was called Lipan Point, and was located just 2.5 miles away from the Desert View, but still we decided to give it a try. Despite being very close to the previous location, the Lipan Point offered quite a different view to the Canyon, and to the Colorado River in particular, whose bed could be seen even clearer from this angle.
We didn’t spend too much time on the Lipan Point – capturing a couple of photographs (both digital and analog) was just enough and we decided to move on to the next panoramic spot with a promising name – the Grandview Point. Meanwhile, as we were getting back to the car we noticed something strange that none of us had really expected – tiny little snowflakes started fluttering in the air! At this very moment we realized that it wasn’t about to be raining… but actually snowing! Excited about the unanticipated weather we got into the car and headed east towards the Grandview Point, along the already well-known Route 64. Apparently, we were driving right into the precipitating clouds, as the snowing intensity increased with every minute! In less than a few miles it was already a completely wintry landscape everywhere around and we simply couldn’t help ourselves! My brother pulled the car over to the first appropriate spot and we anxiously rushed to the nearby forest – already covered in snow!
Walking around the snowy forest was such a charming, mystical, even surreal experience! We were all fascinated by the silence of the trees, the fresh icy air, and the pure white snow that turned the whole place into some kind of a fairy-tale. It was amazing how in no time the Grand Canyon had replaced its rocky, desert, sunshine appearance with this impressive frosty landscape, as if we had teleported ourselves into a completely different world.
We probably spent some 15-20 minutes of taking pictures and enjoying the unexpected winter in the nice forest next to the road. After a while the snowing diminished, and eventually stopped. More than happy with the snowy experience we packed into the car again and headed towards the last stop of our trip – the Grandview Point, which was already quite close. As we were driving along Route 64, though, we noticed this nice little panoramic area right next to the road which, as far as I could tell, was not designated on our maps. Obviously, being not so ‘popular’ it was far from crowded compared to the previous locations that we had visited, so we decided to give it a try. And it was completely worth it! Like the previous times, the viewing angle had changed significantly, offering another breath-taking view. But what made this probably last Grand Canyon experience of ours really unforgettable was the weather again. The snowing had already stopped but those mystical clouds were still spreading all over the highest parts of the Canyon – this time veiling the North Rim. In addition, the snow covering the top of the nearby trees was still there, turning the surroundings into a surreal, dream-like scenery. The Grand Canyon was bidding his farewell to us in the most magnificent way!
Beholding this magical sight from such a nice and quiet spot was just the perfect finale of our short but full of positive emotions and unforgettable experiences Grand Canyon adventure! Being more than fascinated by our last stop, we thought that visiting the Grandview Point, which was extremely close, was at this point unnecessary (…what more could we possibly expect to see..?). Of course, the growing tiredness had something to do with it too. At the end of our Grand Canyon adventure, we are more than grateful for all the magnificent views and incredible moments that the Canyon had offered us throughout the last two days. Two days that I will always remember! After all, another dream of mine had been fulfilled!
We hit the Route 64 for the last time, passing through the Grand Canyon Village welcome signs, and heading towards the town of Williams. I felt a mixture of emotions at this moment – on one side sadness as we were leaving, on the other – gratitude and fulfillment for having the magnificent Grand Canyon finally visited, bringing along memories for a lifetime! Now, as we approached the Williams Motel 6, it was time for getting some rest, repacking and preparing ourselves for the upcoming desert adventures that awaited us for the next five days!
Introduction | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8