Nothing can prepare you for the sense of awe you get the first time you see the Grand Canyon in person. You can read about it, see pictures or even see it on TV, all those things can only scratch the surface of what you can expect when you first see the grandeur of natures beauty laid out before you.
I first saw the Grand Canyon when I was thirteen years old with my uncle. My uncle had always had a dream of driving across country and when he decided to go, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel with him. We saw so many wonderful things on that trip, and the Grand Canyon still stands out for it’s shear scope and beauty.
I can still remember riding through the desert and seeing the first signs of the canyon. Being a New England boy, I was amazed… and as it turns out, the canyons I was seeing then were only minor side canyons!
Our journey took us to the south rim. As we parked and approached our first viewing point, I recall looking out at the vast expanse, the colors, the intricately carved rocks, all the amazing detail only millions of years of natures finest work can create, it was too amazing… I could not believe it was real. It looked as if someone had filled the horizon with the most amazing work of art ever created. To think that this could be a living, breathing, ever-changing environment was almost too much for my young brain.
As we left one of the many overlooks, we saw the helicopter tour sign, we just knew we had to see the Grand Canyon from the air! Neither my uncle nor I had ever been on a helicopter before, so that experience alone was going to be fun, but to do it over the Grand Canyon! What an amazing opportunity! When determining seating in the helicopter, they try to arrange the passengers by weight in order to balance the chopper. At around 140 pounds, I was the closest to the weight of the pilot, so I actually got to sit in the co-pilots seat!
Once everyone was situated, the pilot began to throttle up. You could feel the blades spinning just a few feet above our heads, faster and faster as the helicopter began to lift straight into the air. After attaining an altitude of about 50 feet we began to move forward and then quickly banked into a turn toward the canyon in the distance. We flew for a few minutes over the forest and as I looked down past my feet through the plexi-glass bubble on the floor, I saw deer and other wildlife running through the trees. I was so focused on watching for wildlife through the floor bubble that I did not even notice the approaching canyon. There we were, flying along maybe 100 feet off the forest floor when all of the sudden the bottom fell out, and it was a mile drop straight to the floor of the canyon! Talk about vertigo!
The flight over the Grand Canyon was amazing. We flew to the north rim where native Indians had once upon a time built cliff dwellings half way up the walls. The dwellings appeared to be red adobe with ladders made from tree branches leading to the many entry ways. Just imagine what someone would pay for those views today! After viewing the adobe structures for a while, we flew back to the south rim enjoying the amazing scenery the entire way.
It was getting late when we arrived safely back at the heliport, and we had a long drive to get back to where we were staying, so we thanked the pilot, gave one last long look toward the Grand Canyon and packed into the car for the ride back to the hotel. I had no trouble falling asleep that night, but all night I dreamed of soaring over that beautiful canyon.
My wife and I are in southern Arizona right now waiting a few more weeks for the weather to warm up a bit at the Grand Canyon. Once it does, I plan to take her to see the Grand Canyon for her first time. I plan to relive the experience of my first visit through her eyes.