The one great site every American … should see. ~Teddy Roosevelt
On our last night in the canyon before heading back to solid cell service and reality via Phoenix, we decided to postpone dinner to watch the lingering sunset at Mather Point. Having spent four days in the bottom of the canyon away from the crowds, we didn’t mind enjoying the sunset with throngs of other tourists at Mather Point — the first viewpoint you can stop at from the South Rim entrance of the national park.
Mather Point was named for Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service and a major advocate for establishing the Grand Canyon National Park. He believed in preserving beautiful landscapes like this, but he also did much to encourage the development of tourism to help people see remote parks in relative comfort. So it seems fitting that tourists flock to this point, and it was a beautiful spot from which to watch the ever-shifting shadows and light in this particular Grand Canyon sunset.
I came to the Grand Canyon as someone who wasn’t automatically moved by this desert landscape. My one previous visit had been a quick, wave-at-the-canyon kind of trip. So this time I wanted to understand what all the fuss was about.
I’m pretty sure that I still wouldn’t have appreciated this view from the South Rim nearly as much if I hadn’t spent time hiking down into the canyon beforehand. It’s vastness seems impossible to take in without understanding what’s involved in navigating just one tributary in one offshoot canyon. Lots of people say they feel small, inconsequential in the presence of the canyon, but that’s not exactly what I felt.
I felt awe — strong from the success of the trip, but humbled by the sheer magnitude of the canyon and the time required to create it. In the end, I wasn’t quite ready to leave. I see what all the fuss is about now.
P.S. — I hope you enjoy these photos! They were shot in manual mode with my Sony NEX 6, and they actually resemble the spectacular sunset I saw. An accomplishment for any amateur photographer! (Except the shot of the elk, which was shot with my iPhone 5s.)