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Truly Wondrous: Exploring the Grand Canyon



Sunset on the canyon walls

A Picture May be Worth a Thousand Words but No Photo, No Words, Can Really Prepare You For The Grand Canyon. Pictures can only give you tiny pieces of the landscape; adjectives quickly fail. The canyon is just – well – GRAND.

And BIG. The canyon sprawls for 277 miles. At its widest point, the canyon is 18 miles across. The creative Colorado River is a mile below.

Facts and figures are fine, but all that pales when you’re looking over the edge. Through the layers of rock, the history of the earth is revealed. Almost 40 distinct rock layers have been identified, from the lowest and oldest rocks (2 billion years) to the “young” (250 million years old) caprock. Different minerals in different layers paint a panoply of colors in the canyon.



Vistas cry out for gazing.

The canyon itself is a relatively new creation, geologically speaking. The huge, flat Colorado Plateau was uplifted by tectonic forces between 30 and 70 million years ago. Between 5 and 6 million years ago, the Colorado River began its relentless work of carving out the canyon. Various forms of erosion and differences in the rock layers created a variety of outcroppings and columns.

Changing light creates a kaleidoscopically shifting pattern of color. The Grand Canyon is at once a photographer’s dream – and nightmare. Doing it justice with a camera is impossible – but millions of us keep on trying.

Bright Angel Trail, viewed from West Canyon Rim, winds down to the bottom of the canyon.

Going Car-less

Not having a car is sometimes a daunting experience for those of us used to that luxury. Having a car at the Grand Canyon, however, is a nuisance – expensive and unnecessary.

Regular shuttle buses stop at all park facilities and make runs along the canyon rim with stops at the most scenic lookouts. We rarely had to wait long for a bus.

Xanterra, the park partner that operates a number of the concessions, including lodging, also offers specialized bus tours, including sunrise and sunset outings. Our sunrise tour driver, Gina Valdez, was a fount of information and we arrived at a premier point for catching the first rays 10 minutes before the 5:43 a.m. sun. There were no clouds that morning – nothing in the sky to catch the color – so it was a very matter-of-fact, now-you-see-it kind of a sunrise. But, oh, what it did as the rays illuminated the canyon walls. Shades of gray were transformed into a brilliant celebration of yellows, reds and purples.

Picture-perfect views are everywhere you look.

Timeless Wander

Don’t even consider a visit to the Grand Canyon a day trip. Lots of people do and they really miss a lot. Our trip was a short one, but we hit a lot of high spots. We spent the night before at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel by the train depot and got up early the next morning to catch the train from Williams to the Grand Canyon. The hotel and the train are Xanterra entities and they made it extremely easy.

The train was scheduled to depart at 9:30 a.m. but early-comers are treated to a cowboy show before going aboard. The emphasis was on comedy with clever routines with horses, the hero marshal and inept bad guys.

We arrived at the Canyon Depot at 11:45 a.m. and couldn’t wait to climb the hill to historic El Tovar Lodge and our first view of the canyon. Many people who take the train ride back the same day – leaving at 3:30 p.m. The canyon they see is beautiful, but with the sun high overhead, the colors are flat and washed out.

Although it looks placid from above, the Colorado River is fast, wide and cold – 46˚F year-round.

We were anxious to start our explorations, but grabbed a quick bite in the food court at Maswik Lodge, headquarters for our accommodations. The rest of the day, we shuttled from one amazing view to another. When we first arrived, we made dinner reservations at the El Tovar dining room, the park’s gourmet eatery. During dinner I ran out to the canyon’s edge between my entrée and dessert to catch the Technicolor sunset.

The next day we explored more of the canyon’s rim. We didn’t have time to go down into the canyon – plan a lot more time if that’s something you want to do. There are mule trips and, of course, hiking into the canyon and on the rim. Bikes are available for rent and raft trips are scheduled both inside and outside the park. Several companies offer helicopter tours of the canyon.

While “official” scenic lookouts have guard rails, most of the canyon rim is unfenced. And people do, occasionally, fall in. A number of these fatalities have occurred when men were trying to pee into the canyon!

Sated with scenic overload, we relaxed on the train back to Williams. The landscape on the 65-mile trip is not spectacular – though it is forested near the canyon, most of the way was flat and relatively treeless. Not much to look at out the windows … until we spotted masked men on horseback racing along beside the train.

The train ground to a halt. Train robbers! We all kept our jewelry and our virtue, though tipping was encouraged. It was a cute coda to a grand Grand Canyon getaway. 

Terror on the train!



Check out packages that include train fare, lodging and other amenities at www.thetrain.com

• Southwest offers non-stop flights from OKC to Phoenix.

• We picked up a rental car and drove to Williams, about a two-and-a-half hour drive. It can be done in a day, but there’s a lot to see in between the two towns.

• Almost 5 million people visit the canyon annually. Summer is peak – and hot – so consider going in spring or fall.

• Take refillable water bottles – no bottled water is sold in the park.

• The park offers a variety of lodging. If you want a room with a canyon view, check out Thunderbird and Kachina lodges.

nps.gov/grca is the go-to site for all info about the national park.

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September 2018

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More than 20 speakers in a one-track session designed for the digital marketing professional, marketer, business owner or anyone interested in branding, PR, advertising, social media, SEO, search,...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
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Sponsor: BigWing
Telephone: 405.475.4185
Contact Name: Janelle Archer
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This year will mark the eighth time the John F. Kennedy Awards have been celebrated, honoring individuals making a significant contribution to Oklahoma, its communities and its people, while paying...

Cost: $300

Where:
Skirvin Hilton Hotel
1 Park Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Sponsor: Santa Fe Family Life Center
Telephone: 405-840-1817
Contact Name: James Timberlake
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More than 20 speakers in a one-track session designed for the digital marketing professional, marketer, business owner or anyone interested in branding, PR, advertising, social media, SEO, search,...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: BigWing
Telephone: 405.475.4185
Contact Name: Janelle Archer
Website »

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Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
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Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
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Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
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Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
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A fabulous art auction to raise money to help support Oklahoma A+ Schools at UCO.

Cost: $100

Where:
CHK|Central Boathouse
732 Riversport Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73129
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Sponsor: Oklahoma A+ Schools at UCO
Telephone: 405.974.3791
Contact Name: Heather Bryant
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The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
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Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
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Join supporters in communities across the nation for the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. This family-friendly event raises funds to support the...

Cost: $10 for adults or children six and older

Where:
Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S. Lake Hefner Drive
Oklahoma City , OK  73116
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Telephone: 405.403.7762
Contact Name: Emily Drover
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Let’s end childhood cancer. Together! This September, supporters across the country will unite to participate in the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer, an exciting, family-friendly...

Cost: $10 for Registration

Where:
Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S Lake Hefner Dr
Oklahoma City, OK  73116
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Sponsor: ALSAC St. Jude Oklahoma City
Telephone: 405.403.7762
Contact Name: Emily Drover
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Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
View map »


Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

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