As you may know, we recently visited the Grand Canyon. My camera cannot capture the beauty and magnitude of the canyon, and I confess words fail me trying to describe it. Then I came across this the other day, which I found in Seeing the West: Suggestions for the Westbound Traveller by K.E.M. (Kate Ethel Mary) Dumbell (1914). All I can say is, "Yeah what she said.”
THE GRAND CANYON
The Grand Canyon of the Colorado is the world’s most famous gorge, in which Mr. Lummis says: “All the world’s famous gorges could be lost forever.”
Charles Dudley Warner said of this spot: “Human experience has no prototype of this region, and the imagination has never conceived of its forms and colours.... The scene is one to strike dumb with awe, or to unstring the nerves.... All that we could comprehend was a vast confusion of amphitheatres and strange architectural forms resplendent with colour.... Streaks of solid hues 1,000 feet in width, yellows mingled with white and gray, orange, dull red, brown, blue, carmine, and green all blending in the sunlight into one transcendent effusion of splendour.”
Here is truly one of the most marvellous nature wonders of the world, and comparatively few of us have seen it. It is stupendous! It is incomprehensible!
The canyon is nearly 300 miles long and in places 6,600 feet deep; the width at the top is from 8 to 20 miles. The river lying below is in places 300 feet wide, and is 2,400 feet above sea level; yet looking down from the rim it seems the smallest stream, the merest thread.
“A canyon, truly, but not after the accepted type. An intricate system of canyons, rather.... Only by descending into the canyon may one arrive at anything like comprehension of its proportions, and the descent cannot be too urgently recommended to every visitor who is sufficiently robust to bear a reasonable amount of fatigue.”
There are several paths down the southern wall of the canyon, and the trip is safely made on horseback. A word of advice here in regard to clothing may be of use. It is absolutely necessary to have good, warm clothing with one, for the night, which is spent on the floor; but for the descent a light shade hat is advisable; the heat of the afternoon sun can be very oppressive.
Mr. William Winter said of the Grand Canyon: “It is a pageant of ghastly desolation and yet of frightful vitality, such as neither Dante nor Milton in their most sublime conceptions ever even approached.... Your heart is moved with feeling that is far too deep for words. Hour after hour you would sit, entranced, at the edge of this mighty subterranean spectacle, lost in the wonder and glory of it, forgetful of self, and conscious only of the Divine Spirit.”
“All this, which is literally true, is a mere trifle of what might be said in trying to fix a standard of comparison for the Grand Canyon. But I fancy there is no standard adjustable to the human mind. You may compare all you will—eloquently and from wide experience—and at last all similes fail. The Grand Canyon is just the Grand Canyon, and that is all you can say. I never have seen any one who was prepared for it. I never have seen any one who could grasp it in a week’s hard exploration; nor any one, except some rare Philistine, who could even think he had grasped it. I have seen people rave over it; better people struck dumb with it; even strong men who wept over it; but I have never yet seen the man or woman who expected it.” (Charles F. Lummis)
Last, but by no means least, let me quote a few words from an article published in the Century Magazine by Mr. John Muir:
“It seems a gigantic statement for even Nature to make, all in one stone word. Wildness so Godful, cosmic, primeval, bestows a new sense of earth’s beauty and size.... But the colours, the living, rejoicing colours, chanting, morning and evening, in chorus to heaven. Whose brush or pencil, however lovingly inspired, can give us these? In the supreme flaming glory of sunset the whole canyon is transfigured, as if all the life and light of centuries of sunshine stored up in the rocks was now being poured forth as from one glorious fountain, flooding both earth and sky.”
It is a happy thing to be able to quote such men as the above, for I am among the number of those who were struck dumb by the sight of this place. I can find no words which would give any idea of the impression made upon me by the canyon, I can only advise those planning a western trip to see it, without fail, either going or returning; the time of the year does not matter.