Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Land of canyons

 Michael - Alternate Thursdays

After the fun of Bouchercon and the delight of seeing many friends again for the first time in three years, Pat and I set off on our travels. After visiting the second largest land canyon in the world (the Fish River Canyon in Namibia) earlier in the year, we wanted to see what the Colorado River had achieved. I’d seen the Grand Canyon once before many years ago, but I was more than happy to renew the acquaintance.

A point that I’d forgotten is that the Grand Canyon rim is high enough to reach into the realm of conifer shrubs and trees. The Fish River Canyon is less deep. It's cut out of the Namibian desert and that has a drama of its own. The Grand has the vegetation contrast of colours as well as the awe-inspiring feeling of depth and size. You have to cheer the Colorado. It’s been rearranging the geological furniture for five or six million years. It’s done a pretty amazing job.

Colorado river at work...

Morning view

No doubt you will already be muttering that the introductory panorama to this blog - Bryce Canyon in southern Utah - isn't a canyon at all. Canyons are supposed to be carved out by industrious rivers. Bryce is actually an amphitheater, the result of erosion by rain and wind that has left behind pillars of material called hoodoos. A strange name that links with spiritualism from West Africa and developed in north America by enslaved people. It's no coincidence. Some of the structures certainly suggest the supernatural.



Natural Bridge
But where to?

Red Canyon near Bryce.
Also not a canyon...

To the east of Bryce is Arches National Park. Here, also, the soft rock has been eroded by rain and wind producing fantastic shapes and arches. The rock is remarkably porous allowing water to ooze through and erode below the surface of the structure, weakening its interior, and eventually removing the material altogether.

Double Arch.
Not only has the interior been eroded away on two sides to create the arches,
 but the roof has opened also. Triple Arch?

Skyline Arch
Sometimes arches develop quickly;
in 1940, without warning a huge boulder dropped out doubling the width of the arch.

Broken Arch
Yet it seems pretty solid. Hmm...

Sand Arch
One can actually walk through this one.

Delicate Arch
Perhaps the most remarkable of all. Nothing remains but the grin...

Almost makes one think of an ancient ruin

Use your imagination

Thanks to Pat for the pictures!

Now on to Yellowstone for something completely different.


  1. Michael -- what an inspiration and delight to wake up this post and these photos. Along with the explanation of hoodoos. I always think that the Grand Canyon, and the other National Parks are the only tourist destinations in America that are even better than you dreamed and never disappoint.

    1. Absolutely true, Wendall. We're in Yellowstone now and it's fabulous!

  2. I've seen these parks, but I can never get enough of their magnificence. Thanks for the great photos. I saw something almost as spectacular on September 4. Flying back to Bern from Bouchercon, I had to change planes in Toronto. On my flight northeast from San Diego, I looked up at one point from the mystery I was reading on my Kindle, glanced casually out the airplane window, and saw that we were flying past the Grand Canyon; it was far, far below but perfectly clear. At first, I couldn't believe my eyes, but I checked the airline's map of our flight, and, sure enough, it was right on our path. What a treat!

  3. Michael, it's Jeff. Your photos and Kim's comment reminded me of a truly once in a life time experience. Many decades ago, long before the prominence of hijacking and 9/11 security measures, I was on a commercial flight out of Palm Springs heading East. Out of no where the pilot announced over the loud speaker that he had a treat for us. We should stay on our side of the plane and look out the windows for a "special sight." It's an experience I'll never forget. The plane dropped down to seemingly yards/meters above the Grand Canyon and followed it's twists and turns, while the pilot slowly dipped the plane's wings from side to side to give all a view of that magical moment. The passenger cabin erupted into applause. I still think of that moment every time the Grand Canyon comes up and wonder whether the episode cost the pilot his job.--Jeff

    1. I hope not. Maybe he was retiring and it was his last commercial flight!

  4. Wonderful photos Michael, of a wonderful part of our world. I've had several full summers in the States, along with other 1-3 week visits, and candidly before the first time I probably would have had Utah somewhere in the late 40s if I'd ranked the fifty states in order of which I most wanted to visit. But after a post summer camp visit to Zion and Bryce etc in 2006, it's now one of my absolute faves (visited Arches etc a few years later). That whole southwestern region is so epic for outdoors stuff and landscapes, and I absolutely love it. Looking forward to going back one day.