There might be nothing quite so deserving of a name as the Grand Canyon. I’ve certainly never seen anything more grand. But there’s also something strange about staring down into the vastness of the space that the Colorado River has spent the past eons carving out of the layers of striated rock. Because you’re staring, quite literally, at nothing.

And so your eye can’t quite decide what to do. It runs along the edges of the cliffs, and tricks itself by plunging, more quickly than you’ve ever expected, into horrifying depths before flinging itself out again into the vast, seemingly endless, sky. Your eye, in short, sort of freaks out, and deals with the impossibility of ever actually taking in this landscape in its entirety by scampering in all directions, without a plan, without hope. This is where the excitement comes from.

It had been a long day of driving from Las Vegas, punctuated for lots of stops for coffee and water. Just driving through the desert and taking in the miles of grit and sun that surrounded me were enough to bring on a crazy thirst, and I was relieved by the apparent wetness of the forests leading up to the canyon. Deer grazed calmly in the meadows along the road that takes you into the park, to the edge of the massive landform that for centuries travelers and writers and naturalists have tried to come to terms with. I still wanted to see a rattlesnake, but still no luck. I did, however, manage to see a condor in flight, and listen to a talk on these amazing birds delivered by a naturalist working for the park.

The lodge at the canyon is charming and fun. There are people there from all over the world, who have flown or driven or biked into the park to do exactly what I was doing: stare and be amazed. I hiked a bit out from the lodge to a great viewpoint, and tried to take it all in before heading back for a great meal and some time chatting with the park’s other visitors.

I was sad to say good-bye, but was also looking forward to the next day’s drive, which would take me back into California for a few days in sunny LA…

Looking to visit the Grand Canyon yourself this summer? Be sure to check out our incredible USA: California & the Grand Canyon program!