As I stand at the south rim of the Grand Canyon watching the sun set 30 years after I last stood there, I ask myself if it has changed. Has it gotten smaller? Is the canyon not as deep or as wide as it once was? Three days later, after walking the entire Rim Trail, going down into a part of the canyon and spending time watching the sun set and rise I have my answer.
The Rim Trail, especially on the westernmost part of the trail, is for the most part devoid of tourists. Very few venture out to hike the entire length of 21 km (13.4 mi) and the farther away one is from the village, the less people one will see. The view of the canyon changes constantly and the peaceful sounds nature makes, makes it easy for quiet contemplation. There is the flap of wings as birds catch the air currents sweeping up the side of the canyon, there is the wind whistling through the pine trees, the distant rush of the Colorado River, the rustling in the underbrush as a lizard, squirrel or chipmunk scurries along, and at dusk the soft chirping of crickets.
Early morning walks and afternoon sittings filled with people watching made me think a lot about the way people interact with nature. There are those who seek the thrill of standing out as far as possible on the rim (preferably in inadequate footwear and making many who are watching cringe), those who are there for that photo on social media (“take it again, I had a funny look on my face”), those who are checking a place off their list (“yesterday we did that, today this, what do we do tomorrow?”) and those few who are truly in awe when they first see the canyon and actually gasp (“oh my- how gorgeous”).
At the end of my stay, I ask myself again if it has changed. At first it looks like it has: the number of tourists has soared, the village has grown, and my adult eyes notice people who look but don’t see the beauty nature has in store for us. But it hasn’t really changed. After three days of really observing the canyon at different angles and in various lights, I notice it hasn’t gotten smaller. It’s just as vast as it once was, the ever-changing canyon colors are still mesmerizing, and the sounds and smells remain the same.