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The Morning Show at Grand Canyon

Waking up often means turning on those a.m. programs with news and chipper chatter by smiling hosts. But at the Grand Canyon, a rising sun starts The Morning Show. Getting the best seat means staying inside the Canyon at a place like Yavapai Lodge, located just a mile from one of the most expansive and best angles to catch movement in the east. Preparation involves an alarm clock, appropriate clothes, and either a short walk or drive. Though Yavapai Point rates as a popular viewing site, we find parking easily enough; the early sunrise time proves less alluring for many than a convenient sunset. Locating a spot that provides good angles for cell phone and regular cameras, we wait briefly. The sun moves suddenly and quickly: this particular recording lasts a whopping three minutes. Many people join us, but quiet predominates, aside from camera clicks and the occasional crunching of gravel as someone moves for a better angle. Mostly, we stand respectfully and watch one of nature’s greatest accomplishments, an event that inspires light and hope for each new day.

Watching the sun rise in person requires no special effects or melodies—but here on screen a little day music helps pass the next minute or so.

Many viewers leave once the sun crests the canyon’s mammoth edge, but we hang around for Part Two of The Morning Show as solar hews cast orange across canyon walls. Shadows put lavenders and shades of blue into the multiple ridges of sandstone, creating a pastoral picture that almost looks like images imagined by an inventive painter. The sight compels us to repeatedly take photos, even though we know our own inexpensive equipment can never capture what we see in person. Professionals shoot much more precise shots. Painters like Thomas Moran seek a reality in pigments with gorgeous works like one displayed in the El Tovar Lodge. Meanwhile, we continue snapping away as with a need to preserve a beauty that defies description.

Eventually, we eat and plan further adventures outside our room, whose location provides more of The morning show.

We know that sound—a male elk bugling to call his herd together. This gets us up to investigate and sure enough we spot some elk.

Fellow lodgers join us, thrilled because they came to Grand Canyon specifically to find elk, which none of them ever saw before in the wild…well, sort of wild. Rocky Mountain National Park provided Fred and me with extensive elking, so we shared information about the behaviors we watched as Big Boy Bugler keeps an eye on his multiple partners and offspring. Everyone gets to spread out to dine, and he repeatedly calls to let them know where he is. They all stay remarkably close to us humans, following their own morning routine by foraging nutritious meals of bark and needles. We kept our granola and coffee to ourselves since laws forbid feeding or approaching wildlife. However, no rule prevents them from wandering right by us. Ultimately Big Boy Bugler displays his macho domination and polygamist tendencies by herding his family together. Early elk viewing provides some Morning Show amusements, but hours fill in other ways.

The Morning Show includes hikes—best to get on the trail in cooler temperatures, plus I like to avoid Brighty of the Grand Canyon and his pack train friends since they spur my allergies.

Morning shadows heighten the fun of stopping at Vista Points along the West Rim Trail that covers six miles to a place called Hermit’s Ridge. We stopped at Maricopa Point, whose ledges and wind drafts often lure California condors. Ever since coming across one on a Grand Canyon vacation, we keep our eyes out for more, but usually spot ravens instead. Still, despite their large numbers, ravens fascinate us with their elegant form and acrobatic skills.

Ravens fear nothing. Plus they soar over spectacular scenery, scenery that repeatedly stuns us into shutterbug frenzy.

As the Morning Show moves into afternoon, we take a lunch break. The South Rim offers classy dining at the famed El Tovar, where Chevy Chase robs in National Lampoon’s Vacation. Vacation, like most movies with a Grand Canyon setting, places little action at the location, a favorite stop for road trippers. Most movies fail to use footage lasting seventeen-minutes, a number from a study examining the amount time most visitors spend actually looking at the canyon.

Seventeen minutes—not even as it takes to watch the video about my morning show at Grand Canyon!

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