The Grand Canyon: Challenge Your Senses


Article by Cate Marian

Photography by Cate Marian

The stars were the brightest I’ve seen in a long time. Below, miles of rocks billions of years old stretched out in a vast, deep abyss crafted by time and running water. Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon in the dark, caught between a bottomless pit and an ever-expanding universe, it was impossible not to have an overwhelming, humbling, ‘gee aren’t we small and insignificant’ moment. 

This natural wonder of the world challenges the senses. The sunlight plays with the colors of the rocks, turning them from greys and dark browns, to bright reds and pale pinks as far as you can see—which, let’s remember, is only a teeny tiny sliver of the 217-mile-wide hole.

Below the Rim 

I took the Kanab Creek Trail for an easy hike about a mile and a half below the rim, making a conscious effort to absorb the splendor from all perspectives. A volunteer from the National Park Service handed me a pencil and piece of paper, and instructed me to stop at least four times along my hike to record the sounds I heard, and to rate my ‘level of pleasantness.’

Talking and the footsteps of other hikers gave way to insects, birds and soft breezes as the desert sun pushed temperatures upwards of 100 degrees. I’m not a very good water drinker but I went through my entire Camelback. 

On the way back up, my legs were streaked in red dust, my back covered in sweat. The wind picked up quickly, changing the weather in an instant. Clouds rolled in. I jotted “thunder” on my sound survey. It began to drizzle by the time I approached the top of the rim.

Walking Through Time 

Watching the rain splatter against the rocks solidified my respect for the element of water—specifically the Colorado River, whose steady course, coupled with erosion, dug this giant crater in the Earth. 

The Grand Canyon serves as a geological timeline, exposing the different layers of rock that formed billions of years ago as the continent was being created. My short hike took me to the Mesozoic Era. To touch a piece of land older than the dinosaurs was mind-blowing—and it was considered the relatively recent past, accessible less than a mile down. 

Back at the top it was still raining, and the chances of it clearing up before sunset were slim. Experiencing the last light of the day on these rocks; watching them fade into darkness as they have for millions of years, struck me as important. It’s an opportunity I was disappointed to miss. 

Inspired, I woke up at dawn instead.

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