Saturday, October 22, 2011

Photo Ops Extend Visit to Grand Canyon - Columbus Dispatch


Originally published in the Columbus Dispatch.

Photo Ops Extend Visit to Icon

The cliche holds true: The essence of the Grand Canyon cannot be captured in a single photograph.

The length, breadth and depth make a representative shot impossible.

Not that I didn’t try.

In fact, during an adventure-filled 25th-anniversary trip with my wife recently, every moment seemed to become a photo opportunity.

Lisa and I spent one day hiking on the Grand Canyon Rim Trail before eating dinner in the Arizona Room of the Bright Angel Lodge.

After a last twilight look at the canyon, we slowly turned to head back to our car.

I remembered parking (about 10 hours earlier) next to a building named Rosecliff — the name of a street in the neighborhood where I grew up.

We left through the lodge and came upon the Grand Canyon Depot. Though famous, the spot was unfamiliar to us. We hadn’t entered that way, but I knew the general direction in which we needed to go.

Looking across the tracks, I saw some kind of animal.

I alerted Lisa: “I see some kind of animal.”

My wife, who has spent much more time out West than I have, immediately recognized the creature as a female elk.

I considered the moment the best photographic occasion of our vacation — Sedona, Montezuma Castle and the Grand Canyon notwithstanding.

I took several decent shots of the elk from about 100 feet away.

My photographic appetite sated, and daylight fading, we resumed our trek to the car — or at least where I thought the car should be.

Next we came upon a barn and an empty mule pen — neither of them familiar, either.

We were feeling anxious when Lisa heard two elk calves whistling for their mother. They still had their spots, but they were as large as the white-tailed deer in Ohio.

I began following my wife around the pen to get what would surely be the best photo. For some reason, though, I turned around — and saw an elk, with antlers, much larger than the female seen earlier. It was heading for the calves.

Because I was standing directly in the elk’s path, Lisa and other tourists suggested that I get out of its way. I couldn’t miss the chance, though. I did move a bit — so that my back was against the mule pen. If the elk charged, I figured, I could slip through the pen to avoid it.

Instead, the elk glided past me, filling my viewfinder with its head and antlers.

I got the photo.

I was again ready to join my wife and the ever-growing group of onlookers on the other side of the pen when I looked back across the road a final time. Then I saw what truly was the photo opportunity of the trip.

About 100 feet away stood a huge elk whose antlers seemed to be more than 3 feet across. This one unsettled me a bit, as it looked at me while flaring its nostrils.

It slowly crossed the road on its way to the calves — and was almost hit by a compact car. The driver slammed on the brakes, making the tires screech; the elk sauntered on, unconcerned.

Sensing that I wasn’t a threat, the elk ignored me, too, as it passed within 20 feet. I took a few photos, then caught up with my wife.

We followed the growing herd — numbering eight and apparently scrounging around the mule pen in search of a free meal.

Finding none, the elk soon dispersed. So we did, too.

Night had almost fallen, and Lisa was becoming concerned about getting to the car. I even considered relinquishing my “man card” and asking for help.

But what would I ask?

Have you seen a white Dodge with Arizona plates?

So we kept walking toward where I knew the car should be.

It was only a matter of time before the buildings we passed sounded familiar: They were named after plants.

And, finally, we were sitting in our car, parked in front of Cliff Rose — our adventure complete.

Randy Imwalle, 49, of Hilliard suggests that, when visiting large national parks, travelers carry a camera — and write down where they park the car.

From the Columubus Dispatch, October 22, 2011.

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