Since my first visit to the Grand Canyon in April 2012 (Who Stole the Grand Canyon?), I’ve been looking forward to returning at a time when visibility would be better. Not that the snow and fog didn’t produce some very unique views, but I didn’t get the opportunity to really appreciate the vast expanse and extreme ruggedness of the canyon. Last month’s travels put me in close proximity to the North Rim, and fortunately the government shut-down had come to an end, so I made my way down the Kaibab Plateau. The cooler temperatures of fall had already taken residence, and remnants of a recent snowfall remained in the long shadows of the pines. Along the route, there were plentiful Mule Deer and a small band of Bison leisurely grazing the dormant grass.
So far, everything indicated that the viewing conditions at the Grand Canyon would be ideal. Perhaps I might have to wait for the sun to burn the morning moisture out of the air, but…. I didn’t imagine that smog would be a problem in this part of the country. Evidently the dirty air from Las Vegas and Los Angeles rides in on westerly winds and frequently ends up trapped between the canyon walls, and that is what I encountered when I arrived at the North Rim. I was able to see the San Francisco Mountains across the canyon to the south, so conditions could have been worse. There was an informational sign indicating that those mountains are often obscured by the smog. Between the smog and the low angle of the morning sun, a distinctive blue haze was prominent in the photos that day, making processing the images a little more challenging. Still, the rugged features of the canyon are evident, as well as the beauty of this natural sculpture. (You may need to click on the individual pictures to get a larger view to better show the San Francisco Mountains and other features.)
It is about time to bring our southwest trip to a close. Beginning in Phoenix (Arizona Birding), we made our way to the Grand Canyon (Who Stole the Grand Canyon), then Zion National Park (Shroud over Zion), and finally arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park. Except for gale-force winds, we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to welcome us to this geological wonderland! Some fresh snow from the previous night lingered, while the clouds were working their way in an easterly direction. The biting wind-chill kept many of the tourists at bay, so those of us that braved the day were rewarded with a peaceful visit. As astounding as the hoodoos, cliffs and weathered mountainsides were, the cloud formations were amazing, and really enhanced the breathtaking landscapes. Unfortunately the images posted below don’t do justice to the scenes, but if you haven’t yet visited Bryce Canyon, they might at least give you some encouragement to make it a destination on your bucket list. All of the images will open to a larger format if you click on them.
The first four images are the result of High Dynamic Range (HDR) composites, which I often utilize for scenes with a lot of contrast. In many ways, HDR helps photos look more like what our eyes see, which a single photographic exposure cannot create. However, this same technique can also be used to add some artistic flair, which you may particularly notice in the second image.
As mentioned previously, the clouds from the departing storm system really made this an awesome time to visit Bryce Canyon. Because we see clouds so often, we may take them for granted most of the time. If we do actually think about them, oftentimes our thoughts will relate to impending weather. I’d like to propose that clouds can, and should, take on a more profound meaning, serving as a call to action and a reminder of a promise made. Clouds are mentioned numerous times throughout the Bible, sometimes literally and other-times metaphorically. Three of these instances I’d like to briefly call to mind.
In the Gospel of Mark, after ministering to the multitude for several days, Jesus spends a little quiet time high on a mountain with Peter, James and John. For a short while Jesus is joined by Moses and Elijah, prompting some intrepidation on the part of the disciples, when; And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Mark 9:7). God used a cloud as a vehicle to get the attention of the believers, so they would focus, listen and hear the words of Christ.
Let’s jump ahead a little to the Book of Acts. Just to set the stage, Christ had already been crucified, risen from the dead, and was wrapping up forty days of ministering about things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Jesus shares some important final words with the Apostles, “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). Again, a cloud was used as an apparent door through which Christ entered as He ascended to Heaven to join the Father.
Finally, consider what we should expect upon Christ’s return to earth, as He promised to do. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thes 4:16-17). This isn’t going to be a quiet affair! Indeed, I think it is going to be a grand reunion, of sorts, where all those who have trusted in Christ Jesus will be joined together with Him. And where is the reception hall? It is in the clouds! And from that point on, we will be with the Lord always!
Putting these three sets of Scripture together, we can see the clouds as 1) a reminder to focus on Him and abide by His instruction for our lives, 2) a doorway to Heaven which Christ used when He departed, and 3) that same door is where we will enter into eternal communion with Him upon Christ’s final return. So, the next time you see some clouds and think it might rain, perhaps you’ll consider some other things that those clouds might portend!
After being snowed-out at the Grand Canyon earlier this month (Who Stole the Grand Canyon), Alesia and I worked our way northward to Zion National Park. To some degree, the weather was improved, but low clouds lingered, limiting our view of the higher elevation peaks and rock formations. Still, we spent a few hours at the park, taking in what scenery was not obscured, and enjoying a day when the weather kept visitation minimal. (Mouse-over the slideshow below to access controls.)
My daughter and I had a brief visit at Zion National Park in February, which was documented in Zion: Stone for a Foundation. You may want to visit that post to see some images from the western side of the park.
When first seen, the massive and spectacular rock formations at Zion National Park appear impregnable, but they are constantly weathering away by the forces of wind, water and temperature. The image of Checkerboard Mesa shows obvious horizontal fissures caused by scouring wind, and vertical grooves etched by water flowing down the mountain. A similar metaphor in the Book of Job is used to describe God’s rebuking power against our sinful lives. When we live our lives apart from His will, in His anger He can wear us down. It is because of His love for us that He does these things. His purpose is to get us to a point of submission and obedience, that we may learn to walk in His righteousness, not that of our own. And when we finally get to that point, then we can look forward to sharing in the other Zion, the kingdom of God.
But as a mountain falls and crumbles away,
And as a rock is moved from its place;
As water wears away stones,
And as torrents wash away the soil of the earth;
So You destroy the hope of man. (Job 14:18-19)
- Zion! (gospelapprentice.com)
- Farewell Sand; Hello Snow! (bigskyken.wordpress.com)
- Some things just don’t fit! (bigskyken.wordpress.com)
Does doing the same thing two years in a row constitute a tradition? If so, I just returned from my “traditional” April trip to Arizona. Last year I spent most of my tourist-time in and around Phoenix, exploring several areas in search of photo ops. My bride, Alesia, joined me on this year’s trip, flying into Mesa, AZ, where I picked her up for a touring road-trip back to Montana. Near the top of our to-do list was a visit to Grand Canyon National Park. She vaguely remembers seeing it as a child and I had never seen it, so we were both anxiously looking forward to taking in the majesty of this geographical marvel. However, that tradition thing got in the way at this point. You see, last year heavy rain and cold weather joined me on my trip south, creating some obvious challenges to wildlife and nature photography. This year was similar, but worse, as snow decided to join us, as well! How bad was it? Maybe this image will give you a hint…
Living in the north-country, we don’t scare easily from a little snowfall. However, traveling through snow and sightseeing in snow are two entirely different things! We made our way to the edge of the canyon near Yavapai Point, and with great expectation we walked to the edge to view this amazing site…
As you might imagine, we were certainly hoping to see something more amazing! After all, that first scene doesn’t look markedly different than many of our winter landscapes at home. Having only that day to spend at the Grand Canyon, we determined to wait out the storm, hoping the weather would break and afford us better viewing opportunities. We wandered around that area for a couple hours, and the snow did let up for a short while. A couple elk were meandering through the area, following the Grand Canyon Railway through the tourist village.
Despite the relief from falling snow, the canyon remained heavily cloud-filled, only offering brief and murky glimpses of what lay below. Eventually we decided to move on, following the South Rim upstream as we traveled eastward. Intermittent snow continued through the day, but now and then, for brief interludes, the clouds would break and blue sky and sunshine shone through. Fortunately we were able to stop at a couple of the canyon overlooks when the conditions provided a better view of the canyon.
Although we were unable to clearly see the Grand Canyon, we are sure of it’s existence. We’ve seen the evidence and heard the stories from competent witnesses. Drawing a parallel to the Creator, we know He exists because of the evidence of His creation. No, we don’t see Him as a physical being, in fact the Scripture tells us that, “Clouds and darkness surround Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Psalms 97:2). Denying the existence of God simply because we can’t see Him is not a sound argument, because there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I freely admit that faith is a requirement of a Christian worldview, but it actually takes a lot more faith (and really blind faith) to believe in many of the prominent creation theories that modern day science has proposed. While the Grand Canyon is really a magnificent place, it pales in comparison to many other marvels of creation. Each of us needs to consider the evidence and determine for ourselves if God exists, but choose wisely, because our eternal well-being is at stake! “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
- Grand Canyon (farfromhomeschooled.wordpress.com)
- Creationist’s Prediction #4 (creationscience4kids.com)