Wednesday, November 11, 2020

SATURDAY: Sketch the Grand Canyon



Today we are sketching the Grand Canyon, with its iconic vistas of layered rock, the Colorado River, and wide open blue skies. The Grand Canyon became a National Park in 1919 and a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. It stretches 277 miles across Arizona’s arid landscape, is 18 miles wide, and more than a mile deep. We will be exploring different parts of the Canyon in the morning and afternoon sessions.

Morning Session:

We will start the day at the South Rim, where most people enter the Canyon. 

We will sketch the views, observing the great variety of strata - layer upon layer of limestone, sandstone, shale, schist, and granite - representing the most complete record of geologic history that can be seen anywhere in the world. Then we will venture down the Bright Angel Trail to the Canyon floor. The trail goes through 4 ecological areas on the way. For every 1,000 feet of descent, the temperature will increase 5 degrees F (so dress appropriately.) If you prefer, you can rent a mule for the trip, though the 9.3 mile ride down the trail is not as comfortable as you might think. 

Click for views of theGRAND CANYON SOUTH RIM

Click for views of the:   GRAND CANYON BRIGHT ANGEL TRAIL 

Click for views of the:    CANYON MULE RIDES on the BRIGHT ANGEL TRAIL 

Afternoon Session:

After the long trek down the Bright Angel Trail we will rest ourselves, and the mules, at the Phantom Ranch, on the north bank of the Colorado River. The log cabins at the Ranch were built in 1922, and originally hosted wealthy tourists from all over the world. You can stay overnight at the Ranch, if you plan ahead - fifteen months ahead, since reservations are distributed by lottery. However, sketching is free. And we’re not staying. River rafts await to give us the experience of white water rapids. A waterproof jacket is useful here. The river through the Canyon contains many rapids rated Class IV (Difficult) and Class V (Extremely Difficult). The scale goes to Class VI, which is probably Death. In the slower patches of the river you will be able to sketch wildlife along the shore, including bobcats, coyotes, beaver, rabbits, bighorn sheep, elk, red-tailed hawk and peregrine falcon. 

Click for views of the:    GRAND CANYON PHANTOM RANCH 

Click for views of:  RIVER RAFTING on the COLORADO through the GRAND CANYON   

For Those Still Curious:

For geology of the Canyon, I recommend Wikipedia’s excellent chart showing the names of the different rock layers, their thicknesses, and approximate ages.

For history of Canyon exploration, nothing beats John Wesley Powell’s The Explorations of the Colorado River and Its Canyons, published in 1875. Powell was a Civil War veteran and trained geologist, hired by the US Government to travel through the Canyon, map the River and its tributaries, and take notes on the geology. The book is based on Powell’s epic 1869 journey with four boats and nine men through the length of the Canyon. Spoiler alert - they faced starvation, killer rapids, bad weather and not everyone came out alive. The book has remained a classic of adventure literature. Powell later became the second Director of the US Geologic Survey. 


There are no fees. All drawing skill levels are welcome

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