Rim to Rim: A Photographic Folly

Margaret Krauss, who works in the National Geographic Kids

division, recently completed a five day back-country hike into the Grand Canyon. She’s been sharing glimpses from along the North Kabib Trail, and you can read her posts here, here, here and here.

“Take a panorama,” Marc said. We were hiking back to the North Rim.

I took the lens cap off the camera and spun slowly in a circle, taking in the canyon floor, the walls, the buttes, the sky, trying to cover every angle and crevice. I dropped the camera to my chest. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get it.

I felt exhausted from trying to cram a mile of land and sky into a 35mm lens. By trying to capture everything I’d blended it all together and lost specificity.

At first, we weren’t content with simply seeing the canyon. We wanted to be able to break it down and make it our own, to be able to describe it with words and in photographs. We followed the impulse to obtain, to process, to understand by consuming it. But the lens of our camera wasn’t large enough to take it all in.

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Trying to re-create the place in which I stood brought me to my senses: I was happy to admit defeat, to accept that some places can only be known by going. The Grand Canyon is one of them. Hiking nearly from rim to rim and back again allowed me to be a part of something bigger. For the first time I really had a sense of the majesty of my country, and an appreciation for the power of nature. Backpacking allowed my body to register every mile. Even when I couldn’t focus, I was still aware of the canyon walls stretching above me, still felt the heat of the sun, and heard the rush of the river. I visited the Grand Canyon so that I could say I’d seen it. But I left knowing I’d return.

Photo: Margaret Krauss

[Grand Canyon Travel Guide]

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