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  • Writer's pictureKyrby Brown

Churchill Fellowship Day Eight: The Grand Canyon is Accessible!

Yesterday we did something really cool, we awoke early (to freshly fallen snow!) and made the hour and a half trip up to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This is a US National Park, so the accessibility information is excellent. Even so I wondered how something so vast and ancient could be truly accessible.

The simplest answer is this: anything can be made accessible with a good understanding of what that truly means and a bit of ingenuity, regardless of the age and nature of the experience. This is something I now truly believe and better understand.

On arrival we spoke to a lovely lady on the gate who took our entrance payment ($35 dollars for up to 7 days). When I asked about wheelchair access the lady responded by explaining that we would be given full private vehicle access to the bus route around the rim, by way of a road called Hermit Road.

This was fairly easy to locate, although probably a 10-15 minute drive because the place is huge! As we passed Maricopa Point we got our fist glimpse of the Canyon, it was mind-boggling.

We travelled up to the barriers and entered our code as instructed, we could then drive the entire rim tour at our leisure. The tour had several stop points with overlooks and information areas, some were more wild and open and others were well paved and fenced. All of them were truly breathtaking, not something I really have the words to describe. This ancient natural wonder of the world is unlike anything I have seen or will see again. The scale is pretty incomprehensible to the human brain and watching the various weather patterns roll in and out of the canyon was truly awe-inspiring. We only had a full day here, but you couldn’t explore it in a lifetime.

Image Description: me in my wheelchair overlooking the Grand Canyon.

The beauty of our accessible route was that we could control where we stopped and how long for, this meant that we were not at the mercy of the weather and could enjoy the whole spectacle in comfort. There were various restrooms along the route and at the very end a shop/refreshment area called Hermit’s Rest. At first I thought the building wasn’t accessible but after a minute or so a kind employee came running out with a portable ramp so I could get inside. From here we purchased a coffee, had a brief shop and retreated to our vehicle to shelter from a rather vicious hailstorm. It was here, sitting on the rim of this incredible landscape and drinking my coffee that I began to truly understand the value of this experience.

Image Description: Me sitting in Gerty (our accessible rental vehicle) drinking a coffee right at the top of Hermit’s Rest.

The accessibility of this experience did not strive to give me a parallel experience to abled bodied hikers, instead it empowered me to go on my own adventure and experience the Canyon in a way that not many can. How lucky I felt in the moment and how simple the solution here. It made me realise that accessibility isn’t always about achieve exact equity, instead it is about considering the human experience and making that the best possible for each individual.

On our way back from the National Park we stopped at the Visitor Centre to watch an IMAX film about the history of the Grand Canyon. This is a truly worthwhile experience for anyone who wants to learn as the story is extremely well told and makes you think about the people who once called the land home, and those who first ventured along the Canyon. It maintained a balanced and factual perspective which strongly enforced the idea of nature being the ultimate force, whilst we humans came and went, squabbling all the way. It makes you feel pretty small and insignificant when you think about it too hard.

This experience I can’t really put into words, but the effect of it won’t be passing. This is one of those things that will stick with me and I’ll forever be grateful for.

Image Description: Another angle of the Grand Canyon with the varying layers of rock clearly visible.

Head over the my Facebook page to see a video of the day.

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