Photograph by Kelsey Rocha: Carly Dreme sits to watch the sunrise at the Desert View lookout on July 4, 2015
Carly and I decided we wanted to see the sunrise at the Grand Canyon for the fourth of July. This meant we would have to go to sleep at about 9pm in order to wake up at 3:30 am to pack up our site, drive 45 minutes up the road, pay for admission, and find a good vantage point in time for the 5:20 sunrise.
We woke up 10 minutes late. We couldn’t find the straps to secure our tent. Everything was damp because it rained through the beginning of the night. It was overcast and pitch black. We didn’t care.
I tucked my flashlight in the crook of my neck and held it in place by scrunching chin and shoulder together while I hurriedly folded the sleeping bags and sleeping matts. We threw it in the car. The tent was wet and muddy and the straps to secure it in the bag were lost somewhere in the back of Berta, so we improvised. Carly had some cheap headbands so we wrapped them around the tent hoisted it onto a picnic table and zipped it in. This process was as stressful and straining as squeezing oneself into a dress that is a size too small, praying that God blessed the zipper with the magical ability to defy physics. On that day, God was smiling.
We threw the tent with everything else and we were off. Twenty minutes late.
Alright, Berta, let’s see some magic. From the campground it was a straight shot to the park and it took exactly 43 minutes. We waited behind four cars and watched as the sky lightened. It was 5:20.
I purchased an Agency Pass which would give me access to any of America’s national parks for a year. It was $80 and is good for two people’s admission. We were in and it was 5:22.
We drove for about two minutes looking for the North Rim when we saw a turn-off for the Desert View lookout. We pulled in, parked Berta and were stunned. There were only about four other people at the lookout. The sun was just peaking over the top of one of the jagged cliffs. The sky was blushing.
I had gone to the Grand Canyon once before when I was about 15 years old. I had gone to the South Rim and been amazed at just how big it was. I also remember how hazy it looked and how crowded all the best viewpoints were. But on the Fourth of July, at 5:30 am, it was so silent and beautiful. The canyons weren’t hazy, but were instead brilliantly layered with color. We climbed out and I extended my feet over the edge.
This was freedom at it’s grandest. I thought to myself, despite the fact that we fought for Freedom of Speech all those years ago, how nice it was to also have the Freedom of silence. To explore and think for ourselves and be in nature. To have the opportunity to spend Independence day independently. Happy Birthday America.