Why I'm Scared and Thrilled by Canyons

Written by  Jordan-Ashley Baker

I’ve never been afraid of heights. Peering out over New York from the top of the Empire State Building doesn’t scare me. I loved climbing to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral and seeing all of London below me. But there’s something about the depths of canyons that will always put me on edge.

Maybe it’s because you never really know what to expect the first time you visit a canyon. The natural beauty of the whole thing goes without saying. Just the utterance of the word ‘canyon’ triggers mental images of coppery yellow sunsets and craggy precipices of grey rock worthy of a Western movie. But to say that the gritty red and orange of the Grand Canyon is ‘breathtaking’ and the pounding water of the Zambezi Gorge is ‘awe-inspiring’ would be an insult to nature.

Even the most skilled photographer with the most advanced camera can’t capture what it is about the canyons that make me shiver at the sight of them. And because of this, I’m never truly prepared. The canyon’s bottom always stretches a little bit deeper, the rocks always look more like steak knives than limestone, and the man-made wooden barriers between me and the nothingness never look quite as safe as they did in the pictures.

Or maybe it’s the rugged emptiness of canyons that make them so core-shaking. It’s thrilling and terrifying at the same time to think that at any moment you could be swallowed by the vastness of the canyon. And if I was ever daring enough to venture down the canyon’s sloping sides onto the earthy floor, I can imagine looking up into the darkness of the night sky and wondering if anything else existed in the world but me.

But even more than sheer natural beauty and all-encompassing emptiness, what thrills me the most about canyons is their stark contrast to the civilised world. You won’t find a bustling cosmopolitan city within a canyon’s walls. And in a time when skyscrapers are thrown together in the blink of an eye, I love that there are still world wonders that take thousands of years to create and continue to change everyday.

Great World Canyons...

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