Minority Opinions

Not everyone can be mainstream, after all.

Grand Canyon Watchtower

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For certain parts of the world, the Grand Canyon embodies America.  Natural, rugged, and huge.  I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a few times, but had somehow overlooked the Desert View Watchtower until this month.  Granted, my previous visit was interrupted by snow, but I’m still surprised how much there is to learn about pretty much everything.

Mary Jane Colter designed the building to look ancient; the main signal of its modern origin is the rebar sticking out at the top.  I’m still unsure whether the top is unfinished, broken down, or intentionally incomplete.  Either way, it’s currently blocked off, as are some outer stairwells.  Only the inner stairs are accessible.

For how narrow and steep those stairwells are, it’s amazing that so many tourists from so many countries can navigate them with a minimum of communication and no fights, even when children stand in the way or go down the wrong side.  The vast majority of people are truly good most of the time; it’s a shame that the evil minority wields so much influence.

Anyway, Colter’s design serves well on three levels: As an observation point, offering several interesting views from a variety of heights and angles; as a gift shop, with some temptations we hadn’t noticed elsewhere; and as an object of admiration, both for architectural ingenuity and (now) for historical significance.  As it turns out, there are some fascinating stories buried deep in the history of our national parks.

Sadly, the tower’s design also manages to enhance acrophobia.  The circular balconies make sense from an architectural standpoint, and do allow visitors access to multiple windows, but also allow sound to echo throughout the tower, and offer convenient holes to fear falling down.  Somehow, the combination manages to pack more punch than the very real danger of falling down a mile-high cliff while walking outside.


Written by eswald

2 Jul 2013 at 9:19 pm

Posted in Lifestyle

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