Grand Canyon – As Seen From A Helicopter (Gulp!)

“It’s like trying to describe what you feel when you’re standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon or remembering your first love or the birth of your child. You have to be there to really know what it’s like.”  –  Jack Schmitt

One idea my boyfriend, Brad, had when we were planning to go to the Grand Canyon for vacation was to go on a helicopter tour to get an aerial view.  He knew I had never been there before and was very excited about it.  The problem with the whole helicopter thing is that I am still trying to get used to flying in a commercial airplane, let alone a little helicopter. I practically cry by the time we land in a plane, so I was not exactly sure how I would handle vertical lift and all that.

Don’t get me wrong. I thought it would be an awesome experience to see the spectacular views of the Grand Canyon from up above, but how would I react to the flight?  I mean, good Lord, would I be curled up in the fetal position under the seat?  Would I just sit, shaking and crying, and repeating the Lord’s Prayer over and over again?  I really wanted this to work.  So I began telling myself how awesome the helicopter flight would be before we even got on the plane to head to Arizona.

The plane’s takeoff and landings were both very smooth, so I was feeling very proud of myself, and very self-confident. Finally arriving at the helicopter tour’s location called Papillon, we went inside to sign in. They weigh in everyone scheduled for the tour (balance in the helicopter is paramount) and gave us our seat assignments. With my fear of flying, it was no surprise I had to sit in the front, facing all the big windows, to get the best view of the entire tour.  I knew this would be an awesome flight, and I would be just fine (gulp).

What was so interesting in the helicopter is that we wear headsets, and all of the tour information that is broadcast can be translated into different languages, in order to assist visitors from all over the world.  Papillon is the original Grand Canyon tour company, and has been in service since 1965.  They offer helicopter and airplane tours, and smooth water bus trips.

Settled in and given our flight instructions, we started to take off – straight up.  Very slowly and very smoothly.  This wasn’t scary at all!  We went over the forest until we got to the edge of the Grand Canyon, then WHOOSH!  The floor seemed to drop out from under us, and there was the deep valleys and beautiful mountains of the canyon – oddly shaped, different textures, and  layers of colors – all around us.

The Grand Canyon is over 270 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep. It was first given Federal protection in 1893 as a Forest Reserve, later considered a National Monument, and finally achieving National Park status in 1919. Inhabitants of the Grand Canyon – as seen from ancient ruins and artifacts – date back nearly 12,000 years ago.  An amazing, and interesting part of America, for sure!

I can truly say that going on the helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon was an experience I will never forget.  It was exciting, fun, educational, and interesting.  And I did it!

Happy trails,



Author: Denise Ratcliffe

Denise Ratcliffe was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She currently lives near Charlotte, North Carolina. Two of her adult children live with her, and she has 4 wonderful grandchildren. Denise loves to loves worship God, spend time with family, and travel to new places.

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