So after our brief Palm Springs car glitch we were all packed up and hit the road at 11am. Grand Canyon here we come!! The drive was pretty long. Open road, 18 billion cactus and not much to see and do. We had plans to try to beat the heat by leaving early but now we were at the mercy of midday. It stayed a pretty even temp of 97 for the entire drive and we alternated between air conditioning and open windows to give my car a break.
We zipped along at a steady 85MPH clip just trying to make the blue dot on the GPS move faster. Somewhere in the middle of our route we hit a hellish part of seriously, no joking, over 300 dippity-doos. It was a long hot stretch that lasted about 2 hours. We were on the desert floor with nothing. I mean nothing. Just us and the heat. Not even a shoulder to pull over and stretch! The pavement ended into a rocky sandy berm and then millions of cactus beyond that. The boring drive was tolerable, but the dippity-doos started taking a toll on my stomach. It was like being on one of those kiddy roller coasters, where it barely dips but after 200, it’s not so much fun anymore. We finally found a gas station so I could drive and things slowly got better.
All of that hot driving ended at a gorgeous 70 degrees at the Grand Canyon park entrance!! We had no idea what to expect but we were excited and ready for this part of our adventure!
We rolled into the front of the El Tovar Lodge and I hopped out hoping that just one room with a view was miraculously available for us on this busy Friday (it was – just one!) and Mike stayed in the idling car and cruised through Facebook to unwind from the long drive. Neither one of us happened to notice the MASSIVE canyon just steps (steps!) behind us (which Mike lovingly called “The Ditch” leading up to his first sighting). I swear, sometimes we are so lame. Mike came in to check on me and as we walked out we were like “Holy Sh*t, there it is!!”
It’s so difficult to describe, it’s something that you truly have to experience in your lifetime. As we approached the low stone wall, I put my hand to my chest, gasped and teared up. It was one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever seen. We quickly unpacked our car, grabbed 2 cold beers from the cooler and sat on the edge while watching the sun set. It was the best!
We got up bright and early the next morning for our hike into the Canyon. We were the first to arrive at one of the funky cafes on the rim. Mike ordered scrambled eggs and I happily ordered granola. Correction, “granola”. Oh my goodness this made me laugh… I could be wrong, but I’m almost positive that they took Nature Valley granola bars, smashed them in a ziplock bag and then poured them into a bowl. It was too funny. To their credit, they did pile on a generous amount of blueberries and banana which helped. Toto, we aren’t in Sonoma anymore*.
We opted for the South Kaibab Trail, a trail that I had recently read about and it sounded very nice. It offers the full Canyon experience but a little bit further out so it’s not as crowded. The park also has a massive free transit setup so we easily hopped onto the orange route and we were at our trail-head in no time.
Our brief 3 mile hike (round trip) was so much fun! I have to say it was a little sketchy being so close to the abyss. I could not walk and look, I could only do one or the other. But we reveled in every turn, every rock, every view and it was amazing.
We reached our 1.5 mile turnaround spot and within 15 steps of ascending back up the trail my heart was racing and I was winded. I thought, “oh no.” There were some very steep spots. Funny how they don’t seem that steep when going downhill. But we took our time and still enjoyed the views on the way back up.
Me with my rookie yoga pants and trucker hat was passed by serious hikers with carbines, walking sticks and wicking clothing. A couple thoughts on this… we only hiked down 1.5 miles during early morning. We each had one water bottle and it was not even 60 degrees out, plus we were mostly in the shade still. Hiking the Canyon is serious stuff. I was tired and out of water by the time we reached the shuttle parking lot. If you plan to do any hiking, read up and do your research!! As we walked back up, we passed kids in converse tennies and tank topped grandparents. I’m in decent shape and I was worried for them and it wasn’t even hot yet.
The moment you see the canyon and you walk some of the trail, the first thought you have is, “Man, there must be some crazy stories!” So when the souvenir shop clerk talked me into this book, I just could not resist. I read astounding stories after stories! Some of miraculous survival, some Thelma & Louise copy-cat car suicides, and a ton of just plain stupid people goofing off. The one that sticks in my mind the most was a dad teasing his daughter. Very close to where we had beers on our first night. He pretended to fall backwards off the stone wall and his plan was to land on the little ledge just below, squat down out of view and make her think he actually fell. As you can guess, it didn’t go to plan. Well it did, until his foot slipped on that ledge and he plummeted 300+ feet to his death. The moral of the story is don’t goof off!!
After our hike, we showered and packed up. We reluctantly said goodbye to the Canyon and aimed the car towards home. We were sad to say goodbye…
p.s. But wait, there’s more! One more post tomorrow.
*The “toto quote” is licensed, trademarked, and copyrighted by Agnes Hill. She gets full credit for the next 228 million years or until the Grand Canyon goes away; whichever happens first.
Images taken by us, just for you.