Tuesday morning we rose with the sun to take on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. You can try and prepare yourself, or your nephew, or your child for the Grand Canyon. But its impossible. The sheer awesomeness. The incomprehensibleness. It tests the limits of our imaginations. Grand indeed. And yes, it is a canyon. Aptly named.
I have been here twice before. The first time was with my good friend Ross when we were 17. We somehow convinced our parents to let us drive from Seattle to Albuquerque during Mid-Winter Break of 1987. Ross and I drove in my Subaru Brat from Walnut Creek, CA (where my Aunt and Uncle lived) to the Grand Canyon in one sitting. Maybe 16 hours? I remember arriving about 1am and driving straight into the park (there was nobody to take our money or charge us a fee). We got out of the car and in the February weather (snow on the ground) we saw The Canyon by the crisp cold moon. However, we couldn’t find a camping space so we had to drive outside the park to find one. We popped our tent and the next morning were awoken to an ungodly sound right next to us. Ross and I ran out of the tent to see what the commotion was. Standing in our “tighty-whities” we saw a helicopter taking off right next to where we had planted our tent the night before – with no stakes. With us not in the tent the wind from the chopper make our tent tumble like tumbling tumble weed.
I remember that Ross and I packed up our tent and went into the park to secure a campsite for the night. We were so excited to see The Canyon that we didn’t set up our camp, we just headed to the Rim. I remember calling my mom (from a pay-phone back then) who reminded me to take some food, water, and garbage bags, with me down if we hiked down The Canyon. So I did. And we did. We hiked down the Bright Angel Trail starting our decent at 1pm in the afternoon while everybody else was heading up. Long story short – We reached the plateau to the Colorado River in the center of The Canyon about 6pm as the sun was setting. It was spectacular! But we had to hike back up. I had brought 1 can of Coca-Cola and a can of Beanie-Weenies that we shared to muster the strength to begin our assent. We climbed and climbed and found out what the garbage bags were for as we converted them into ponchos during our torrential assent. We arrived at the rim at 1am only to return to our camp site that hadn’t be set up yet.
This time we were a little smarter. Only 3 hours in the park before heading on through the Painted Desert and on to a campground near Monument Valley. Lots of photo opportunities, including a rare glimpse of a California Condor. We saw the new visitor center. Then had lunch at the lodge near Bright Angel Trail before driving along the South Rim.
We drove along the South Rim to visit Desert View and pulled into the Watchtower. You could see a serious storm brewing on the horizon. We tried to hasten our photo ops to and visit to the tower to avoid the storm but got caught in it (this time without garbage bag ponchos). We were soaked to the bone as we ran with thunder and lightning and torrential rain all around us back to our car. But we dried ourselves off as we headed through the painted desert and on to Monument Valley but not before driving through more storms.
We ended up at Goulding’s Campground near Monument Valley on the Navajo Reservation. It was a nice RV park with a great natural landscape around it. Wednesday we planned to get up early and visit Monument Valley.