I got my first look at the Grand Canyon alone. The tour company picked up Mike and Rob at the hotel in Flagstaff for their three-day hike to the bottom. After they left, I drove to the Canyon for three days of solitude until they re-emerged.
I imagine there are some natural wonders that fail to live up to their hype, but I haven’t found that to be the case yet in any of the National Parks. I stopped at the South Rim’s Visitor Center for my first glimpse, and it left me breathless and a little woozy. I’m not ruling out the possibility that vertigo rather than the beauty of the scene caused those symptoms.
It’s amazing that a park built around only one major attraction can still offer so many things to do. Beyond a short hike not very far down Bright Angel Trail, I never went into the canyon, and yet I still had plenty to occupy me for the three days I stayed there. I got up early to see the sun rise over the canyon, and stayed out to photograph the sunset. I hiked the Rim Trail from Grand Canyon Village to Hermit’s Rest, and in the other direction to the Yavapai Museum of Geology, which has trail markers of stone from the different geological layers of the canyon. I was amazed that, once you get away from the main overlook points, there are no guardrails on much of the Rim Trail, and nothing preventing you from tumbling over the edge.
I explored the Village and the different hotels and restaurants, the train depot, and the grocery store. I’ve mentioned here my obsession with national park lodges before. I think what I like so much about them, in addition to the history and the natural beauty, is the self-contained aspect, the sense of being in a planned oasis that provides for all of a traveller’s needs. As one of the oldest and certainly one of the most popular, the Grand Canyon Village had this in spades.
Since we ended up changing our travel dates at the last minute, I had to give up my hotel reservation in El Tovar, and I ended up staying in Yavapai Lodge. Instead, I went to have lunch at El Tovar, and enjoyed a lovely meal while sparing a thought for Mike and Rob eating camp food at the bottom of the canyon. When they emerged from the canyon dirty, exhausted, and hungry, I shared these photos with them, right before they consumed the most amount of food I have ever seen human beings intake in one sitting.
I was disappointed I didn’t have enough time to visit the North Rim, but we’re planning to make an overnight stop there next spring, when we will visit some of Utah’s national parks.