After a quick wine tasting at Alcantra Vineyard we left the beautiful Sedona. Along the way we just had to stop at one of the amazing viewing points with breathtaking views and a little market place where they sold native indian jewellery and other nik-naks.
It took us about two hours to drive to the southern entrance gate of the Grand Canyon National Park where we bought a week entry pass (£30) and tried to see if they still had some tent sites available in the park itself. Judging by the massive queues at the reception at the Visitor Centre we realised that the most likely answer would be no, so instead of driving miles and miles to check all the camp sites in the park itself (would’ve been a wasted effort) we turned around and ended up bagging a campsite just five minutes from the park gates. About an hour after we set up camp – I’m not even joking – the campsite was full, yay us.
We enjoyed some drinks and made some dinner before exploring the campsite a bit. Adjacent to the site was loads of restaurants and a shop, so we decided to stock up on fruit and water for the next day. Later, as I lay in the tent ready for sleep, I couldn’t help but feel like a child on Christmas Eve – I was going to see *the* Grand Canyon!!! Crazy. We are so extremely fortunate to have this opportunity and we don’t take it for granted. I think sometimes the blog is more for me than anyone else just because I wouldn’t want to forget any of our experiences.
In the morning we woke up at 5:30am (again!), made coffee, had a quick breakfast and soon after we were in the car driving to the Canyon to get a head start at the Grand Canyon to beat the crowds and the heat (and trust me, it is haaawt!). Absolutely nothing can prepare you for the first time you see the Grand Canyon – it’s so spectacular. We left the car at the Grand Canyon Village parking lot and took a long stroll along the South Rim and just enjoyed the quiet and lack of other people at such early hour.
The central point of the South Rim of the park is the Visitors Centre where various transfer buses take visitors to viewing points along the Rim. The buses are free and run the length from Desert View in the east to Hermit’s Rest in the west. Of course, you could walk or hike it but it’ll take a few hours and it was not something we wanted to do in the scorching July heat in the desert. Triin really struggles with the heat, she says she prefers the cold and hopes our next trip is to Iceland or Greenland.
The various viewing points offered spectacular vistas. Honestly, the view was so breathtaking that we ended up taking our time at each to sit down, meditate and take as much of it in as possible. There was an immense sense of serenity that can only emerge from huge empty spaces where energy and wind flow freely. As we walked from one viewing point to the next poor Triin probably felt like a parent walking with a toddler – I was either taking my time taking loads of photos or busy oh-ing and ah-ing. I also managed to climb up some rockface of questionable safety, but quickly came to my senses.
After a while we returned to the Visitor Centre to plan the rest of our day over a mid-morning snack and a coffee. Whilst at the cafe we got to meet a friendly family from San Franscico who shared their own travel stories and gave us some suggestions for our upcoming trip to the west coast. I find people fascinating and love hearing about other their travels and adventures.
We walked some more but as it got closer to noon it got hotter plus the crowds were starting to pour in. Looking for a break, we took the car and drove about 40 miles east to Desert View. The watchtower was yet another magnificent site that offered beautiful views of the canyon. We had a nosey around the giftshop, bought some food, hid in our air conditioned car at a random viewing point to listen to Serial the podcast and enjoy the view.
Near the Desert View watchtower, we visited the Tusayan Ruin and Museum and got a guided tour of the Ancestral Puebloan site. It was super interesting just very hot, so everyone was kinda friendly-fighting for shade. After that, we stopped at some of the viewing points but eventually returned to the Grand Canyon Village. Those views again, I really can’t stop, views views and more views. At the top where most of the little shops are you can see down the Canyon and the Indian Garden along the hiking trail towards the the bottom and the Colorado River. People hike down, stay overnight and then either climb back up or continue on. Apparently you can walk from South Rim to North Rim of the Canyon but that is for serious hikers that are super fit and know what they are doing – I would like to be that person at some point. I was so envious watching people walk down the steep slope or going via donkey as I was standing there with my impractical shoes. My shoe collection consisted of flip flops, sandals and Toms without laces; I had given my hiking boots away cause it was too heavy to carry just for a fluke of a chance of a hike. At the same time I don’t really think the Grand Canyon should be my first endeavour.
Next, we visited the Kolb brother’s studio which is perched precariously on edge of the Canyon. Kolb brothers were photographers and adventurers who established their photo studio in 1903 and spent heir lives taking pictures and exploring the Canyon. They are seriously an awesome and inspiring pair and their studio was one of the most interesting museums i’ve been to. Definitely worth a visit.
I also learned about the mysterious disappearance of a newlywed couple Glen and Bessie Hyde (friends of the Kolb brothers) who decided to spend their honeymoon running the rapids of Colorado River in 1928 during which they disappeared without a trace. Their boat was found but no signs of Glen or Bessie. Decades later numerous women came forward saying that they were ‘Bessie’, that they had killed their husband during the honeymoon and gone into hiding. But nobody really knows what happened.
After all that, we were understandably exhausted. We treated ourselves to the best dinner money could buy at a small strip mall by our campsite (Thai!) before passing out in our tent. The next morning we woke up early again as we wanted to explore the west side of the South Rim. We took the red shuttle bus to the Hermit’s Rest, occasionally hopping on and off the bus to explore the viewing points. The guide/driver announced the good stops worthwhile to explore so we took their advice. It was amazing how different the views could be in the East and the West. On the west we could see more of the Colorado River and East it seemed drier. We took the shuttle all the way to Hermit’s Rest and had a sandwich and coffee whilst enjoying the views. We even saw the people we met from San Francisco, who told us that they had rented bikes and cycled up to Hermit’s Rest. We did not, it’s uphill the entire time, no thanks.
At the bottom again we took our last stroll whilst enjoying an ice cream. Time to say goodbye to the Canyon – only an ice cream could ease the pain. It seemed that only in nature we became awesome at managing our time because after our three hour adventure, a stroll and an ice cream we still took our tent down and checked out at 11:00. Result!!
Next stop – Vegas, baby!