It twas the night before Christmas, scratch that. It was Tuesday at school after teaching a hurried lesson on writing non-fiction, I looked at my phone, (since it was planning time), what should I see but my husband messaging me. He wrote, “How about Grand Canyon this weekend?” I didn’t hesitate, I quickly responded, “yes!!!” We had planned to take our RV up to Virginia to do some serious AT hiking but last minute we found out my mom made plans to visit Georgia. Seeing as she hadn’t been to Georgia in 8 years we canceled our plans. I’ll admit I had been walking around in a self pity fog. Here I was having anticipated a getaway when I find out our well planned trip was going to have to be canceled. I looked forward to seeing my mom but I treasure the time together with my best friend, and confidant. Now things were suddenly looking up.
I had researched two day trips before when we looked into going to the Grand Canyon previously. I knew it could be done and was ready to give it a try. My husband planned our get away and I knew we would be leaving Friday and coming home on Monday when my mother would arrive. I asked my loving daughter to watch our animals and she said, “sure,” and questioned, “where are you going?” I responded, “the Grand Canyon.” She then stated, ” I hate you.” I knew she was joking, but me, I’m not one to use that word lightly. My heart broke a little, and I told her, “you know you could come if you were off work.” Needless to say she was a good sport and offered to stay at our casa. I told Nathan I made arrangements and he said, “um, well we actually get home Tuesday, so your madre can stay with your sister.”
This worked out well. So Friday came and I hurriedly left my classroom with all the paper piles, shoving a stack into my bag, thinking I might grade some, but who was I kidding??? I raced out the door and headed home to pack my backpack with clothes and my camera pack with cameras. Mistake! What was I thinking two carry on backpacks…. so awkward, this works well in the RV but not wearing two in to airport. I struggled with one on each shoulder, having to frequently readjust. We boarded our plane and were priority class….always nice to board early… more cabin space for my backpacks. I stowed them away and a nice guy swapped seats with my hubby so we could sit together. There are still nice people around!!!
We landed in Arizona around ten and set up camp at the local Holiday Inn. We rose quite early and headed out the next morning well before breakfast was open and headed up to the Grand Canyon. It was still dark but I noticed mountains and hills surrounding us as we drove north. The desert sun began creeping up setting the hills and mountains a glo first with a light blue to white, then to a desert orange.
We continued driving and drove through Prescott Forest which reminded my a lot of Florida with sporadic brush and small infantile trees. I’m not sure they even made the categories of trees. Leaving the hotel the temperature had been 60 degrees but in Prescott the temperature had dropped to 45. We were gaining elevation as we drove and passing signs telling us constantly what elevation we were at. We passed many signs for donkeys and elk but we saw as many along this drive as we see in Georgia… a big fat zero. There were as many donkey signs out there as there are deer signs in Georgia. We began to notice birds taking flight in these early hours as the sun is still creeping up as red and yellow earth slowly emerges from the shadows.
The changing tundra begins to turn to a speckled green with their soft green forestry and the horizon now glows a hazy yellow color. The temperature has dropped even further and is now at a balmy 32 degrees. Driving on we had what appeared to be a golden eagle sweep down on from of the car, the wingspan was the width of the windshield. If it wasn’t a golden eagle perhaps it was a condor coming out to feed on the nearby road carnage. We continued on passing rundown Navajo stands and dilapidated living quarters. I can’t help but feel empathy here for what was done so unfairly to these people.
We finally made our destination pulling into the Grand Canyon National Park. I grabbed my ski jacket, gloves and camera bag and jumped out of the car with the excitement of an 8 year old child. I asked my husband if I could help with anything. I really wanted to hurry him along…. times a tickin and I was ready to venture out. We walked up to the visitor center where hoards of people, more like ten but who’s counting, were talking to workers about trail information and tours and such. I took a gander at some of the pictures and information and looked to my husband. “You ready?” I asked. He said, “If you are.” So we left almost as quickly as we had come in.
We headed for the Mather Overlook and had a look see. WOW! For as far as the eye could see the Canyon seemed never ending. I didn’t take out my camera or lens I just stood amazed at this massive canyon that God had so authentically designed. The colors were mixed with bright earthy hues or oranges, yellows, and rusts to hues that were a drab earthen color of muted grays and tans. The colors mixed better than any painters palette and were better than any picture or painting I’d ever seen. Pictures Don’t do this place any justice as all others.
We decided to take a jaunt along the Rim trail, taking in much of the scenery and the never ending colors. Shadows from clouds played across the canyon changing the shades quickly before our eyes. The colors lightening and darkening by the clouds and the sun was quite enchanting. We hiked along the rim trail coming to one of the lodges around lunch our time thus beating the crowds. I had read reviews from other bloggers about the food inside the park and that is was not great for the prices. I was a little apprehensive about the food due to the reviews but at last my growling stomach persuaded me to enter. It smelled delightful and the prices looked very reasonable. I ordered a Ruben and fries while my husband ordered a rib-eye sandwich. The waitress was quite polite and filled our water often. The sandwiches came and were tasty indeed. I gobbled mine up quickly to quiet my grumbling stomach.
We left the restaurant and continued on the rim trail till 5:00 that evening so that we would catch the last bus back to the visitor parking lot. The day had been filled with beautiful sites and cool temperatures. We wore our jackets and gloves the entire day. We left the park and headed to our hotel, another Holiday Inn and grabbed dinner at the General Store where we chose two turkey and Gouda sandwiches and some Twizzlers. We earned the candy after our long hike.
The next day we got up well before dawn so that we could hurry over and watch the sunrise over the canyon. Mather’s Point was quite crowded so we walked a short distance down and waited the the sun to light up the canyon. There was a lot of cloud cover but I wasn’t worried I knew it still would be a sight to behold! We watched and waited and waited and watched. The soft glow began to light up the eastern side of the canyon and kept creeping up until the sky was a fiery site with warm colors dancing in the sky. The west side reflected the sunrise where clouds gathered and a rainbow appeared where I assume rain had erupted over the canyon. The Canyon peaks glowed a bright orange as the sun reached their tops while the rest of the canyon waited to be bathed by the warm sunshine. The crowds of people on Mather’s point broke out in an elated cheer as the sun rose setting the canyon on displays with the rays of sunlight.
We left our spot and went back to our car to get our water and Gatorade. I left my telephoto lens in the car seeing as no condors were in sight, I deemed that lens unnecessary and then grabbed my wide-angle and we went on our way heading to South Kabab Trail. We began our journey down and were advised my multiple people not to do the rim to the river and back up in a day. So, we decided to go to the half way point, Skeleton Point, and back up. We began the steep descent, the ranger said it was the steepest trail in the park and the most challenging to come back up. I pondered, is my husband out to get me? We ambled down the trail noting the steep steps that some poor person had to work hard to place in each spot and some unlucky donkey had to carry down. (If you plan to come down this trail you might want hiking poles to steady you on the steps that are sometimes very deep, almost 2 feet.) I had to turn sideways to sidestep down many of the steps. We made sure to go steady and cautiously as the steep trail was dry, sandy, and rocky. Many people hiked to the first point, Ooh Aah point, this was a nice overlook but I was not able to take pictures here as a boy scout troop was taking up the whole area. We decided to grab a picture on the way back up rather than being behind this rowdy group of preteen boys.
We kept going down at a good clip since going down gravity is on our side. The temperature was steadily rising as the altitude was lessening. We came to our next point Cedar Ridge and explored the area a little taking some pictures. The boy scouts came up behind us talking about bodily functions and we stepped aside and let them pass not wanting to endure their conversation for the rest of our hike down. We waited a short while to try and give them ample time to distance themselves. We continued down to Skeleton Point taking in the Colorado river and all the canyon had to offer. It was easy for us to see evidence of the great flood with fossils still on the ground and the weathering away of the land by the water.
It took an hour and a half to get down and were told it would take 2 to 3 times as long to get back up. I wanted to continue on buy my grounded husband kept me sensible and we turned around and headed back up. The trail was a steep climb and I imagined this must be like the Stairway to Heaven that Led Zeppelin sang about. I ambled up having to shed my jacket and stopping every so often to catch my breath. There was a lot of sunlight and just a little shade. We continued back up, lurching forward thinking of each step and noticing the canyon from a different viewpoint. We stopped at Cedar Ridge gulping down our Gatorade and snacking on our trail mix and then we headed up reaching Ooh Aah point where it was even more crowded but I snapped a couple of pictures and then we headed up again. We ambled up making it back to the top in two hours, only thirty minutes longer. I really wished we gone all the way down but I now had a migraine from the exertion and knew we did what was best.
After our descent into the canyon we decided to head over over to Horseshoe Bend. It was a quick 2 hour jaunt north of the Grand Canyon. We arrived and I still had a splitting headache but was so happy to be here. We walked up over the hill and down to the sign that told about the soft limestone rock that could crumble away at anytime since a lot of the ground beneath it was weathered away. The walls were 1000 feet above the winding Colorado River. The signs told that you should remain at least 6 feet from the side at all time in case the unsupported rock gave way. We headed down to have a look where the masses gathered. We watched as many people teetered at the edges of the Glen Canyon trying to get the best Instagram photos possible while putting their life in virtual limbo. One lady found an opening between two rocks and climbed down between them to have her picture taken. My husband turned away, saying he didn’t want to remember this place by seeing someone careless fall off into the Canyon with a scream to fill the air. However, this didn’t happen. We quickly got close enough to the edge where we were safe and took a few photos and then headed back up to avoid hearing any terrifying screams. We left and headed back into town. We stopped at the local pizzeria and grabbed a Hawaiian Pizza and a couple of drinks and headed back to the hotel.
We caught some z’s then we woke up and actually waited and ate breakfast at the hotel. What a mistake, cold eggs, old bacon, stale biscuits. Next time we’ll just head out. We packed up and headed for the Petrified Forest and The Painted Desert. These were two hours sout east of us. We got to the painted desert and temperatures were barely 40 degrees and clouds were moving in. The wind was picking up. We got out of the car and checked out the visitor center and the Petrified Forest behind the center. It was quite fascinating having studied and taught my third graders about fossilized wood becoming petrified by sediments filing the wood as the wood rots away. All these colorful sediments create what looks like colored wood that is now stone. We stopped and bought a small piece to have to show my students. We also bought a small fossil, you are able to find both of these in the surrounding parks and area but it is illegal to take these as they are protected. After wandering through the various stops to see the different petrified wood, we stopped to observe the distinct painted desert. It began to rain as we got out and wandered and took pictures. The pictures turned our a little drab and I can only imagine how vibrant the colors are when the sun is out but it was still an incredible experience.
After exploring the painted dessert we headed back towards Phoenix. The ride back was quite interesting constantly changing altitude. We drove through rain, sleet, and finally out of nowhere, a snow shower that came down so hard and fast it was almost a white out. We were able to see about 20 feet in font of us and as fast as it came down, cars were sliding off the road as fast. We drove on in the snow for about 40 minutes when it changed back to rain. We continued on and the sun came out and the skies once again were ablaze lighting the clouds and causing the edges to glow. We arrived to our hotel and grabbed dinner at Waffle House just outside the hotel and called it a day. We left for the airport bright and early the following day with a feeling of gratefulness for being able to see one of the seven wonders and more of God’s Great Creation.