Wednesday, May 11, 2011

So thats why they call it the GRAND Canyon...

The night of my last posting we had a fairly rough go of it with Aldous.  The little guy woke up with some sort of night terror and was inconsolable for what seemed like hours...but it was probably a good 45 3 AM.  The following morning we woke up very late and had to rush to make check out by 11AM.  Of course when I went to turn our key in at 11:05 I realized that since AZ doesn't recognize daylight savings time it was really 10:05, and to top it all off, this mom and pop motel was working on the honor system and only had a drop box for the key.  Oh well, the rushing around and the fact that the temperature had dropped 20 degrees from the day before helped wake us up.  :)

As I noted before we were staying in Kanab, UT and while it may not be the most modern town we've stayed in, it was the first place we were able to find a decent cup of coffee since we left Albuquerque.  Yes, we're coffee snobs, sue us.  :-)  Our plan was to head for the north rim of the Grand Canyon, get a good look at it from there, then head over to the south rim, check it out from that side and then find a hotel somewhere between the GC and Las Vegas for the evening.   The night before we left I found info online indicating that the north rim was not open until 5/15...but I also found a campsite reservation site online for the north rim federal campground that said they were accepting reservations for the campground the first week in May.  Since our path to the south rim would take us by the north rim, there wasn't really much of a decision to make.  We would head for the north rim and hope for the best.  As we approached the turn off for the north rim (about 10 miles away) it started to snow furiously.  I have to admit, this I did not expect.  This whole elevation/weather thing really causes you to throw out everything you think you know about normal weather patterns if you are from back east.  The snow just continued to get heavier and heavier until we hit the turn off for the north rim.....and it was closed....till 5/15.  We did stop at a really neat little inn right there called Jacob Lake Inn.  Walking in there feels like your just stepped back 30-50 a good way.  It has a HUGE wood burning fireplace with a raging fire and a big square lunch counter that has those red stools on all 4 sides, along with a sit down restaurant and the obligatory touristy gift shop.  If you head that way, stop in if you are looking for a little nostalgia, you won't be disappointed.

After our brief pitstop at Jacob Lake Inn, we headed for the south rim, about 3 1/2 hours away.  It was an easy drive with some beautiful scenery.  On the way, we stopped at  the Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon.  We walked all the way across the bridge and back and took a few pictures of the Colorado River as it meandered past in the canyon.  It is the most beautiful green I've ever seen in a river.  Even when viewed from  MUCH higher at the Grand Canyon, you can still make out it's gorgeous emerald green color.  At one end of the canyon there were three old Navajo women selling handmade jewelry and Bella, after earlier deciding not to spend any of her money on cheap knick-knacks at a tourist trap in NM, decided to purchase one of the bracelets for sale from what looked to be the oldest of the three Navajo women by a good margin.  She looked to be 100+ years-old, but she had a sparkle in her eye to match that of 6 year-old Bella when she was showing her the bracelets.  Bella picked out a really pretty silver and jade bracelet for the bargain price of $5.  Even if it was made in China (and I don't believe it was), it was a deal.  :)

It was another couple hours and then we arrived at the Grand Canyon.  To be honest, we were not all that excited as we pulled up to the entrance gates of the National Park.  We had been seeing canyons of all sorts, even some very spectacular ones in Mesa Verde and Bryce, for a couple of weeks now and while they were all very cool in their own way, we were a bit "canyoned out."  The park ranger who checked out our pass (we bought the national parks pass for $80 for a year and it's already paid for itself) told us the first viewing area was just up ahead.  We approached the parking lot and were trying to decide whether we should go see the GC or eat first.  We decided to eat first (you cannot see the GC at all from the parking lot).  After we ate, we bundled up (it was COLD...more on that in a minute) and headed for the viewing point.   When we first caught sight of it, about 200 yards from the actual viewing area it didn't look real.  Seriously.  It was hard to wrap your mind around the multitudes of colors, combined with the elevation changes and most of all the depth of what you were seeing.  I am not exaggerating when I say that my brain required some time to recalibrate after the input it received from what my eyes were viewing.  You know that what your are seeing is real, but it is so unrelatable to anything you've seen before that for the first few moments you are viewing it, surreal is really the best way to describe it.  After a few minutes of viewing it right from the edge (there are no guardrails along most of the viewing area, you literally can walk right up to the edge of the canyon), the surrealness fades, but the state of awe remains.  You would think this would be interesting enough for our first viewing of the Grand Canyon...but you'd be wrong.  :)

As I mentioned before, it was VERY cold and we had run into snow on our way to the north rim.  When we arrived at the south rim, the sky was somewhat cloudy, but it didn't seem like it was going to snow.  After about 20 minutes, the clouds got thicker, darker and moved lower and lo and behold it began to snow.  And these weren't just flurries, it was full flegded snow...and it was snow unlike anything I've ever seen before.  It wasn't snowflakes, it was small snow balls, much like miniature balls of popcorn.  It was really weird and neat at the same time.   This only lasted for about 10 minutes, then we headed to the viewing tower because Bella saw people climbing up it, and really wanted to climb it as well, so we obliged her.  Michelle got a really neat picture from inside the viewing tower, with a very interesting perspective (see pic below).  After 30 minutes or so we headed back to the car and proceeded down Grand Canyon Dr. to different viewing points, which were no less spectacular, but the clouds were really coming in now and it was getting dark.  We decided our original plan of seeing the GC and heading out on the same day was not going to work because we arrived there too late and the clouds were stealing what daylight we had to see it.  We decided to check the rates of the onsite lodges and to our surprise they were fairly reasonable (they said they were running specials...probably because the weather was discouraging people from staying).  We got a room on one of the rim lodges with a view out our window of the GC about 30 yards away.  We quickly got settled in our room and then went and ate a quick meal at the lodge restaurant, went back to the room and turned in.  We had a GREAT nights sleep and woke up to a snowstorm.  You could not even see the GC from our room (pic below.)!  We checked out right at 11 am and loaded the car the in the snow storm and headed for the GC viewing areas.  Thankfully the snow storm was furious, but brief and we were able to get some more GC viewing in before we left to head for Hoover Dam.   If you have never seen the GC, do yourself a favor and go see it.  I guarantee it will be one of (if not the) most amazing things you've ever seen in your life.

The drive to Hoover Dam was about 4 hours and we arrived right at dusk, so we weren't able to take any pictures.  I'm not a gambler, but I love gamblers, because they enabled us to get a great hotel room at a casino about a mile past the Hoover Dam for $29 (and it's NOT a dive)!   So we are turning in for the night and going to visit Hoover Dam and will pass through Las Vegas tomorrow on the way to our next destination, Death Valley.

Here are some pics from the last two days...

Bella on the Navajo Bridge.

The clouds made for some interesting pictures.

Michelle is the horticulturist of the family, but even I have to admit these cacti in bloom all over Arizona were ver pretty.

The pictures just can't capture the enormity of the GC or the feeling it elicits.  You really need to see it for yourself.

Another unreal view...

One of the few shots we were able to take without significant cloud cover.

I love the interaction of all the different elements in this pic of the canyon, blue sky, and the clouds.

Similar pic to above, but with a couple of people in the lower right to give it scale.

One of my favorite shots.

It's hard to see from the pic, but the Colorado river is a fantastic green even from this far away on a cloudy day.

Pic speaks for itself...I'm running out of superlatives.  :-)

There are no words... :-)

I wanted to walk out to this ledge, but Michelle said she wouldn't take a pic, so I figured,  no point in risking my life if I'm not even going to get a pic out of it!   ;-)

Me, a couple of rug rats and big hole in the ground.

Love the different colors that run throughout the canyon.

Yep, that's snow.

Bella proudly displaying her Navajo bracelet.

The view from our hotel room this morning.  Right past that wall is the Grand Canyon...not that you could see it.  It started snowing twice as hard as this 5 minutes after I took this pic.

I'm pretty sure I caught more snow than Bella or Aldous, but my tongue is bigger too.

View of Lake Mead from our hotel tonight.

The Colorado river running through Marble canyon as seen from Navajo bridge.

The girls.

This is a really cool pic.  It was taken by Michelle from inside the viewing tower shop.  It looks like a big painting on the wall, but that is just a really big window looking out over the Grand Canyon.

Something you don't see back east...

Absolutely stunningly gorgeous...and the Grand Canyon ain't too shabby either.

And if it weren't for the damn kids we would have gotten that $24.95 rate too!

This was just outside of Kanab UT on the way to the Grand Canyon, great contrasts in this pic.

Different pic, but the same description applies.


  1. Very nice write-up. I could see it through your eyes. Awesome.

  2. Aren't you glad you decided to do this trip?? The Grand Canyon is pretty hard to describe--but you did a wonderful job. And the photos are amazing! Bill and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary at the Grand Canyon in 1983 on our western trip. It was late March and we camped at the was it cold! It snowed, then, too. We ate our anniversary dinner at the rim hotel (where you stayed) restaurant and I still remember that meal...ribs, ribs, ribs and what a view. Have fun!

  3. Seems like you may have just missed Rocket Man going from one side to the other with a backpack propulsion device. Maybe THAT could be your next adventure...probably you will find, as your mom and i did, the mountain road to Yosemite is almost as exciting as rocketing over the GC