Or as Michael continually said as we gawked at the beauty of the Canyon, “the canyon that is grandyon…” yep. It was incredible! The drive, although long, is incredible itself. On the way to the North Rim you get your first glimpse of the Colorado and the mighty canyon. You can’t help but let your jaw drop a little and wonder at how God set erosion into motion to make this incredible place.
We started out on the North Rim which was quiet and low key. All the camp sites were spacious , you could walk to everything, there was even a little grocery mart by the campsites in case you forgot anything.
On our first day at the North Rim we did a little two mile rim hike over to the lodge and back which was gorgeous! There were no railings and you can climb out onto rocks (safely mom don’t worry) and enjoy the incredible view. There are tons of little creatures everywhere that have no concern for you- mostly we were in their way- black and white squirrels, chipmunks, birds, and mice. We just about got caught in a storm but it blew over, just producing some heavy winds and some threatening thunder and lightening which it ended up doing every night we were there-pretty awesome, slightly scary considering all the lightening warnings they have posted everywhere!
The next day we started out early, around 6:00am. They say not to hike between 10am-4pm because of the heat and the sun comes up at like 5:00am so it’s easy to get up early. We hiked part of the North Kaibab down to the footbridge and back about 7 miles total from the campsite and got back around 10:30am. They have signs saying down is optional- up is mandatory- whew, it does get hard coming uphill at 8000 feet but the views are SO worth it!!
At 12:30 we had a ½ day mule ride scheduled which went down the same trail we hiked in the morning. We thought the mules would go down farther than we did but they didn’t. It was still a blast and we got to look around a lot more. Our guide was great and so was everyone else on the ride, it was a ton of fun. It was crazy dusty on the mules though, bandanas and sunglasses were a must, and all the poor people who made the decision to start hiking at 11am got to eat our dust as well… Here are our mules, Smerf and Slim:
The next morning, our last on the North Rim, we made the 5 minute hike to the Rim and drank our coffee while admiring the most amazing creation we’ve ever seen…
The South Rim was about as much a shock as arriving at the bustling, crazy Nashville from Jacksonville, FL… (the negativity will only last a minute… I promise…) Although the scenery was still incredible there were 100000000000x more people, it was- we think- a two mile hike to the rim from our campsite on unmarked paved walkways that went in every direction (it may have been two miles for us because we were so lost…) and you couldn’t park at a lot of the trailheads and they encouraged you to ride the shuttles everywhere- that took 40 minutes to go 7 miles because they stopped at every overlook! Ahhhh! Take me back to the North Rim!!
It was rainy and gross, too overcast to see very much so we decided to dive into tourist culture and pay $12 a piece to watch the 34 minute IMAX on the Grand Canyon just down the road in Tusyan. It was pretty cool although the cheesy 80s acting was a little much …. Since it was still raining we continued over to the Wendy’s to get fries and a Frosty and try to use some wifi to look at where we could find Anasazi ruins to hike but they seemed to be mostly in Utah…
When we got back we decided to hike to the rim since the weather had cleared a bit. Just when I was about to head back to the car and tell Michael I couldn’t handle Nashville part 2 we saw these folks…
2 GIANT elk hanging out and munching away really close to our campsite!!! They just stared at us (I think they were paid employees) as we snapped pictures at them and I made myself look like a total geek to the people walking by, whispering to them, “O my gosh! Elk!,” (like they couldn’t see), and “They are huge… that is SOOOO cool!” (like they didn’t already notice)
We settled down and ate some camp food (not reviewing food here since it was mostly prepackaged- noodles and sauce, Annie Chung’s healthy version of Raman, oatmeal, instant coffee, etc- it’s all delightful when you’re hungry) and settled in for the night.
O yeah! I forgot to mention how incredible the weather was! Every evening- North and South Rim- the weather was in the 50s in the morning and evening, and if the sun was out during the day in the low 80s- which is pretty hot with the sun beating down, but at the top of the rim there was always a cool breeze and it heated up slow and cooled down fast.
The next day we planned on hiking part of the Bright Angel trail. We toyed with the idea of going to the river which they tell you a billion times not to in a day and have signs up picturing healthy fit young men that they have to rescue out of the canyon by the hundreds each year. They also have pictures of a frantic woman over her man who is passed out from heat exhaustion. We totally understood these pictures and warnings as we watched people waltz onto the trails in the middle of the day on the North Rim with nothing but a bottle of water. They have refill stations but hiking up is hard, you need snacks and tons of fluids and most people seemed really underprepared.
So, to begin our hike the next day we decided to be over prepared- we both took our packs, carrying four bottles of water, a bottle of Gatorade, 2 PBJs, 4 protein bars, a bag of nuts, dried apples, rain gear, fleeces, flashlights, etc. Basically, if we had to sleep in a shelter somewhere along the trail that night we could still eat like kings and be warm! We headed out about 6:30am, an hour later than we wanted to start- they said to Indian Garden and back took between 6-9 hours total and we wanted to go 3 miles past that, adding 6 miles total to the trip. It was raining though so we got a slow start. Even in the rain the visibility was great and we got down to Indian Garden by about 8:45.
The Canyon, at least this section, makes you really hungry. The whole way down we smelled lemongrass and craved Thai food. Then we hit a section that smelled just like barley and hops, then back to lemongrass. Maybe it was just all the things we were craving…
We decided we would go for it, we both had secretly planned that we were going to go for it any way but it was really exciting heading out to see the Colorado! Once we were past Indian Garden, a beautiful oasis in the first decent into the canyon, it got even more incredible than we could have imagined. Here are a couple of pictures:
There is more but I don’t want to give you too many… I don’t want you to think you don’t need to see it with your own eyes because you do!!! It is fantastic!!
The rain drizzled on as we made the second decent into the canyon, switch backs that dropped off steeply and a trail you could see for miles which was a little daunting. We finally made it down to flat ground, following along Indian Spring and soon heard the whooshing sound of the Colorado. We rounded a corner and there it was- beautiful- tumbling over itself- holding thousands upon thousands of history in it’s current and moving faster and more powerfully than we had imagined it would. Just then the weather cleared, for about 20 minutes, a perfect amount of time to enjoy a PBJ and gawk at the water. A few whitewater rafters passed by and we got to watch them hit the rapids right in front of us- next summer’s plan- a week long river rafting trip!
We high fived and began our accent back up the Canyon. It rained for another two hours and we hiked up just about as fast as we came down which was crazy. When we got back to Indian Springs there was a beautiful little mule deer munching away, she looked at us and continued on. We filled up our water bottles and continued on.
About 45 minutes later the sun came out… O my goodness. Up hill with sun was not fun. The first hour was ok but about 12pm it was sweltering and about 2:00pm with less than a mile to go I thought to myself, “they are going to have to carry me out of this canyon.” But with Michael’s encouragement, a vow to never wear Merrill barefoot shoes on a hike any longer than 7 miles, quite a few breaks and a bunch of water we made it to the top. 15.4 miles in 8 hours- we were on top of the world!!! Although more tired than we’d ever been we were more in awe than we had ever been and completely satisfied.
We ended the evening with a steak dinner from the Arizona Room, delicious. Then we half slept through pouring rain and headed out the next morning to head for southern Arizona. The main stop of our trip was now behind us and the road left was headed home. The Grand Canyon was so much more than we could have ever anticipated. Amazing.