Southwest 2018 Part 1 // The Grand Canyon
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, through which we earn a commission.
Back in October last year, Wiehan and I had an incredible opportunity to travel throughout Nevada, Arizona and Southern California over a 16-day span, connecting the dots between 3 different conferences that he needed to attend for work. We are sharing details about our adventure so that, if you ever find yourself in any of these locations, you can take into consideration the places and experiences that we loved, as well as tips we picked up along the way.
We began the adventure with two nights in Las Vegas, a place that didn't exactly jive with our interests and lifestyle. But regardless, we enjoyed sunrise workouts, paleo dinners and finding ways to be healthy in the notorious Sin City.
After wrapping up conference number one, we rented a car and stopped at a Whole Foods on our way out of the city, to stock up on water and snacks for the foreseeable future, such as apples, bananas, carrots, sweet potato chips, rice cakes and peanut butter. Then we began our three and a half hour drive, from Vegas, through the Hoover Dam, to Williams, Arizona. Williams, nicknamed the Gateway to the Grand Canyon, is a western-themed tourist town toting many a Historic Route 66 decoration. We were completely charmed.
We stayed at the La Quinta and ate at the Red Raven Restaurant both nights, taking advantage of their twenty dollar New York strip steak deal that includes soup or salad, and a choice of two sides. As an extra splurge, the lamb brochette appetizer is incredible. It's a popular spot, so the wait time allowed us to wander up and down the main street, browsing the cute souvenir shops.
The evening called for an early bedtime, in preparation for our big adventure the next day at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We'd been watching the weather forecast for weeks, dreading the anticipated cold and rainy weather. The original plan was to wake up early enough to get to the canyon by sunrise. But due to the clouds, we slept a little longer, bundled up for winter weather, ate breakfast (dinner leftovers for me and the hotel’s complimentary breakfast for Wiehan) and left around 10am for the one-hour drive. It was a $35 charge to enter the park, which seems a little steep for our one-day visit. But if you're in the area for longer, the pass only expires a week later, and grants access to the North Rim as well. We parked the car near the visitor's center, grabbed our backpacks and stopped in the Bright Angel Bicycle Rental and Café for coffee and a not-so-fresh grab n' go sandwich and salad for our hike.
We walked from the café along the Rim Trail to the Yavapai Geological Museum and Bookstore. Mather Point, an incredible overlook, was the most notable stop along the way. You’ll hear Wiehan freak out in our video, as he takes in the grandeur! Photographs cannot fully capture, nor can words fully describe the awe-inspiring view that stretches out as far as the eye can see. We learned that the canyon has been, and continues to be forged by the Colorado River. This seems difficult to believe, since the river is barely visible at the top of the South Rim. But apparently the river is a fast-moving, incredibly powerful force. Its impact, along with the combination of other geologic events, such as shifting plates and volcanic activity, creates a more credible story. More information on the formation of the canyon can be found here. We were completely fascinated by ideas of its origin, longing for the opportunity to see the Colorado River in person one day.
The trail continues a few more miles from Yavapai Point, all the way to the Bright Angel trail head. But we opted to skip that section and drive to the trail head instead, to conserve our energy for the more challenging terrain ahead. Our day at the park began with patchy clouds and ended in a downpour, with total cloud coverage blocking any view of the great chasm below. Overall, in a 3.5-hour timespan, we descended the Bright Angel trail for 3mi / 4.8km and turned around to head back to the top when raindrops began to fall. In that distance, we passed the Mile and a Half Rest House, which is nothing more than a rustic covered pavilion, along with compost toilets and water tap. By the time we reached the top of the climb, 1919ft / 589m in elevation, we were basically drenched. Fortunately our camera gear stayed dry, protected in our backpacks. The climb up wasn’t nearly as challenging as we were expecting, but the rain provided added incentive for high-tailing it up.
We were passed by a lot of people who were on the last leg of a 24 miles / 39 km backpacking excursion from the North Rim, via the North Kaibab Trail, to the South Rim. The hike supposedly often takes between 3-4 days, with 12-15 hours of hiking time and the option to catch a shuttle back to the North Rim. It sounds like a pretty amazing experience!
All in all, despite a shorter hike and less than ideal weather, we were very satisfied with our day trip to the Grand Canyon, completely overwhelmed and amazed. The experience of seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, and hiking a piece of it, is something that we tried to capture. But the only way to truly appreciate this natural wonder of the world is to see it for yourself.
If you ever plan to tackle the hike from Rim to Rim, be sure to do plenty of research, train for the required fitness level, pack sufficient food and water, and don’t overdo it. Be sure to heed the warnings and advisories of the National Parks Service. Had we arrived at sunrise, as was previously planned, we could have easily approached the hike overly confident in our abilities, while underestimating the trail. In the event that we ever have the opportunity to revisit the Grand Canyon with multiple days on our hands, we’ll definitely consider the full hike, but only after thoroughly planning for the experience. We were going to stick around for an early dinner at El Tovar Dining Room, in the park. However, it was closed between 2-4:00pm, so we drove back to Williams for a shower and a second visit to Red Raven for dinner. The next day we headed to Scottsdale, spending several hours along the way in Sedona. Stay tuned for more adventures!
On the drive back to Williams, I wrote a short poem in response to my first encounter with the Grand Canyon:
Seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, it is completely overwhelming. Incomprehensible.
To see such vast landscape telling a story of its past, revealing histories of this earth that we call home, yet know so little about. If only we stop and pay attention, listen and observe, suspend our disbeliefs, our preconceived notions. Inevitably provoking thoughts of the beginning of time, a Creator, the great universe that surrounds us and the planets that neighbor us, eternity. It is the powerful, awe-inspiring sublime.
Our existence is but a blink of time in comparison and we are grateful to be alive.
Tell us! Have you had the opportunity to visit a natural wonder? If so, which one and how was the experience?