Grand Canyon, AZ: Similar to how New Yorkers call New York City, THE city, locals here call this place THE canyon… and it’s not hard to see why. When we originally planned our trip there were one or two places that we used as destination markers along our route, and the GC was one of them. Although the Seven Wonders of the World change depending on which website or book or TV channel you are using for reference, the Grand Canyon always makes the list. We entered the national park from the south and we drove right to our campsite, Mather’s Campground, to set up camp. We were surrounded by woods and felt like we could have been anywhere. Anxious to get to see our first view of the canyon, we hopped on our bikes and rode about a mile to the rim. It was one of those clichéd moments in a story when you turn a corner and suddenly it is all right before you, out of nowhere. It was actually kind of overwhelming and was far too expansive to take in all at once. Each vista point offered a different view of the never-ending canyon. To give you a sense of the magnitude, the red cliffs fall over a mile to the Colorado River and the two rims are separated by as much as eighteen miles, creating a huge fracture in the Earth’s surface.
The next morning we woke up early to hike into the depths of the canyon on the Bright Angel Trail. The trail stretches for 16 miles in total down to the floor of the canyon with several day shelters along the way. Although heavily traveled by the thousands of tourists who flock to see this incredible place every day, the numbers quickly dropped off as we progressed further down (don’t worry, they made it back out!). We took the trail 5 miles into the canyon to a point called Indian Gardens, a lush oasis in the middle of the sweltering dry canyon (see photo below). The temperature also varies drastically depending on where you are in the canyon, and the bottom tends to be 15-20 degrees hotter than the rims. The hike took 6 hours, a very quick descent and a hot and painful trip back up, climbing over 3,500 feet in elevation. Like any well-experienced hikers would do, we ended our journey with mint chocolate chip ice cream at the top.
On our final morning at the South Rim, we woke even earlier (around 5am!) to watch the sunrise over the canyon. As recommended by our friends, Jannette and Renee from Arkansas, we brewed some of the coffee they gave us and began our day in style! It was a beautiful sunrise and the colors were unforgettable.
Even though we could see our next destination on the North Rim a mere eighteen miles away, the drive took over 4 hours as we had to follow the rim east to a narrower crossing point over the Colorado River. The views of the canyon as we made the trip were incredible. Our next campsite was a lot quieter and cooler than Mather’s and served as a nice respite from the heat and the tourists on the South Rim.