The Grand Canyon haunted me the further we got away from it. I felt like I had missed out, like we hadn’t seen the real Grand Canyon. And the further we got, the more I felt the pull, until finally I couldn’t take it…which just happened to be at 2am in the middle of the desert. I had to go back and make sure I saw more of it. There was no question. I had to see it again.
Because the Grand Canyon is huge! I know, you’re thinking, “what’s wrong with this girl? Of course it’s huge! It’s the GRAND canyon!” But really – it is. It’s so huge that you can’t actually see its entirety from any one point of it. But the point that we chose – at the North rim – it just isn’t the best vantage point for really seeing the canyon in all its huge and vast glory.
I know that now. There’s a reason 90% of the tourists go to the South rim rather than the North rim. You stand on the edge of the South rim and there’s no mistaking you’re looking at something special.
On our drive back to the canyon, soon after we re-entered Arizona (because we’d gotten to a whole other state before it dawned on me to turn back), we noticed a huge cloud billowing out from the horizon. Except it wasn’t really a cloud. It was behaving more like smoke. But it was so far in the distance that it looked like a giant cloud emerging from the earth. When we noticed it growing bigger and bigger and blowing horizontally along the horizon in the direction we were headed, we decided maybe we’d better figure out what this anomaly was.
Steve found a news article that confirmed what we suspected – wild fire. It also informed us that the fire wouldn’t pose any threat to the Grand Canyon, and so we continued our trek back. It was still disconcerting traveling closer and closer to the giant cloud of smoke and it turns out there were road closures around the canyon due to the fire. We found this out when we arrived at the campground we chose for the night and the campground host, a retired woman in her 60s, was frazzled and frantic, dealing with a flood of visitors looking for a place to stay the night because their way home was blocked.
As we drove through the park the next day, we passed by a moose-crossing sign, which Steve felt was actually a deer-crossing sign, just a different image than the deer-crossing signs we’re used to at home. Ours show a deer jumping, he argued, whereas this one showed the deer standing serenely. I felt it looked more like a moose and I should have bet a massage on it because minutes later we were face to face with a big-antlered moose, picking his way slowly through the forest! He paid no heed at all to the cars stopping around him as he crossed the road, and didn’t glance once in the direction of all the people approaching nearby to take his picture. I guess when you’re that big, it takes a lot to frighten you.
We consulted the park guide and decided on a hiking trail – the equivalent to the one we did at the North rim, where you can take it all the way down the mountain and stay at the bottom, or you can go down as far as you feel comfortable. Like the North rim, there were lots of people for the first stretch, and lots of mule poop as well, but both thinned out the further down you got. There were more people in general than the North rim, though.
We set our sights on a little cabin (a rest stop with water and a restroom) quite a ways down, but after 2 miles or so down, decided that we’d rather stop there and use any remaining energy to hike a different spot along the canyon.
But we were pooped by the time we got back up to the top! The trail is quite steep for the last stretch (something you conveniently don’t notice on the way down!) and we felt really bad for the people who were hiking all the way from the bottom and had to carry their heavy packs in the intensely hot part of the day up that last steep non-shaded part of the trail. If I were a better person, and in better shape, I would have offered to carry their load for that part.
But I’m not, so instead I just gave them looks that tried to convey my sympathy and my encouragement. Sometimes I wanted to shout out to them – you’re almost there! But then I thought that their idea of “almost” and my idea of “almost” could be different, so I kept my mouth shut.
So because we weren’t feeling up to hiking down another section, we headed to the Desert View drive, where there were a bunch of different lookouts. We stopped at one and had our lunch while enjoying the view with Amelia.
I feel like I have seen the Grand Canyon now. I’m really happy now that we saw both rims because it really did put into perspective how incredibly huge it is. If you’re only going to see one, I would recommend the South rim. But maybe, unlike me, you can visualize it’s enormity without having to actually drive all around it 🙂
From the South rim, we made our way towards southern California. We stopped in the middle of the desert to sleep in a town called Kingman and spent the night listening to train after train pass through and to feral female cats howling at the males. The ocean was a welcome sight to our tired, desert dry eyes!