At last! We made it to our westernmost destination: the Grand Canyon National Park. Following the advice of a couple of guidebooks, we had entered from the east. I had heard that the south entrance was really crowded and that traffic jams were common. By using the east entrance, we had no delays, had no parking issues at our first overlook AND were treated to this less-populated vista:
Brett and I had been here before (separately, as kids), but wow. There's just nothing like standing on that rim and taking it all in. I'm not all that afraid of heights, but I was suddenly afraid that Ryan would drop his phone or that I'd lose my grip on my camera!
This particular overlook, Desert View, is home to the Watchtower.
Inside, the tower is decorated with Native American symbols, many of which we recognized from Petrified Forest.
From Desert View we ventured west to a couple of other viewpoints. The rim trail allows hikers to explore more views of the canyon. This looks like it's closer to the edge than it really is. (Still scary to me, but it wasn't as bad as it looks!)
When we got to the appropriately named Grandview overlook, the kids and I thought we recognized this as one of the settings for the Brady Bunch Grand Canyon episodes.
So of course we got Brett to take our picture at that spot!
Mike and Carol would've wanted us to!
See Brett? Ever the hiker (and mountain goat), he was thrilled to explore the rim. Unlike other tourists, he was always careful. We were blown away by the carelessness of others, though! We saw many, many people head WAY out on the edge, mere inches away from DEATH, just for a picture, some in heels, some in flip-flops. HELLO?! Loose rocks! You could slip! You just might trip! Just crazy. Some moms would pick up their toddlers—you know, babies that like to LUNGE forward in your arms?—pick them up above the level of the protective railing, lift them above the rail that would, you know, SAVE THE CHILD'S LIFE. Um, yeah. I'm not comfortable with that.
Anyway, back to the pictures!
We wore our Texas shirts because the Horns were playing their first game in the College World Series later that night. Couldn't help but pose!
At the Grandview trailhead the park had posted a warning about trying to hike to the canyon floor and back in one day. There were many warnings about how people had died doing this, including this poster. A marathon runner, a young woman in obviously great shape, had gotten lost, and without enough food or water, had died in the canyon. Sad story.
Eventually, we survived the chaos in the central part of the park to find the main visitors center. There's road construction going on, and because of the crowds, there's not nearly enough parking for everyone. We got lucky and Brett did a masterful job of parallel parking, so we only had to walk 1/2 a mile instead of 2!
At the visitors center we found this weather info. It's so interesting to me that the temperature varies so much from the rim to the canyon floor, sometimes by as much as 30 degrees! That's what elevation will do for you.
Inside the center we found models of the canyon, and Katie got her Junior Ranger materials. She was anxious to get to work on that project.
From there we went to Moran Point to see the canyon again before checking in to our room at Maswik Lodge.
Katie used that time to get started on her Junior Ranger paperwork.
For Katie's Junior Ranger badge, we attended a Ranger program about California condors. It was interesting to learn about how the condors needed a protected, natural environment where they could be reintroduced to the wild, and how perfect the Grand Canyon was for them. Unfortunately, while we were there, Ryan started feeling bad, so once that was over, we checked into our lodge so he could get some rest. While he slept off his migraine, I watched the Horns play ball, and Brett and Katie explored the Bright Angel Trail.
Later, we headed back toward the canyon to see it at twilight.
On our way, we ran into some four-legged friends.
It's remarkable how the canyon views change throughout the day. We'd love to stay for several days so we could see it from different angles at different times. It's just so beautiful!
Back at Maswik, we were ready for some supper. We ate in the cafeteria there at our lodge.
Can you tell it had been a long day? We were SO thankful we were able to spend the night in the park. Originally there were no rooms at Grand Canyon Village since we had planned our trip so late in the spring, but once we were on the road, I checked the website again and was thrilled to find us a spot. Otherwise, we would've been driving from the park to Williams, about 30 minutes south, and back again the next morning. What a drag that would've been!
I liked the light fixtures there in the dining hall. Because the hall had wi-fi, there were lots of folks hanging out there.
And speaking of lights, I loved this burro in our room! By the time we made it back there, it was just about time to hit the hay. Lights out! We'd be up early, ready to hike, in the morning.