Leading up to and throughout this road trip, I told myself and others that I was going to watch the sun rise over the Grand Canyon. Well, I woke up just shy of 6:30am and I looked at my weather app just to discover that it was 30-something degrees outside. I cleared my throat, pulled my weighted blanket (that I traveled with) up over my shoulders, and watched the sun rise through my daggum hotel window. Yep, I wasn’t having it. No way no how. I hadn’t packed cold weather gear so I was definitely not about to try and freeze the last bit of sense I had left in my brain.
Uncle Michael told me that he was going to get himself some breakfast. I continued relaxing a bit and after I showered and dressed, I made my way down to grub on some hotel food. As we were passing each other, my uncle said, “heads up” and I remember him telling me that the eggs on one side was hotter than the other, but I had forgotten which side by the time I got out of the elevator. I just wanted food.
I spent some quality time eating and people watching, enjoying the amazing energy of one of the hotel workers who went above and beyond to help guests (and reduce the amount of people crammed together trying to get certain food items). It was awesome seeing so many people there, clearly visiting for the same reason I was there, to take in as much of that majestic energy that the Grand Canyon harnessed. There were families visiting, casual hikers, and extreme hikers (or at least they had extreme gear strapped to them). Once I was done eating and taking in all of the busyness, I went to my room, gathered my stuff and headed to the front desk to check out.
My uncle and I drove the short one mile to the entry gate and was pleasantly surprised that not only would we receive a discount to enter, thanks to his Veteran’s status, but he got a free pass to all of the National Parks for an entire year. Isn’t that awesome?!? I asked him if he would be ready for some road trips come spring time.
After parking and wondering why people brought their small dogs with them—ummm can you say wild animal snacks?— we decided on the route we wanted to take.
I called my mom and she said, “Oh you guys are actually at the Grand Canyon? I thought you were just driving by”. I looked at my phone and I was like, “ummm how do you just drive by?” and then quickly pivoted the conversation before she went off on me. After a few laughs I got off of the phone and uncle Michael and I hopped on the orange shuttle, and oh my goodness, only God could have created something as beautiful as what we took in that day. It’s one thing to see pictures and videos of the Grand Canyon, it’s something totally different, soul-stirring, a song to your spirit, when you see it in person.
Oh and for clarification, all of those jaw-dropping images you see online and in books, are of the south part of the Grand Canyon, the South Rim, which is in Arizona. Not the Nevada side. No knock to Nevada, it’s just a different topography up that-a-which-away. The North Rim is less accessible because it’s like 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim. It’s also not open year-round like the South Rim, and that’s because it snows like crazy in the North Rim.You can access it if you’re a hiker or cross country skier, and have a backcountry permit.
We took a shuttle to see South Kaibab Trail. It begins with a series of switchbacks called “the chimney”. During the winter months you can find ice in this area. What I didn’t know, until after I had made it home with my postcard that I had purchased is that there are Zoroaster and Brama temples perched majestically across from the Mormon Flats on the South Kaibab Trail. The Grand Canyon is hundreds of millions of years old with just as many mysteries nestled in those nooks and crannies.
After spending some quality time at South Kaibab Trail, we hopped on another shuttle and went to Yaki Point.
Now, if I had been there for a hiking trip, I would have hiked to all of these stops. Oh and if I was traveling with someone other than my uncle. He’s not the hiking type. Take him fishing or camping in a controlled-environment (not something as open and wild as the Grand Canyon, for instance) and he’s in his element. He wasn’t playing with these wild animals. Arizona has mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, bats, elk (as I mentioned yesterday), bison, condors, deer, and big horn sheep.
And the most dangerous animals happen to be some of the smallest, those rock squirrels will take you out. You can think they’re cute all you want, you might find yourself cliff-diving without a parachute or in a social media video that’s gone viral because you’re battling Rocky from Rocky and Bullwinkle.
Uncle Michael and I were looking at people like they had a death wish. One woman kept trying to get as close to the edge of the cliff and the other women that were with her kept saying, “Okay stop you have gone far enough” and she kept saying, “I’m fine it’s okay, I’ve got this”. My uncle and I turned around and walked away, both agreeing that if her silly butt got snatched by a gust of wind, we didn’t want to be there to witness the horror.
We rolled our eyes when we saw people with their cameras say, “Ooh look at that” and they were trying to get close enough to take photos of animals. I just knew that one of them was going to say “Ooh I wonder if it will let me pet it”. It never fails. There’s always one who wants to take things to the extreme, like they’re gonna get a show with National Geographic or something.
Uncle Michael and I took plenty of pictures and he even had his fancy camera, snapping away and capturing some beautiful images. The photos you see here are all taken by me with my iPhone. I recorded videos and even tried to FaceTime and WhatsApp video call with my mom and sister, so they could get a sneak peek, but no can do. It was as though the canyon said, “Naw sista, not here”. When I was able to call them later, my mom said, “They probably block service so folks can’t see the Grand Canyon for free”. Haaa my mom is hilarious.
We took one more shuttle and visited Pipecreek Vista. I did want to make two more stops but being mindful of the time and how long we still had left of our road trip, we caught another shuttle back to the visitor’s center. Then we went to the conservatory gift shop.
There I bought a postcard (that I mentioned earlier) and a National Parks passport book. I felt like a big kid when my passport got stamped, marking my visit. My uncle purchased these cool wooden walking sticks for my mom and my aunt Valerie (their sister). The sticks disassemble into three pieces that simply attach my screwing them together. So it made it possible to travel with them. Pretty cool! He also purchased my sister something and got me the Adventure Edition of the Road Atlas. It has all of the state and national parks, and national monuments highlighted. I can’t wait for my next adventure. Oh yeah!
Leaving the Grand Canyon
I won’t lie, I wish I could have stayed there the entire day. Before leaving I had already planned in my mind a return trip next year. I’m thinking that three or four days would do the trick.
I have one other place in Flagstaff I want to spend several hours visiting, so I want to spread my trip out so that it’s not rushed. It’s roughly a seven-hour drive from southern California.
Even if I flew into Flagstaff that would still require renting a car and driving 81 miles. That’s the closest option because I don’t think there is an airport in Williams, which is 60 miles away. The Flagstaff flight could work if I wanted to spend more time at the Grand Canyon and in Arizona, and I wasn’t doing an all-out multi-state road trip. Hmmm…this travel option is sounding better and better the more I think about it.
I hopped behind the wheel of my SUV and we moseyed down the road, hopped on the highway, refueled at a trucker’s stop, and grabbed something to eat. We were slated to reach sunny southern California later that evening. My uncle took some awesome photos as I drove through Arizona and into California.
Once we crossed that California border we had 346 miles until we reached our destination. I got excited when when hit I-15 South because I knew we were roughly two hours away home. We pulled in around 8:45pm, tired and hungry, Thankfully, my sister had prepared us a meal that had me salivating like crazy.
I enjoyed this road trip. Even the rough parts that had me nervous and at times scared of becoming a road bump for a big rig. Would I do it again? Yes. I’m not sure what has changed within me, but I went from declaring in 2012 “No more road trips longer than eight hours” to saying in 2021, “Okay let’s do this!” So here’s to my next road trip. Stay tuned, one’s coming soon. You will never believe where I’m headed to next!
Copyright 2021. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.