Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon. Photos do not do it justice. It is impossible to capture its vastness and its ... for lack of a better word ... grandness.
It is no wonder Sarah our Intrepid trip leader handed out paperbags for us to put over our heads before walking us blind to Mather Point for our first view of the canyon. It was a little strange to be walking in a line with a bag over my head and I am sure our little group was an added attraction for tourists that day. It was however the perfect way for the Grand Canyon to be revealed to us, not slowly coming into view but hitting you right in the face. The canyon was so gobsmackingly vast and stretched as far as my eyes could see. What sorcery is this? No sorcery apparently, it was carved by the Colorado River and the wind that caused the sedimentary rocks to erode over time. Nature is incredible!
We arrived mid afternoon so after picking our jaws up from the ground we made our way to Maverick Helicopters where we had a Helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon booked in. My first helicopter ride - I was so excited! Unfortunately we were told that no helicopters were able to take off that day due to wind conditions so we rebooked for the next morning and hoped for the best.
Some of us headed to the Market Plaza which seemed like the only place where you can get access to some internet. After all we needed to let loved ones know we were alive and that they should be jealous. Tip: Yavapai Lodge lobby gets you connected!
We then took the opportunity of missing the helicopter flight to head to our campsite at Mather's campground earlier, set up camp and cook ourselves some dinner. It was a fine afternoon indeed with lots of singing and lots of great pasta! I remember thinking I could get used to this communal cooking thing. A full belly later, the light was starting to fade, what better to do than to catch a sunset over the Grand Canyon!
We headed up to Yavapai Point and watched the setting sun drop below the canyon's horizon. The light was glorious and there really was no other place I would rather have been at that moment in time. We spent time squinting into the sun, trying to make out the shapes in the canyon and marveling at the red and purple hues of the canyon in the glow of the sunset. One of our travel mates must have been a mountain goat in her past life. That's her in the photo over standing right at the edge of a cliff with a drop that no one would return from. It must be the Swiss in her growing up among mountains because she seemed genuinely confused as to what all the fuss was about. Luckily the canyon is so vast that our short lived screaming did not disrupt the peace too much. I think.
I highly recommend anyone to catch the last light of the day over the canyon if you have the time. I think my visit would have felt incomplete if I did not get this opportunity.
It was a cold night in the tent that night. I only brought a summer sleeping bag so I had all my layers on but I could not quite get comfortable because I wasn't expecting the chill at this time of the year. However, that made scrambling out of the tent before dawn an easier task the next morning. That's right, we got a chance to make it to Mather's Point again to view the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. How much more awesome can this get?! Some of the girls grabbed their sleeping bags as a warm wraparound as we headed out in the cold morning air to experience the moment when the Grand Canyon wakes up. I was too excited to even think about doing the same. Damn it was glorious.
After our incredible sunrise experience we managed to get some breakfast in us and then it was time to head back to Mavericks Helicopter to see if we can fly over the Grand Canyon today! It was still slightly windy but it was not as bad as the day before. We were in luck!
I have never been in a helicopter before, it was a pretty pricey experience at US $295 per pax but if I was going to spend the money to be in a helicopter it may as well be for flying over the Grand Canyon!
I was lucky enough to be nominated a seat up the front next to our pilot and it is probably the best seat in the house. I believe they use some formula to balance the helicopter based on each person's body weight and seat us accordingly.
It was a VERY bumpy ride into the canyon. I have a video of the moment where we dropped what felt like 10 feet in the helicopter and our coordinated screams along the way. I guess it was still windy after all! I am lucky I didn't get sick on the flight because some in our group were hanging on to their sick bags throughout the flight and looking pretty green by the end of it. I found out later that ours was the first and last flight out that day because of weather conditions so we were lucky I suppose!
It was quite a challenge trying to take pictures when you are in a bumpy helicopter through glass that is reflecting light in all sorts of ways. It didn't stop me from trying though I felt a little rude whenever I reached over Tayla who was sitting next to me being sick to try and grab a picture *sorry Tayla*. I think some of us enjoyed it more than others.
Ride in a helicopter. Tick!
The afternoon was free for us to explore the Grand Canyon's South Rim as we wished. A few in the group attempted to hike into the Canyon but Diona and I decided to opt for the easy Rim walk trail. We also cheated and took the bus some of the way.
We ate our packed lunch when we reached Hermit's Rest which is the end point of the paved West End of the Rim trail. It has a restroom, picnic tables and a small visitor's centre. The rim trail is a cruisy way to spend an afternoon at the canyon if you are not looking for anything too strenuous but still offers you a great overview of the enormity of the Grand Canyon with breathtaking views along the way. You can rent bikes and cycle along it too.
We took it easy the rest of the afternoon, heading back to Yavapai Lodge in the Market Plaza to get our internet fix. There was also time to head back to camp and have a shower when the restrooms were not too busy. The little comforts in life.
It was pizza for dinner that night and sitting around a campfire with some other travellers before crawling into my tent (with a hot water bottle this time). This marked the end of an unforgettable journey in the Grand Canyon before we packed up and headed for Las Vegas the next morning.
If you are travelling from Joshua Tree National Park to the Grand Canyon, Lake Havasu and Historic Route 66 are worthwhile stops.
Our first stop was Lake Havasu which is a giant reservoir! After Lake Havasu, we made a stop at the iconic HistoricRoute 66. The original Route 66 was one of the original highways of USA's highway systems which has now been replaced by the Interstate Highway system. Historic Route 66 is a section that has been preserved and is now filled with novelty shops and retro signage. Super fun and a great place for a lunch stop! Now get off your couches, get in your cars and get on the road. The USA is a wonderful place for road tripping!