After looking at probably 99% of the pictures on Google of the Grand Canyon I was eager to see it with my own eyes. We had driven a few hours before hitting this huge vista literally in the middle of nowhere. When I’ve read things about the Grand Canyon I’d never really imagined it’s surroundings, I suppose you don’t really think about what is surrounding one of the (if not) the most visited national park in America. I was surprised to see nothing for miles, no tourist traps until you hit the neighboring areas which, for me, was nice. A lot of places that tourists flock to get over ran by terrible stores and arcades that are there to rip people off, I guess the heat puts people off. (Because it’s bloody warm!)
We pulled up to the ranger desk in Betty (the van) and were let through to the town of Tusayan. We passed all of the cute little shops that ran along the side of the road and spotted our first (of many) proper wildlife of the trip (some elk) wandering along the path and headed up for our first view of the Grand Canyon. Andy (Trek Leader) had bought us some headbands to blindfold us so that we didn’t get a full glimpse until we were right on the edge. It’s fair to say I felt a tiny bit stupid and people shouting ‘Don’t fall off!’ and ‘There’s a snake!’ didn’t help the fact I seriously hate being blindfolded (I would not get on with Mr. Grey). It was definitely worth it though, I (surprisingly) didn’t sneak a peak until I fully took it off and saw it for the first time.
It is the most overwhelming site I have ever had to take in. The size of it is something there is no word for. Vast, huge, massive. None of them work because to me they don’t do it justice. What I noticed more than anything was the colours, they are so vivid and really make the canyon pop against the blue sky.
We took a few photos and hopped back in Betty to head to the Airport were we would all be seeing it from a birdseye view. I had never been in a helicopter before so really didn’t know what to expect, I wasn’t nervous for some reason and after we got strapped in the adrenaline didn’t kick in until we were off the ground. It’s such a different sensation to being in a plane, you can see all around you (mostly) as you float around in this little tin can that’s suspending you above thousands of meters of rocks, it’s not as smooth as a plane but I wouldn’t say it was rocky either…
We made our way to the canyon edge after flying over what must have been miles and miles of trees. I hadn’t realised there would be so much greenery in the middle of the desert. As we approached the cliff the pilot was doing a count down to get us ready for our first (well second) sight of the Grand Canyon. I don’t think I let out a breathe until we sailed over the edge, it feels like that part of the rollercoaster were you know the dip is coming so your knuckles start turning white, but then you don’t actually go over any edge so you can breathe again. (It’s very strange) The pilot tipped us to one side to weave our way around the Colorado river, he showed us some cool rock formations that I don’t remember the names of and explained why some parts of the river are brighter than others. I don’t remember why either, something to do with a chemical reaction I think…
We were up there for a good 40 minutes and I couldn’t believe how peaceful it was, I even felt myself drifting off as we started flying back over the trees! Helicopters are very soothing. We made our way out of the helicopter but not before having a group photo in front of it! Smile!
It’s fair to say I was pooped after that, traveling takes it out of you, whether it’s in the air or in a van. We found our campsite and (for the second time) decided we would sleep under the stars. It was great really because none of us were exactly fast movers in the morning so we would have had to get up super early to pack everything away and have breakfast, (we wouldn’t have made it out before noon.) We chilled for a bit and then went back to the edge (right on the edge) to eat some pizza and watch the sun set over the rim… One of the best days of my life.
The next day we got up stupidly early (3.45AM!) and went to watch the start of the day by a very windy side of the canyon.
We had decided to hike the South Kaibab Trail because there were various points where you could stop and turn back whilst still getting a pretty good view of the inside of the Canyon. Me, Maria, Matt and Peter (Denmark), (Franzi was poorly 😦 ) all started the hike together and made pretty good time in getting down to Cedars Ridge. The decline is pretty steep and I hold my hands up in saying I am not the fittest person in the world so I decided I was going to stop there for a while and head back up when I was ready. We had bought plenty of food and drink so Maria and I ate some Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches and chatted for a while before taking my favourite photo from the two days… (such a cliche I know!)
So we’d chilled and drank and had a nice rest. And then started the very tough walk back up to the trail-head. There are signs all of the way down the trail saying “Coming down is an option going up is mandatory” or something like that. Well they aint kiddin’! Getting up, by far, was so tough on that terrain. I knew the decline felt steep so I should have been prepared for the incline really. But we took it steady and after drinking a couple of bottles of water and a Gatorade we made it out feeling like we had really accomplished something. It took us around three hours and we did have a fairly long rest so I was pretty happy with that result. If you are planning on hiking in the Grand Canyon take note of the signs if your an amateur like me…they are there for a reason!
We took the park buses back towards camp and stopped off at the gift store and supermarket. Yes it’s pricey but not as bad as festivals back here in the UK…you’ve got nowhere else to go so your gonna buy it there.
After a very energetic morning we all lounged about for the rest of the day sleeping and trying (and failing) to put a canopy up for some shade… We had a nice light dinner and played some american game (which I can’t remember the name of), but you throw beanbags into some holes in a wooden board. Well anyway, I beat two Americans that couldn’t quite believe how awesome I was…( I’ll stop now before my head gets too big) If you know what game I’m talking about do let me know!
To put it in a tiny nutshell the Grand Canyon was just that… pretty grand.