Today we kissed Los Angeles good-bye and set sail towards the Yavapai Lodge on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The day was filled terrain changes, potty breaks, and lots and lots of video games. We spent the entire day sitting in the car and watching the world go by. We pulled into Grand Canyon Village long after dark, checked in, and unloaded the car.
Yavapai Lodge is a massive, multi-building facility and the only place to get your wifi fix is at the main lodge near the registration desk. So, after the kids were tucked into bed, I hopped in the car and drove down to the lodge to check my email and tinker on the net for a bit before officially turning in for the night.
Our room was within walking distance of the bus stop and the general store. Since the hotel didn’t offer breakfast and the cafeteria was closed for refurbishment, we made our way down to the general store for a quick bite to eat before we headed out to the trails.
The General Store breakfast was seriously lacking. We ended up with a round of fake-egg filled burritos that we all peeled the eggs out of before we consumed. They weren’t so terrible after that and it did the trick. Good enough. Next time though, we’ll know that the breakfast options on the south rim are very limited, and we’ll come prepared.
After breakfast, we wandered over to the bus stop and loaded onto the bus for our first look at the Grand Canyon. The ride took about half an hour to get us to the Bright Angel trail. There was some rainy weather on the horizon but we chose to take on the hike down into the gullet of the canyon anyway as it was the one and only day we had to explore it.
Fun fact: The Grand Canyon isn’t the only grand canyon. There are a number of others scattered around the world, including one in our home state of Pennsylvania. The Grand Canyon in Arizona holds the title of THE Grand Canyon on account of its depth and the multitude of minerals that give it its majestic coloring.
As we stepped off the bus it was starting to sprinkle…which it continued to do off and on the rest of the day. We had ourselves a quick bathroom stop at the top of the trail before pushing on, which is super important because there’s nary a spec of private space for miles so if the urge to go arises, you have to either find a way to squelch it or hope that those walking by are kind enough to look the other way. The miles-long switchback style trail that leads down the canyon and to the deeply turquoise Colorado River is all of 4 feet wide with canyon wall on one side and a seemingly endless abyss on the other.
At this point, we hadn’t done a whole lot of hiking as a family and while we have some crazy trails back home, this was most definitely a horse of a different color. We happen to have one among us who likes to act first and think later so a trail like this is especially daunting. We’re all about having a good time but it puts a real damper on things if someone goes leaping to their doom….and it actually happened while we were there! But not to us. There was a team of rescuers that raced past us on our hike down, bound for some poor soul who slipped off the edge. We never did hear how they made out but I sure hope they were ok.
So, we hiked a good mile and a half, all downhill, and all with the children reminding us how very far we had to go to return to the top, before turning around. The trek back up was SLOW. The majority of the group made it to the top at a reasonable pace but I was tasked with bringing up the rear (the one who was most verbal about going no further from about 3 steps into the trail and who was quite happy to take his good ol’ time meandering back to the top).
We were slower than a team of ranger-lead donkeys. We were slower than the sweet, elderly couple who smiled and waved as they sped by. We were slower than…..well, that was actually it. 1000 water/resting breaks later (ok, maybe not quite that many) and we were finally back to the top. Our hike into the Grand Canyon was rainy, filled with incessant whining and some pretty serious dragging of feet (quite literally), but I loved every second of it. And I like to think the kids did too.
At this point, that sprinkle that consumed most of the day had turned into a pretty considerable downpour. So, we had made it back to the top of the canyon just in time. Just a few stops up from the Bright Angel Trail was a visitor’s center parked right on the edge of the canyon. The kids picked up their Junior Ranger books and went to work filling them out. There was a fun ranger session which we interacted with as well. You would be amazed how much great information you can pick up from just those two things, so be sure to check them out the next time you’re enjoying one of our national parks.
The kiddos finished their books, chatted up the ranger and were sworn in as Grand Canyon Junior Rangers. They received a badge and a patch for their efforts.
We finished oogling the museum, loaded back onto the bus, and prepped ourselves for a fine meal at the Bright Angel restaurant. As it turns out, it was just an average meal in a semi-fancy setting…but semi-fancy with an open kitchen sticking out into the dining area. Interesting. The food was just ok and considerably overpriced. The servers were excellent though, so they had that going for them. I think the next time we visit the Grand Canyon, we’ll be sure to grab a bunch of breakfast goodness and some hoagies instead of trying to make the slim options the village has available work.
There was a laundromat in the campground next to our lodge, so we dropped most the fam off at the hotel to decompress while Samantha, Colby and I scurried over there to do a monster-sized load (or rather 6 economy sized loads) of wash, which we were able to finish up just as they were locking up for the night.
We all worked together to get our clothes folded and put back into our suitcases while we enjoyed some tv time. We did what we could to make moving on in the morning as quick and easy as possible. Day 15 is a LONG haul from Grand Canyon Village, Arizona all the way to Albuquerque, New Mexico and we wanted to be ready.