We made it to Arizona! Our first stop was Lake Powell, which is a beautiful (and very large) man-made lake formed by the Glen Canyon Dam and sourced from the Colorado River. When we arrived at Wahweap RV Resort we were pleasantly surprised. There was a marina, many boat launches, restaurants, and a hotel by the water. The RV sites were well spaced and just a short walk to the shore. We were just here for one night and already regretted not staying longer. After we settled in, we headed out to do some exploring. First stop… food! We found a delicious fried chicken placed called Birdhouse. People ranted about it online, so we decided to give it a try. It was DELICIOUS. I mean, so good. We ordered the tenders and a chicken sandwich, both were great. Nice find! We continued on to see the Glen Canyon Dam and then headed to the iconic Horseshoe Bend. There’s a short hike (and a $10 entrance fee) that brings you to the overlook for the bend. Formed by the Colorado River, the bend swoops in a ‘U’ shape around the canyon, forming one of the most magical natural features I think I’ve seen. It’s hard to conceive that water did all of this! Lots of it. And WHY did it carve the rock in this particular shape? It’s a great mystery as to why the water took this path. Anyway, it was awesome and well worth the drive to see it! We headed back to the resort and immediately brought our chairs down to the lake. We hung out and watched the houseboats floating and the boats and jet skis go by. We watched the sunset and hung out until well past dark. We just loved it here. Maybe one day we’ll be back.
The next day we packed up camp and took the drive into the Grand Canyon! We’ve seen some beautiful canyons in the past few weeks, but this is the canyon of all canyons. Formed by the mighty Colorado River, along with other erosive forces, the Grand Canyon’s cliffs and buttes put on a spectacular show of color in its rock layers of limestone, sandstone, shale, and granite. The bottom rock layers of the canyon, also known as the basement rocks, are thought to be about 1.8 BILLION years old. Just wow. The canyon is split into two main sections, the South Rim and the North Rim. The South Rim (7000 ft elevation) is the more populated area where you will find visitor centers, museums, campgrounds, and shops. It gets less precipitation than the North Rim, so it’s days are warmer and dryer with more drought resistant flora. The North Rim, on the other hand, is the more ‘natural’ side of the Grand Canyon where you can get away from the crowds and experience the canyon from a different perspective. The North Rim sees more precipitation and cooler temperatures, so it’s forests are thicker with Ponderosa pines, aspen, and spruce. Down at the canyon floor you will find spots of natural green oasis as the Colorado River snakes through the canyon. There’s also a lodge and campground where hikers doing the rim-to-rim trek will find lodging for the night. Fun facts about the Colorado River: It begins as snow melt from the ‘Never Summer’ Mountains in Northern Colorado. It flows south (southwest), increasing in size until it reaches Lake Powell AZ where it’s dammed. As the water is released, it continues to flow through the Grand Canyon and out its west end toward Las Vegas. It is dammed again at the Hoover Dam, which forms Lake Mead. Water from this lake is sent to surrounding communities and agricultural areas in Arizona, Nevada, and California.
It was thunderstorming when we arrived at the Grand Canyon’s Trailer Village. Unlike other national parks, the Grand Canyon has a full hook-up RV campground within the park! (Just be sure to make reservations far in advance to get a spot.) We set up in the rain and found out that we had the wrong adapter for the 50 amp hook up that was there. Doh! (Our RV and AC unit use 30 amps for electric, so an adapter is needed when hooking up to different amperage.) The campground shop was out of adapters, probably because we weren’t the first campers with this problem! So, we drove out of the park to look for other options. The Grand Canyon is located in a pretty remote area. There aren’t any big towns or cities for about 50-60 miles, so options were limited. Luckily, another campground outside of the park sold adapters and we snagged the last one. Lucky! We went back to camp and settled in, making dinner as the downpour continued outside.
The rain let up the next day, so we took our time exploring the Canyon. The best way to see the canyon is by walking the Rim Trail. We started at the visitor’s center at Mather’s Point and walked along the beautiful South Rim. It was epic! The shear size of the canyon is almost overwhelming the first time you see it. It’s hard to imagine the power of the forces that shaped this canyon. Horizontal lines of time define the landscape. Each layer tells a story of the environment at that moment in time. The farther down the canyon you go, the older and more compressed the rock becomes, until you reach the granite basement layer. The colors of the rock change throughout the day and with the weather, so the views you get of the canyon are different from day to day. We headed west on the Rim Trail toward Yavapai point. This route takes you on the ‘Trail of Time’, which allows you to walk back in time, geologically speaking. There are plaques on the sidewalk announcing the number of years back in time you have walked. One of the coolest features of the walk are the samples of rock they have along the route. They are physical representations of the moment of time you are walking by. One of the rock samples they had dated back to 1.7 billion (yes, with a ‘B’) years! Just sitting there. I couldn’t help but touch it and think of how much that rock has seen come and go in its lifetime and how it was in existence long before life on Earth began. *mind blown* We ended our walk at the Verkamp visitor’s center where the Hopi House is located. The Grand Canyon National Park has worked very closely with the indigenous tribes over the past decades to incorporate their heritage and history into the park. Artisans from many different Arizona tribes sell their artwork in the Hopi House, from rugs to jewelry to pottery. There were so many beautiful handmade works of art to see in the shop as well as stories of their history and makers to read along with them. After browsing the shop, we shared a sandwich and got caught in another thunderstorm on our walk back to Mather’s Point. It rained heavily and the lightning made us seek shelter until the lightning and thunder subsided. We finished the day with a drive down Desert View Drive to see the east side of the South Rim. There are beautiful outlooks to stop at and enjoy the vista, like Grandview, Moran, and Lipan Point. Our favorite was Grandview.
Our last day in the park was our hiking day! We went back and forth on which trail to take down into the canyon. On the west side of the park there’s the Bright Angel Trail and on the east side there’s the South Kaibab Trail. Both go down into the canyon. We chose the South Kaibab Trail because I had done the Bright Angel trail when I was younger. A couple of things to know about hiking into the Grand Canyon. The temperature on the rim will be cooler than the temperature in the canyon. The farther down into the canyon you go, the hotter it will be. There are limited water sources on the Bright Angel Trail and NONE on the South Kaibab Trail, so plan accordingly. Bring more water than you think you’ll need. People die every year at the Grand Canyon from falls, injuries, heat stroke and dehydration. There was a rather graphic cartoon depicting the dangers of hiking in the canyon, which I took a picture of for your enjoyment. Another thing to know is that while your hike down will be easy, maybe even enjoyable, the hike up is its evil twin. The climb back out of the canyon can be very challenging, especially in the summer. There is very little shade in the canyon, so you will be exposed to the elements for most of your hike. Just be smart, be prepared, and know your limits as a hiker.
Back to our hike! There are several stopping points as you hike down into the canyon. The first was the Ooh Aah Point at 0.8 mi, the Cedar Ridge Point at 1.7 mi, Skeleton Point at 5 miles, and Phantom Ranch at 7 miles. Remember to double these distances for the way back. We chose to hike to Cedar Ridge Point, making our hike a little over 3 miles. The hike was beautiful! Hiking is a great way to see the landscape up close. As we hiked down, we could actually see the rock layers changing color and texture. The stopping points offered beautiful views of the canyon and of the South Rim above. We reached Cedar Ridge Point, which offered a couple of small trees for shade and an old hitching post for horses. (Descending into the canyon on horseback or donkeys is a popular way to see the canyon. We heard that reservations for this need to be made up to a year in advance!) We relaxed at Cedar Ridge for about 30 minutes or so to enjoy the view and prep ourselves for the hike back up. We’ve been doing a fair amount of hiking on this trip, which prepared us a bit for what was to come. We kept a steady pace and stopped when we needed. Interestingly, our hike back up was faster than our descent! Probably because we didn’t stop to take pictures or take in the view. Overall, it was an incredibly enjoyable hike that we’d recommend you do at least once. Now, we can officially say we hiked the Grand Canyon!