Wow, wow, wow
We spend two full days in the Grand Canyon, driving up from Williams with picnic, waterproofs, maps and all other paraphernalia we can think of.
We've been warned about the queues to get into the park and are prepared. What a lovely surprise no long queue, just two vehicles in front of us at the gate. We park up near the visitor centre and collect information on trails and view points.
And we're off, not knowing what to expect but full of anticipation. Our first view of one of the world's seven natural wonders is simply out of this world. There are no superlatives which can do it justice. We stand in silence trying to soak up the vastness and beauty of this place. It is obvious why this spot (Mather Point) was chosen as the first lookout.
As we wonder at the sights around us I notice that people are going beyond the fences to get 'that photo'. It gives me the collywobbles and for the first time in my life I feel an intense fear of heights. Mark is quite amused as it's usually him who doesn't like being high up (no trip up the One World Observatory in Manhattan for him!).
It is quite crowded here so we begin to walk round the south rim west. Each corner brings a new vista and they keep coming. At Yavapi Point we are lucky enough to see a condor gliding across the canyon in front of us. It has a huge wingspan and is so graceful. These birds were almost extinct in the park but an intense breading programme has allowed numbers to grow steadily.
As we reach the village we come across the Hopi house modelled after the 10,000 year old pueblo dwellings of the Hopi people. It was built in 1905 and I am pleased to find that the architect was a woman Mary Colter. She was also responsible for many of the other park buildings we come across such as Bright Angel lodge which is our next step.
The Bright Angel Trail is the most popular of the corridor trails. It is a 78-mile descent into the valley and the Colorado River below. We start off down the steep path which zigzags across the rocky ground clinging tightly to the sheer sides of the canyon. No we are not mad or stupid we have set ourselves the goal of reaching the second rest house (a 6-mile round trip). Making our way down the scenic trail is relatively easy as today is cooler than previous days. It is fantastic to experience actually being inside the canyon, below the rim.
We pass people coming back up who look and sound pretty exhausted and start to think the return journey may be a little harder than we had thought. Stopping for water as we near our destination Mark states 'It's going to rain' 'No, surely not', Marcus and I protest. 'Yes it is, I know. I used to be a roofer' (albeit one who's scared of heights). He's right small drops turn into a torrential downpour. On go the waterproofs and we wait a little while to see if it will stop. It just seems to be getting worse so we shelter into the cliff side under a overhang. Eventually it slows down a little and we start to climb out of the canyon. The ground is now slippy and we have to pick our way up the steep path. Coming up does prove much harder than going down, but we manage it and get the top elated. A sense of achievement is felt by all three of us. Of course the sun now comes back out and we soon dry off.
Walking back to the car park we discuss the day and decide it has been absolutely fantastic and we all feel lucky to have been able to experience such a wonderful day.
Back at the RV we have a BBQ and Mark and Marcus sit by the fire pit until late into the evening.
Today the sun has made an appearance again and it is going to be hot. With backpacks filled with provisions we set off for the canyon. It's Friday and we have to queue a little to get in and realise it's going to be busier today. It is too hot to travel down into the canyon so we make the decision to walk the 13-mile rim trail from Hermits rest to the village.
One of the shuttle buses takes us to the start at Hermits Rest (another building by Mary Colter). We set off along the path which starts off paved and hugs the rim of the canyon. The trail is sometimes paved, sometimes unpaved, sometimes close to the edge and sometimes through scrubby pines. The views are fantastic and we are able to see the Colorado River. Binoculars prove invaluable in seeing details close up. At the Abyss the drop is sheer and 1000's of feet down. Thank goodness for the railings.
As we round a corner Marcus notices 2 young elk in the scrub. We follow their path as they meet up with their mother. They are very close and we watch them quietly for a short time not wanting to disturb them.
Moving on the trail follows the rim edge and we are lucky enough to see mountain goats below us. How are they able to climb up and down those rocky sides of the canyon? They are certainly sure of foot. Now out of the corner of my eye I see a chipmunk run across the path. My goodness they are quick and I still can't get over how small they are.
We thought we'd brought plenty of water but in this heat (80+) we haven't. We have to be sparing and the last couple of miles are difficult. The village water station is a very pleasing sight.
Exhausted we find the car and start the drive East towards Desert View, stopping off at a number of viewpoints. At Grandview Point we watch the sun go down, observing the changing colours of the rocks and the growing shadows. The canyon looks completely different in the dusk and we are glad we have stayed to see it.
Driving home in the dark we pass what seems like thousands of vehicles making their way towards the park (it is free entrance tomorrow for National Public Lands Day) and it appears that every man and his dog will be visiting.
What a wonderful two days experience and we ask ourselves what can top this?