Adventures in the American West: Grand Canyon National Park

‘There will never be a photograph of the Grand Canyon that can adequately describe its depth, breadth, and true beauty.’ –Stefanie Payne

The Grand Canyon has a very special place in my heart. I don’t remember the first time I visited but the photograph from that day is my favorite picture. It is me and my dad and sums up our relationship…my flitting around and he, holding my hand, keeping me grounded and safe. We visited throughout my childhood, both with and without my mom. It is our place. A place that was there through the happy times and moments of unimaginable grief. I shared this photo with my dad on my Instagram stories for his birthday and the Grand Canyon Conservancy reached out and included it in their newsletter. We, in a brief moment of time, are now a part of her legacy forever.

Now, onto my most recent trip! When I planned to do this trip, I decided Christmas at the Grand Canyon was the perfect way to spend the holiday. I knew it would be cold and was excited to see the park with a bit of snow, something I hadn’t experienced. What is important to note that while it is a desert, the Grand Canyon is at a high elevation (nearly 7,000 feet) and gets VERY COLD and windy. I prepared for this by bringing extra layers and my snow boots. Another benefit of road trips is you can just throw extra stuff in your car just in case.

I accessed GCNP through the desert side and as you wind up the mountain there is a scenic lookout with views of the Little Grand Canyon. It about a half mile down from the parking lot and was a nice place to stretch my legs. I also saw some prickly pears up close which reminded me of playing King’s Quest with my dad and it appeared as a clue in one of the games. Then continued on my way up…

The park was very crowded, even being very cold (although it was very easy to spot people who assumed that Arizona is warm year round). The first stop when you come from the East is the Desert Watchtower. At the bottom is a gift shop and you can usually climb. It was closed for restoration when I was there, so I just spent too much money at the gift shop. There are also concession stands. I should also note that just before this lookout is a gas station if needed. It is about a three hour drive to the main visitor’s area and western South Rim entrance (where the town is), so something to keep in mind.

I slowly made my way across and headed out of the park to my motel. Accommodations are expensive (which helped push my desire to car camp) and I paid nearly $200 for a pretty basic room. Just know you’ll pay for close access. Being said, the location was pretty perfect. I was next to a Mexican restaurant, a gas station, general store, and Starbucks. Also, about 4 minutes from the park entrance, which allowed me to head into the park more than once (again, America the Beautiful pass). There is a separate lane for pass holders so just drove on in to watch the sunset. I had hoped to do a bit of stargazing but a small snowstorm hit. So I ate take out and prepped for an early morning to watch the sunrise.

Holy smokes, was the sunrise at Hopi Point very cold, windy, and nearly blocked out by clouds (the park actually closed the following day due to hazardous road conditions from another storm that hit). There were quite a few people there but I was able to get a good spot. Due to the clouds, the desert sunrise was not as noticeable. I returned to my motel to eat breakfast/chai from Starbucks and pack my car. Then back to the park to head out the same way I came in.

My departure from the park was something spectacular. Like she wanted me to be left with a brilliant memory…the sun danced as I left. The clouds occasionally broke and rays of sunlight beamed along the canyon’s ridges. It was really incredible to see and it was just fleeting moments as the storm moved in.

I just love this park. I think that when I get married, I would like to get married along the rim. The Grand Canyon has been such a huge part of my life, a place where I think of family and what they mean to me. There may be better parks (doubtful) but no place on Earth will mean as much to me as here.

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