Backroads to the Grand Canyon

Trip Start Mar 15, 2008
Trip End Oct 02, 2009

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Where I stayed
Jacobs Lake Inn

Flag of United States  , Arizona
Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Leah says:

While in Las Vegas we took a side trip to go and see the much talked about Grand Canyon. It was with mixed feelings as I had heard so many great things about it but then also a few people had said how disappointing it was. When researching we discovered that the Grand Canyon is about 230 miles from Las Vegas. A bus tour would take 13 hours of which you would only spend 2 hours or so at the Canyon itself...that was not my preferred method of travelling. So instead we decided to hire a car for two days. Spend one day driving up in time to see the canyon in the afternoon, and then stay the night at a hotel, before heading back the next day. The next major decision was North or South Rim?? The most advertised, popular and touristy place is the South Rim however the North Rim has the added attraction of being quieter and more relaxing, with the only problem access during winter. However from all the information we read online it seemed that the road should be open by now. So the North Rim it was!

We picked up our bright blue Chrysler after getting off at the wrong stop and having to walk for about 30 mins with our heavy packs! We set off having refused the offer of insurance for the car as that would have blown our backpacker budget and were on our way following very basic directions of: get onto highway 15 North. Once we got used to driving on the right hand side of the road and having the indicator switch on the left hand side (those windscreen wipers got a bit of unnecessary use to begin with!) we managed to negotiate our way onto the right freeway without having a map of any sort...Go us!

After about 20 mins of driving on the Freeway we'd left Vegas behind and were ooohing and ahhhing over the beautiful desert scenery. We passed by many little towns into the state of Arizona then Utah and then Arizona again before arriving at the place we had booked for the night called Jacob's Lake Inn. It was a great place and bedbug free which was a must after the horrid time I had at Sin City and which I still had 39 ugly lumpy itchy bites to remind me of. Anyway Jacobs Lake is a winter resort mainly, and quietens down a bit around this time of year. That being said both Ben and I were quite surprised to find when we drove up to our room that there were still big piles of snow sitting all around the place. Ben's first real snow encounter was lacking the snowball fights and the clean freshly fallen snow feel but hey it was still exciting and very pretty. We got ourselves settled into our room and then promptly headed back out to ask about the massive closed sign that was on the road that was supposed to take us to the North Rim. The news was bad.

The road was closed as they'd had 9 feet of snow over winter and it wouldn't be completely cleared until the end of May.... A few expletives went through my mind, specifically that we didn't check things out better before we came and that now after coming so close (45 miles away from the canyon) we might possibly have to head back tomorrow not having seen the sole thing we came to see. Then those magical words "oh but you could try the back way". So after discussing it we decided to give it a try....we had nothing but an uninsured rental car to lose right?

It was an unsealed road that took you, not to the touristy North Rim itself, but to a couple of lookouts on the edge of the Grand Canyon. We were told there was only one place on the road that had been a bit boggy a few days ago but it should be fine now and it should only take just over an hour not much longer than the sealed road when it is open. So after receiving a map with hand drawn markers on it and some rather confusing directions to get to the start of the map we headed off at 4pm in the afternoon hoping to get there before daylight ended.

The next hour and a half was spent on a fairly slippery, winding gravel road, which was quite picturesque, I hear from Ben, although my eyes were glued to the road as I tried to keep the car away from the steep edges.

There were also a few puddles and sections that had remnants of snow that made driving a little trickier. We finally got to the first lookout which was completely deserted, and decided that we didn't need to worry about getting around to the second one as that required some hiking and we were already unsure how much daylight would be left. Instead we got to see the Grand Canyon from where we were and all I can say is WOW! It was gorgeous, one huge massive hole in the ground that is so picturesque and beautiful not to mention completely humbling.

We spent the next half an hour taking photos, walking around a little to take it all in and finally sitting down to share a double chocolate chip muffin and a Bacardi Mojito flavoured lolly drink.

We were heading back to the car when we met an American fellow who was camping in the area and had walked a couple of miles to take a look so we stayed and chatted with him for about 15 mins and then I had the lovely task of driving back. This time though, as the light was fading and I was not in a hurry to get back on that hair-raising road, we only drove part of the way before taking a turnoff that was a sealed road. We thought the road would take us to the town 27 miles back from Jacob's Lake, which was fine, as we figured we needed to go get some food for dinner, and the Inn shut at 8pm.

The trip back was quite interesting and we came across some intriguing wildlife. We saw lots of hares, some deer and even a grey wolf darting across the road. We grabbed some take away food from Wendy's as this was the only place still open and serving food at nearly 8:30pm on a Sunday night. The burgers were very yummy and we gobbled them down real quick before driving back to collapse into bed absolutely exhausted but very glad we got to see the Grand Canyon. Actually I think we were really lucky as we got to see a side of the famous Canyon that not many tourists get to see, and it was such an adventure to get there - making it all the more memorable an experience.

The next morning we got up around 9:30am and headed back to Las Vegas where we got to admire the beautiful scenery all the way back to the hotel we'd booked into for the night called Circus Circus. It's amazing on the weekend our room would have cost $117 instead on a Monday night we got it for only $56. What a bargain!

We then spent the afternoon on a pretty big mission to get the car clean as we realised that after our back road adventure we weren't supposed to have taken the car on any unsealed roads. Of course, the car had mud caked all over its back and thickly covering the wheel rims, not to mention all the dust in around the door frames. So we thought they may have noticed our little adventure! To cut a long story short we eventually found a car wash, vacuumed the car and sprayed the worst of the mud off with water, then removing the radio aerial and putting the car through the best car wash/scrub/wax available. It came out sparkling and we just hoped that they didn't check underneath! As it happened we returned it and they didn't look twice before sending us off for our last night in Las Vegas. I can't believe we did it all in only two days. It was certainly a jam-packed 48 hours!
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