Gawping at the Grand Canyon

Trip Start Apr 14, 2010
Trip End Apr 16, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Sunday, August 7, 2011

We set out northwards from Tucson with Debs and Isa all in fantastically high spirits for the start of our epic road trip to New York. We had our own car, laden with necessary and unnecessary stuff, were setting off on a serious adventure and had great friends to share it with. We could go wherever we wanted. Not even the traffic jams we hit in the Phoenix suburbs or the fact that the only radio stations we could find (we hadn't yet found a mechanism for connecting our i-pod to the Tank’s stereo) were called things like "107 Christ FM" and “Jesus Extra Radio” and played songs with lots of “Praise the Lord!”s and “Hallelujah!”s in them could deter us from the happy mood.

The first stop was a brief visit to the town of Sedona and our first taste of the dramatic Arizona red rock formations. We went out on a sunset jeep tour bumping down very narrow rocky lanes and sometimes literally over and down rock faces to see the surrounding area which was beautiful and utterly different to anywhere else we had been on the trip - which is quite a feat really after 15 months in five continents. Unfortunately after a long day in the car it was also getting quite late and the next stop was the busy tourist town of Flagstaff where we had booked a cheap motel for the night. It was worth no more than the few dollars we paid but was right on the historic Highway 66 which seemed apt for our first night on the road. The next morning it turned out that there was a Navajo festival on in the Museum in town so we paid a quick visit there (miraculously resisting the temptation to buy heinously overpriced jewellery and belts) before heading off to the main show, the Grand Canyon.

We were all excited to see the Grand Canyon but the moment that we were finally there standing there on rim staring out felt very odd. Because the plateau of the south side it is completely flat, you get no warning whatsoever of the incredible view you are about to witness as you drive up or even as you walk up to the edge from a few metres away. We took the last 2 or 3 steps towards the edge still seeing nothing and then suddenly it is there. And it is awesome. After seeing so many pictures of the canyon in books, postcards and on TV it almost felt like standing in front of a giant picture.  This effect was amplified by the fact that it was a clear and crisp day with blue sky and visibility of over 50 miles. Frankly, just wow.

After what has to go down on the list as one of the most scenic picnics so far, perched on a rock overlooking the canyon, we set out along the rim of the canyon on our hike. Predictably, the area around the main visitor centre and bus stops and car parks was pretty crammed with people but within 5 minutes of setting off along the rim trail it became incredibly quiet, even if you couldn’t quite say you had the place to yourself. So we walked along the rim for 3 or 4 hours stopping to stare spellbound at the view and take innumerable photos. In Gordon’s case every new rock perched precariously out over the canyon was an irresistible challenge. Sometimes he even managed to drag one of the girls out onto the rock, usually Debs, to the horror of the other two.

Finally, we decided that we had had enough walking for the day in the heat and found a nice spot to watch sunset; at Gordon’s insistence we hopped over a barrier and found ourselves a private spot hidden by a rock from the other tourists, to enjoy the quiet and tranquillity of the sunset (in between taking a couple of photos that is).

By the time we’d seen the sunset and waited for the shuttle bus back to the car park it seemed like a very long trip and it was pitch black by the time we made it back to the Tank, who was sat in what had been a full car park on her own. This is where she had her first hissy fit. Turning the ignition we soon found that the battery was dead; completely and utterly dead. Not even a whisper. To compound matters, there was not a soul around. The visitors centre was shut. There was no mobile reception. Crap. After stopping two or three cars who were (perhaps predictably) other tourists with rental cars that didn’t have jump leads, we eventually managed to flag down a driver of one of the shuttle buses who suggested that we call 911 from our phone as it goes straight to the Park Rangers. Bit extreme we thought but, hey.  So on our first week in the US we found ourselves calling 911. Luckily this worked and a very nice ranger turned up shortly afterwards and gave us a jumpstart.  Even more luckily the Tank then behaved herself all the way back to our (very nice) campsite where we’d pitched the tents.

The next day we drove out of the Grand Canyon park all the way across the East Rim Road of the canyon. We stopped, of course, for more precarious rock shots perched over the canyon but eventually the road turned away from the canyon and we bid it adieu to head out into the deserts and towards our next destination, the Canyon de Chelly in the Navajo Nation area of Arizona.
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