Grand Canyon National Park

We felt like little kiddies on Christmas day as we catapulted north on highway 64 towards the ancestral lands of the Anasazi, which is now Grand Canyon National Park. We wanted to make it in time for the sunset. We would have driven our rig straight to the rim if it weren’t for the park entrance.

Whitney had been to the Canyon in the past. But I was a first-timer. So I was not prepared for what we were about to observe. Some time ago, a friend of mine had tried to prepare me. He told me that it would be hard to comprehend when I saw the Canyon for the first time. But being a climber and having seen a lot of big beautiful rocks and canyons, I was like, “yeah, sure thing, Joe.”

But Joe was right (as he usually is).

The colors of the sunset and the vastness of the Canyon blew my metaphorical socks right off. Blew them to straight to smithereens.

Whitney and I spent 3 days camping outside the National Park on a beautiful forest road. The weather was ideal. Pure sun but cold daytime temperatures and even colder nighttime lows. It felt warm in the sun, but not too hot. Perfect for hiking. Plus, snow was still on the ground in certain areas, which completely thrilled Dottie.

The highlight of our trip was, by far, the hike that Whitney picked out for us. After some deliberation and countless recommendations from friends and locals, we decided to make the Grandview Trail with Horshoe Mesa our destination.

We were warned ahead of time that some additional equipment would be necessary for the Canyon. Precisely, we needed extra traction for our boots because there was still ice and snow in the shady nooks and crannies of the Canyon. Luckily, we were able to find a gear shop that sold the traction devices we needed while visiting Flagstaff.

The advice we received was spot on. Before we were even 3 minutes into the hike, we plopped down and strapped the micro-spikes to our boots to avoid sliding desperately downhill on a frozen ice rink towards the precipice of a 6,000-foot canyon. The traction the spikes provided and the confidence they instilled in our footwork were remarkable. There was absolutely no way we could have safely done the hike without them.

Within a mile of hiking, we descended over 1,000 feet. We quickly looked back at the rim, trying to mentally prepare for the climbing that was soon to come at the end of the day. I tried to push those thoughts out of my head and focused on the beauty of the trail ahead of me instead.

The view from the top of the Canyon is striking. But the view from being inside the Canyon is a completely different animal. Dropping into the depths of the Canyon and enjoying the different layers and ecosystems that come with them was fascinating. The rock geology around us would change, the temperatures rose, the plants evolved, and our access to sunlight shifted.

At about 11 am, we sat down for lunch at an utterly exclusive clifftop edge on the Western tip of Horshoe Mesa. In front of us was the North Rim, and down below was the Colorado River. Whitney and I demolished our sandwiches and guzzled down many, many ounces of water. We could have sat there all day, but the looming challenge ahead of us distracted us from getting too comfortable.

Somewhat reluctantly, we packed up and began to trace back the trail we took into the Canyon earlier in the morning. We made sure to take breaks on the way up and to stay well hydrated. Finally, some 3-odd hours later, we were back from our journey. And I must say, the world looked a little different after we resurfaced.

Our last day in the Canyon was Valentine’s Day. I prepared Whitney a cheeseboard and cocktails on the rim to celebrate the night before. We picked a westward-facing pullout so we could get the total exposure of the sunset and parked somewhat obnoxiously to passive-aggressively send a signal that we didn’t really need any other company at our spot. It worked, and we didn’t feel too bad. After all, the Canyon is plenty big, and there were plenty of other pullouts.

The following morning, Whitney crafted homemade french toast in the van, which we topped with fresh strawberries and blackberries. I drank two coffees instead of one, and we took our time to pack up the campsite. It was a wonderful morning.

We had initially planned for our next stop to be Las Vegas, but in a conversation sometime during our stay in Northern Arizona, we got distracted with Utah. We became obsessed and decided a slight detour would be in order. So we went east on highway 64 instead of west for Vegas and blasted north, searching for Brye Canyon and Zion National Park. Vegas wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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