As it turns out, the Grand Canyon is in an area of Arizona that does not practice Daylight Savings Time. So on day three, we woke up at what we thought was 6:45, thinking we’d head to the Grand Canyon just a little early. So when we got to the park and the visitor’s center was closed, we stopped a ranger and she explained that, actually, we had gotten up at 5:45 Arizona time, and it was then only 7 a.m. (Foiled). The visitor’s center wouldn’t open until 8, so we wandered around the few open areas of the park and just took in the view. We walked down to Mather Point, which is one of the most visited points in the park, and just hung around. Jacob and I had never seen the Grand Canyon before, and we were both stunned and speechless. I took probably a bazillion photos, but here are a few:
Later, at around 8 a.m., we went over to the gift shop to pick up some souvenirs, and then we hopped onto the extremely efficient bus line. The Grand Canyon has an excellent bus system, and we never waited more than 4 or 5 minutes for a bus at any time. We rode the bus to the Bright Angel Trailhead, which is one of the most famous trails in the canyon. It goes down several miles into the canyon, through the middle, and up the other side. We did not do all of that. Instead, we decided we were going to just do about 3 miles down into the canyon and then turn around and go back up. It was 6 miles round trip, and we figured we could handle that.
We got onto the trailhead, which looked pretty benign, and started going down, and down, and down… Pretty soon we realized it was going to be really difficult to get back up. The canyon views were really beautiful, but the downhill grade was super steep. We were still heading down when we hit the 1.5-mile rest stop, and after looking at the hikers who were going up and past us and seeing how tired they were, we decided that we’d better start heading back up. I mean, call me a wussy if you want, but if you could see how steep this trail was, you’d give up after 1.5 miles of hiking at an almost 45-degree angle too. (Reality check: Jacob says the steepness was probably varied between about 15-45 degrees at any time. Whatever. It was STEEP).
So at the first rest stop on the trail, we found a bathroom and a nice dusty rock on which to eat our smooshed sandwiches and fruit. The crazy thing about lunch was that we were SURROUNDED by squirrels who were really, really aggressive about getting our food. I mean, they got within inches of my backpack and tried sneak attacks and everything. They were vicious. Also, my nose started bleeding because the weather in the canyon was extremely dry.
Around this time, the 6-mile hike we originally planned no longer seemed doable, but we were being passed by hikers who had been on the trail for a week, or from the very bottom of the canyon, so it might have been a little more deceptive looking than we thought. We decided that we would just go ahead and climb back to the top, because we knew that even though it only took an hour to get to the first rest stop, it would take probably 2 hours to get back up.
So we set off after lunch and passed a few people who had on full packs and hiking gear. They were older people, probably in their 50s, and they told us that they had been on the trail for a whole week. They’d started on the north rim (we were on the south rim), hiked to the bottom, hiked all the way across, and then hiked back up, and they were 1.5 miles from the top. I immediately felt stupid for giving up after 1.5 miles with no pack. Oh well.
So we trudged and trudged and trudged up this SUPER steep grade, and on the way up, we met a nice guy from New Jersey, who was traveling with his friend, Junior. It turned out they had gone the entire way into the canyon (not quite the bottom but close) at 4:45 in the morning and were on the way up to the top at around 11 when we caught up to them. We chatted it up a bit and cheered on his friend, who was having a really hard time getting up the canyon. The canyon has this strange phenomenon wherein it manages to be really hot because it’s close to the sun, but it’s also windy because the wind is rushing through the rim, and then it gets hotter as you descend. We huffed and puffed and stopped every few hundred feet to catch our breath because of the elevation, heat, and steepness. On the way up and down, we managed to take a few pictures and a video:
We finally got to the top at noon, which meant we did 3 miles round trip in 3 hours. Sheesh. But we lived. So we got back on the bus tired and sunburned and rode to the marketplace, where we bought and sent a few postcards. It was probably only 1:30 or 2 in the afternoon by then, but after accidentally getting up at 5:45 a.m. and then hiking around until I thought my legs would fall off, I decided we deserved an early dinner. Luckily, the park has several very fine restaurants and eating establishments. Our elite tastes led us to the hot dog and ice cream stand. Can’t beat hot meats and cold treats.
Since we didn’t actually have a place reserved to stay for the evening, we decided that we needed to leave the Grand Canyon around 3 or 4 in order to give us time to drive to Glen Canyon, Utah, where there is a national park and supposedly room to camp.
On the way out of the park, there is a great view of the south rim from a different angle: it’s a watchtower built by native Americans. You can walk up the watchtower 3 or 4 stories and get a great canyon vista view from up there.
After visiting the watchtower, we left the Grand Canyon at 4 p.m., and then we headed a couple hundred miles over to Glen Canyon, in southern Utah, to camp for the evening. The views in southern Utah are incredible–there are huge red rock mountains, sweeping desert vistas, and giant silt piles. Then, as we got closer to Glen Canyon, it became wide-open space with strange orange eroded rock in weird shapes. There’s a lake in Glen Canyon, and it looked a bit like Mars with its weird red dirt and funky bodies of water.
When we arrived at the Glen Canyon National Park entrance, the ranger was super pushy, demanding our money before she’d tell us where we could camp. She finally said, “Oh you should go camp at the beach.” We thought that sounded fun, so we started looking for this beach. It’s clear on the OTHER END OF THE PARK. This is not a small park, people, we’re talking thousands of acres. It takes us like 15 minutes to find the dadgum beach. When we finally got down to the beach, we purchased a $10 campsite, but when we drove in to set up camp, we realized it was a rocky beach, and it was really full. We drove around looking for a spot and got fed up looking for somewhere that didn’t have rocks all over it. We ended up driving back to the park entrance to get a refund (SURPRISE, that didn’t happen). From there we decided we’d try to find more dispersed camping on a forest road, since we knew there was some out there to be had…somewhere…
Around 7:30, we come to unfortunate realization that there was not going to be anywhere to camp other than where we had just come from. So we made the wise (or unwise) decision to just shoot our way up to Salt Lake City. It’s about 383 miles. We had planned to go to Salt Lake City the next day early in the morning anyway, but we decided that we could just stay at Andrew and Stefani’s house (some friends from college) early. I took the main shift, and I drove most of the way into SLC. Jacob took over in Provo, which is the biggest suburb before SLC, because SLC has this VERY confusing grid and street-naming system where all the streets are numbers like 4500 North. So even if the road isn’t going north, it’s called that anyway. This is a recipe for Callie becoming lost instantly.
We finally made it to Andrew and Stefani’s at about 2 a.m., and they graciously let us shower and sleep. Day 3: eventful, full of driving, and really stinking long.