Any respectable cross country trip of the United States typically includes a stop at the Grand Canyon – okay, if you’re going relatively in that direction anyway – so of course we had to stop. John had been there on the month-long Amtrak trip he and his brother had taken as teenagers; I had never been. Also along for this part of the trip was my grandfather, who had always regretted not going a little farther to see it on his few trips out with his travel trailer to Colorado.
After having not flown for thirty-five years – he definitely prefers to RV! – he flew out to meet us in Vegas for a joyful reunion as this was the longest we’d ever gone without seeing one another. The next day we drove the four-plus hours to Mather Campground in the center of the South Rim (I really don’t know how people make day trips of this from Las Vegas!). The South Rim is lower elevation than the North, and hence open year-round, which is why we chose this for late October. It also just so happens to be the rim that most visitors flock to due to the greater visitor infrastructure.
We were just about at the size limit for Mather, so it was a little tight navigating, but we made it into one of the farther loops. Though surrounded by trees, you wouldn’t know it, but this campground was right near the rim – a five minute drive to the primary visitor’s center and not far at all from several lodges, restaurants, and shuttle bus stops.
Since my grandfather doesn’t really do long-distance walking these days, we primarily focused on stopping at the main lookouts to observe the canyon from above. (We’d love to go back one day and do some interior hiking for a different perspective.) One can only drive on a limited amount of the rim so we hopped on a shuttle bus and got out at the lookouts that most called to us. Though they are all a little different, it seems that none of them will disappoint!
Over a mile deep and with dimensions somewhere around 277 miles long by 18 miles wide, it truly is a mind-boggling expansive natural wonder. John had said prior to getting there that his only complaint in the past had been that its size seemed to take away some of its depth and make it appear more like a painting. Maybe it was because I was warned, but this still didn’t really take away from it for me. It certainly didn’t for my grandfather, either, who just took it in all day long and was definitely glad to have flown a couple thousand miles out for it.
After as many shuttle stops as we could handle, we had lunch at El Tovar Lodge, one of the numerous nice dining rooms with fabulous views that our National Parks System is known for.
We then hopped in the truck and drove East on the stretch of rim you can drive yourself to Desert View Watchtower, with some stops along the way. The watchtower itself was designed with Hopi influence in mind with its architecture and interior murals. In all honesty, it was pretty stuffy and smelly in there due to the apparent lack of ventilation, but is neat to look at and offers some dizzying views that make one feel much higher up inside than the 70 feet you are off of the ground.. We then headed back to end our day at Yavapai lookout for a sunset of Grand Canyon proportions.
As much as I enjoyed seeing the Grand Canyon, we both enjoyed more than anything being able to share this bucket list experience with my grandfather. Seeing the jaw of someone you love drop at the sight of something and being able to share the experience with them is just one of the affirmations we’ve had that we are truly doing something special with our honeymoon.