September 17, 2012

For Experienced Desert Hikers Only

Check out all of our pics (including Grand Canyon pics) on THIS PAGE!

I was PSYCHED to go to the Grand Canyon. I'd never been and it seemed like an important place to check out before we went abroad. After we left Zion and Bryce (see Tom's post here) we made the long drive to the Grand Canyon and arrived at the East Entrance just as the sun was setting. We raced to the Desert View Watchtower and Lipan Point to catch a few pics of the setting sun. Unfortunately, pictures just canNOT do the Grand Canyon justice. We tried anyway.

After a few shots, we made the rest of the Desert View drive and to our way to our campsite in Mather Campground, where we planned to spend 3 nights. Mather is a large campground and I had expected it to be pretty generic and crowded. Surprisingly, the sites are well spaced out, quiet, and well-shaded. At this point in our trip (and after sweating like crazy in the desert), I was in desperate need of a shower and raced to the coin-operated showers in the campground. It was amazing. It may have been the best $2 I've ever spent. I'm not exaggerating when I say that the water at the bottom of the shower was brown...BROWN....from my dirt-covered self.

We were pretty exhausted, so we had a quick dinner and made it an early night. The next day, we were still really tired, so we decided to have a chill day. We explored Grand Canyon Village and visited El Tovar Hotel, Hopi House, Lookout Studio, and Kolb Studio. I loved learning about architect, Mary Colter, who designed and built many of the historic buildings at The Grand Canyon. Not only is her work amazing, but I was so inspired by her story and the way she commanded respect as a female architect in the early 1900s. Amazing!  Then, we hopped on the Red Line shuttle bus to check out the Hermit's Rest Route. We got off the shuttle at Powell Point and made the easy hike/walk between each lookout point all the way to Hermit's Rest. Each lookout point offered a stunning view. I have to say that, while I loved the Grand Canyon, it attracts a different kind of tourist and we both had a hard time dealing with some of the visitors. Some people were rude to and made fun of foreign tourists. Others were feeding their 10 year old kids Dr. Pepper in the middle of the 105-degree desert heat, despite the signs everywhere to drink water. Ugh. Still, the Grand Canyon is mind-boggling. I just can't believe how huge it is. After our short hike and a shuttle ride back to the Grand Canyon Village, we stopped for prickly pear margaritas at El Tovar. (Remember this post?) It was delicious.

The next day, we decided to hike to Dripping Springs on the Hermit Trail. Lonely Planet said it would take 5 hours or less and was strenuous, and the Grand Canyon newspaper said that the hike would take 5-7 hours and was for "experienced desert hikers only." Um..... Despite my adventure-seeking personality, I'm not actually a very experienced hiker, but I'm getting better. When I first met Tom, I would complain any time we went on a hike, "Why are we calling it hiking? It's just walking uphill!" And, honestly, I didn't see the allure. But, I'm warming up to it now - and I know that hikes (sometimes strenuous) can introduce you to unique and breathtaking scenes. But, coming off our fantastic hikes in Yosemite and Zion National Parks, I was feeling confident, and I knew we could do it. Still, when we arrived, I was a little intimidated by the signs warning about dehydration and heat exhaustion. The tough thing about hikes in the Grand Canyon is that the first half if the downhill/easy part and is usually done in the mornings. In the afternoon, you have to hike back up the steep, treacherous canyon in the heat of the afternoon. It was BRUTAL. We wished we had started MUCH earlier in the day so we could have been finished by 11am, but we didn't. And we regretted it. Still, I have to admit that I was pretty proud of myself for doing the hike.

Lunch on the Hermit Trail
I nearly wept with joy when we got to the top of the canyon and were finished. We were completely zapped from the heat and effort. Even with our late start, we were finished by early afternoon. Knowing we weren't up for another hike (or any outdoor activity) after our exhausting hike in the heat, we made an impulse decision to pack up camp and head towards Colorado a day early and just find somewhere to camp along the way, going through Monument Valley and visited Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Stay tuned for an update on that segment of the road trip. Until then, check out some more of our Grand Canyon pics below and see them all here.

Our campsite in Mather Campground

One of the many friendly, campground elk

Accidental framing with the self-timer

Tom hiking towards Dripping Springs on the Hermit Trail

Sweating like crazy on the Hermit Trail

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