While staying in Phoenix, AZ I decided to rent a car and take the almost four hour drive up to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The area is called Tusayan. I stayed at the Grand Canyon Best Western Squire Inn booked through hotwire.com. I left Phoenix early so as to arrive early since I would only be staying two nights. I tried to do an early check in at about 1pm. They said my room was not ready yet because check in was at 4pm, understandable. So I drove to the Grand Canyon park entrance and purchased my week long vehicle pass for $25. I then killed several hours walking along the South Rim Trail while viewing and taking pictures of the canyon. Let me tell you, I visited the Grand Canyon before as a kid with my entire family.
We walked along and did the whole family sightseeing thing. But now, as an adult, on my own, I got to truly appreciate this amazing and beautiful natural wonder. I was taken back by just how uncomfortable height made me. You see, I have a natural, healthy fear of heights. I am not debilitated by it at all, just a general self preservation warning system inside me that tells me, "Don't go any further." It was easily triggered by the view down almost 3000 feet at any given point. It was great, and I eventually "got used to it" and it didn't make me as nervous anymore.
So I then headed back to my hotel after spending several hours admiring and photographing the canyon from the South Rim Trail. (The South Rim Trail is nothing more than a paved "side walk" that skirts the South Rim for several miles.
It can hardly be considered a "trail" by my thoughts. But it is great for general viewing nonetheless.) I checked in to my room and was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable my room was. Way to go Best Western! The hotel had many perks as well. Several restaurants and bars, a pool, spa, treadmills, and even a bowling alley. Probably the best perk was it's location, not even 5 minutes outside the park entrance. Caution: Be prepared to pay when staying in the Tusayan area (as there is nothing else for miles), I paid about $7.50 for a quarter pounder meal at a McDonalds! Welcome tourists!
After getting settled in my room I went back into the park, kept on skirting the South Rim Trail, and ended my day at Grand View Point for a spectacular sunset.
There is a trail that I went down some from the Point for a better vantage of the sunset.
The next day was a doozy. I ate my complimentary continental breakfast at the hotel, and headed for the park. My goal for the day was to do some super cool hiking. That certainly was the case! I stopped at the Visitors Center to get some day hike info and to fill up on water. I decided to do the Bright Angel Trail. I drove towards the trailhead, but stopped at the Village Market to go to the general store and get some food for the hike. I hit the trail not knowing how far i would go. I was caught WAY off guard on just how narrow and close to the cliffs the trail was. You could easily fall off and die. I was not prepared for that. As my title states.
..it was "Vertigo like whoah". On top of that, mule poop was everywhere giving you the stank aroma of half digested grass. But eventually I got used to the vertigo aspect, not the mule poop. And still there is no stench quite like a puddle of mule pee getting warmed up by the hot Arizona sun. Thankfully, the poop and pee wasn't "everywhere"...I was just exaggerating. The trail is moderately steep on most parts, and does a number on your knees and toes on the way down. BUY GOOD, NO, GREAT HIKING SHOES. I made my way down to the "Mile and a Half Resthouse" where you could use the bathroom and fill up on water, when I was stopped by a park ranger who said the trail was closed down for a helicopter rescue! A girl scout troop leader, a lady about 45 years old, broke her ankle.
So a park service helicopter landed about 75 yards away from us on a ledge just off the trail! Very impressive. They let off a litter team that had to hike about a half a mile down the trail to get the lady and hike her back up to the helicopter. The whole process took about two hours! But it was cool, I had great conversation with a lot of hikers and the park ranger. After we got the all clear, I continued down the trail to the "Three Mile Resthouse." There I filled up my water and ate lunch. I then continued down to "Indian Gardens", a sort of oasis where the canyon plateaus. A creek runs through this area and gives blossom to a small forest of trees and plants. It is also a place to camp overnight. Water and bathrooms are there too. I drenched my hat and scarf in cold water and then decided to press on 1.
5 more miles to "Plateau Point". The only catch to this portion of the hike is that once you leave Indian Gardens you are completely exposed to the elements for the next 1.5 miles as you traverse the plateau. Most notably, the Arizona sun and the 100+ degree temperatures at the bottom of the canyon. Thankfully, for me, God was kind and gave me an overcast sky to hike under. And it was so worth it to press on to the end of the line for day hikes. Plateau Point offers a stunning view looking down at the Colorado River from the edge of a cliff. Right before I got to the point, though, my camcorder ran out of tape! So I had to rewind and tape over some footage I had filmed earlier that day. Oh well, priorities right?
I made my way back up to the trailhead after a short stay admiring the river.
According to all the trail guides I didn't have much time to get back up before sundown. The Visitors Center trail guide said it takes 5-8 hours to hike back up from Plateau Point. But I booked it up the trail! When I reached Indian Gardens ON MY WAY DOWN, it was 1pm. I then went 1.5 miles to Plateau Point, stayed, and hiked back up all the way to my car at the trailhead parking lot where I checked the time...5:30pm! 4 and a half hours to hike 7.7 miles mostly uphill! Needless to say, I was smoked. And on the way up I came across a family of mountain goats. Mom, dad, and two billy goats. I stopped and took pictures and video. They were pretty chill as they let me get close enough to touch them as I walked by. All in all it was an exhausting and rewarding day.
Apparently, the hike to Plateau Point and back is one of the most challenging day hikes the canyon has to offer. 12.2 miles round trip, 3,195 foot change in elevation, and 8-12 hours round trip. Nice.
I got back to my hotel, showered, and treated myself to a big steak dinner at the "Yipee-ei-o!! Steakhouse" just outside the park entrance. Tip: try the Grand Canyon Rattlesnake beer. Brewed in Sedona
, AZ, nice medium body, light malty taste, refreshing, clean moderate hoppy finish.
My last day I set my alarm for 3:30am to give myself enough time to get to the Visitors Center and catch the shuttle to the South Kaibab Trail in time for sunrise. The only way to get to the South Kaibab Trail is by shuttle.
My park guide pamphlet said the shuttle times were 4am, 5am, and 6am. I waited for the 4am to get to the trail and catch the sunrise at 5:15am. The shuttle showed up at 4:20am...but the driver said a good spot for the sunrise was Yaki Point. It was cold in the morning, about 58 degrees. I got off there, and put off the South Kaibab Trail for later that day. So I watched the sunrise, took photos and video, and hopped back on the shuttle (which picks up about every 15-20 minutes!!) and went back to my hotel for free breakfast. I checked out, and headed back to the park for the South Kaibab Trail. Its a really good trail offering a different view of the canyon on the way down. First stop was "Ooh Ahh Point" where the trail opens up to a wide view of the canyon about 1 mile down the trail.
The next stop was Cedar Ridge. Now that was an awesome point of view and picturesque scene on the ridge. The ridge had many bushes, trees, and pretty limestone all over. It offered a great view of a "bute" which shot up right next to the ridge. I decided not to go to "Skeleton Point", which is the end of the line for day hikes on the South Kaibab Trail, because the same park ranger that I was talking to because of the helicopter rescue the day before was on the South Kaibab trail on this day. She and her friend told me that it wasn't worth it to hike down to Skeleton Point since the view was pretty much the same from Cedar Ridge. I thanked them since they gave me a good excuse not to kill my legs for another day. So once again, I booked it up the trail, got back on the shuttle, got into my car and ventured on to a path less traveled.
While talking with the ranger, she suggested that I try a trail that isn't on the map. I was intrigued. It's called the "Shoshone Trail." I was instructed to drive down Desert View Road towards Cameron, stop at a picnic area on the right between mile marker 245 and 246. Then walk down the road in the same direction about a quarter mile until a fenced off trail appears on the left. Go around the gate and walk! The gate is much, much closer to mile marker 246 than 245. And I guess you could also park your car right outside the gate, I didn't though. This trail is by far the easiest trail for the best reward! Talk about the most bang for your buck! The trail is completely flat, compacted dirt going maybe 1 mile through the shaded woods! I wouldn't even call it a "hike", it's definitely more of a walk.
And best of all it opens up to a stunning view of the canyon where you can step out onto a rock ridge that juts out into the canyon giving you canyon views on the left, right, in front, and mostly behind you on both the left and the right. Not to mention the really cool rock formation on the tip of the ridge. A lone, huge rock standing tall, balanced on a smaller rock. Maybe best of all...most tourists have no idea about this trail. I felt all alone with the canyon as my own personal landscape. After a while alone, two nice French hikers came and we spoke. I left and gave them the ridge to themselves. On the way up the trail I came by a moose with big antlers and some deer. This trail is awesome.
After all this, I just started to drive back to Phoenix, knowing that's the way I wanted my trip to end. Simply stunning.