Although we allowed an extra hour to sleep in this morning, we were all up early. Perhaps the anticipation of going to the Grand Canyon summoned us out of our slumber. Joyce discovered that she had misplaced her wallet at the restaurant from the previous evening so we decided to pack the car and head down there. Fortunately, there were a couple of window washers who let us in the restaurant. We searched around the table but couldn’t find her wallet. We decided to leave the restaurant manager a note asking her to call us if she found it. While waiting for her to arrive, we decided to go to the Hike House. I had purchased their trail book prior to the trip, and I really wanted to see their store and thank them for the helpful guide. Ron purchased a pair of much needed hiking boots, and the rest of us drooled over the hiking apparel and equipment. The Hike House is comprised of multiple little shops (café, bookstore, apparel, etc.) underneath one roof. When the morning cookies came out of the oven, we succumbed to the temptation and bought four gigantic oatmeal cranberry and chocolate ones to snack on during our ride to the Grand Canyon. Thankfully, during our shopping stop, the restaurant manager called Joyce to inform her that someone had turned in her wallet. What a relief! We drove back to the restaurant to pick it up and then headed north to Flagstaff.
On the outskirts of Sedona, we made a quick stop at Oak Creek Canyon – what an amazing view! Leaving the canyon, the highway ascended through an evergreen, mountainous region, and we began to see snow on the ground. We caught I-40 in Flagstaff to Williams and then headed north on Hwy 64.
The weather was much colder and snowing lightly as we entered the Grand Canyon National Park. Thanks to Joyce’s Golden Eagle Pass, we did not have to pay to enter the park. As we approached the Visitor Center, it became apparent that the canyon was completely fogged in 😦 . So, we decided to kill some time by watching a video about the park. The film was excellent and gave us a brief summary of the history and formation of the Grand Canyon as well as an update on current archaeological and geological projects.
After the film, we reviewed our planned schedule and decided to reverse our plans in hopes that the weather would clear in a couple of hours. We boarded the free Village shuttle and proceeded to the Hermit Rest Route which followed the canyon rim, stopping at nine overlooks along its path. Exiting the bus at Maricopa Point, we were only able to see brief glimpses of the canyon through the fog.
We decided to walk the Rim Trail to Powell Point where we noticed a few more openings in the haze. Walking a little further, we explored Hopi Point and jumped back on the shuttle to Mohave Point where, for a brief moment, the fog lifted so that we could actually see a substantial portion of the canyon, including the Colorado River below. Assuming that the weather was improving, we decided to take the shuttle back to the Visitor Center where we caught the Orange Route bus to the South Kaibab Trailhead.
By the time we reached the trailhead, the fog had completely lifted. With eager anticipation, we embarked on the South Kaibab Trail down into the canyon. To be honest, I was much more impressed with the stunning views along this trail than I had imagined. There were small trees and a few scattered wildflowers along the walls of the canyon, and the rock colors were amazing.
A series of switchbacks followed an exposed ridge line as we descended approximately 800 feet in .9 miles to Ooh Aah Point. Mule droppings along the trail made watching your step an important consideration; however, the trail was wider than I expected, and I felt safe even though the perilous edge dropped abruptly a mile to the canyon floor below.
We spent several minutes at Ooh Aah Point taking photographs and eating a snack before peeling off some of our layers to head back up the trail. The climb out of the canyon was not as difficult as we thought it would be, and we reached the summit in under 45 minutes, taking several brief rests to catch our breath along the way.
Realizing we had a couple more hours of daylight, we decided to take the shuttle bus to Yaki Point. Although it was too cold to wait for the renowned sunset, we spent 15 minutes photographing one of the best views of the canyon. The changing light cast a spotlight on the varied veins of colored stone along the rock walls to our east. Finally, we took the shuttle bus back to Mather Point, the most visited spot along the rim, and we marveled at the vast, panoramic vistas! No camera could truly capture this moment!
We walked back to our car and drove over to the Bright Angel Lodge to put our names on the waitlist for dinner at the Arizona Room, a restaurant perched on the edge of the canyon rim. Since the wait was only 35-45 minutes, we decided to park the car and walk through the lodge while we waited for our pager to buzz. Ed and I ordered the prime rib special, and it was delicious! After dinner, we spent a little time shopping in the lodge gift shop and then drove to Yavapai Lodge, our destination for the night. Although our lodge was not on the canyon rim, the rooms had recently been remodeled and were quite comfortable. It didn’t really matter because we fell asleep within minutes of our heads hitting the pillow. As I felt myself drifting off to sleep, I had an uneasy sensation of falling and thanked both Ed and the Lord for keeping us all safe today!