Now, since this is the first time that Grace has ever been to North America, we have decided to visit as many wonderful national parks as we can fit into our 2 month journey. Our first endeavor led us out east in Arizona: The Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon is the most visited national park in North America. That being said, only about 3% of the visitors actually venture below the rim. Before this journey, I too was part of that 97%, but let me tell, as we have now ventured down, going below the rim is a must add to any list.
Grace, being the wonderful researcher she is, found a wonderful destination for us to pursue; the aptly named: Ooh Aah point.
The last time I had journeyed to the Grand Canyon was on the week of New Years. The canyon was absolutely glorious, coated from one side to the other in snow. If you have ever been to the Grand Canyon, but haven’t seen it in the winter, I definitely advise to add it to your todo list. There was just such wonder of seeing this spectacular sight covered in snow, a whimsical feeling perhaps. I always find it interesting to see places in their many forms throughout the year and this awakened the giddy little kid in me.
Now first things first; our arrival. As we approached the entrance, to my surprise, there were barely any cars forming a queue (such a shock in comparison to the 30 min wait the last time I went). We went up to the window and purchased our National Park Pass. Not only did this get us into the Grand Canyon (which entry fee for cars is $30 USD), but it continues entry for all the national parks for a full year, for only $80! If you ever plan on visiting multiple parks in the span of a year, do yourself a favor and purchase this card. It is worth it and beyond, becoming a nice souvenir once it expires. It is adorned with a gorgeous photo of Horseshoe Bend in Arizona.
Once we were in the park we headed towards our destination, the Kaibab Trailhead. A yelp was heard from the passenger seat as Grace caught her first glimpse of the canyon over a nearby pullout. I made a quick U-ey and stopped along a wall where we ventured out towards the rocks to take in the view. Our timing was impeccable as a pink Jeep tour van came around, gracing us with the opportunity to hear about the canyon from a Forest Ranger guide. We listened attentively to his words and stayed for the whole spiel. Once he finished up, we lingered a bit to snap a couple of photos before heading to the hike.
The road that leads to the trail head is closed to commercial vehicles so we found a nearby parking lot. The easiest route would have been to park in one of the main parking lots and taking the shuttle to the trail head, but we did things a bit different haha. (The shuttle goes around the whole park and is a wonderful alternative to driving yourself around). After a quick bathroom break and prep of our packs, we set off towards the trail head. Only a short walk away from the lot, we found ourselves at the top among dozens of others.
We checked in on the nearby bulletin board, chatted briefly with a very friendly forest ranger and began our descent. Along with us were many others heading up and down this narrow, red grounded trail. We took the slow paced route, taking in the sights. Grace being in constant awe of the view, well myself too, kept us at a nice pace to take it all in while walking. We made our way lower and lower, down the initial zig- zag in the shade, still lined with ice, towards Ooh Aah point.
It didn’t take long before we made it; an absolutely stunning view point offering a spectacle not seen from the rim. Many giant rocks lined the edge hovering over a very steep drop towards lower levels of the canyon.
Grace and I decided to linger, not expecting to be there as long as we actually ended up staying, but it was well worth it. We had prepared ourselves some bagel sandwiches earlier in the morning and sitting atop these giant boulders overlooking the view, ate them with the most wonderful scenery before us. I took out my notebook and began to sketch one of the nearby canyon walls. Many layers protruded and receded along them and I sat sketching for what seemed like hours. We sat for a while, saying hi to the coming waves of visitors and just hailing in the occasional silence of the canyon.
After a good while we decided to head back up to catch the sunset. Our ascent, as expected, took twice as long, but we weren’t in any hurry. We caught up with a couple older ladies on our way up and chatted with them. We found out that they have spent their whole day in the canyon, beginning at 6am and made their way all the way to the bottom and right back up in about 12 hours. They were awesome, mentioning that we should do it too, “before you’re 60!” one of them stated. We all laughed and continued to exchanged stories and questions. Grace and I paused to take in photos and more of the view. Slightly out of breath, we had made it back to the zigzag and with only a little bit more to go, we quickly finished our hike.
We then headed back to the car. Along our walk we caught a deer in the nearby trees searching for food. We stayed a bit to watch before taking off to catch the sunset. We drove around to another viewpoint and found a bunch of deer near the road and then a couple moose in a parking lot. We took in the sights of these mammals, as Grace mentions that they don’t have such creatures or anything of the like in New Zealand.
We continued driving in search of a pull out. We settled on one and went to the rim to watch the sky turn into vibrant hues or oranges, yellows and light blue hues as the sun descended below the far away horizon.
It became a bit chilly so we headed back to the car to regroup before heading back to the rim to take some long exposure night photos.
It wasn’t too dark when we headed back to the edge. I set up my tripod and took many shots, moving from one side of the rim to the other, creating panoramas and just capturing as many stars as I could.
After about half a hour I concluded my last long exposure and we headed back to the car to make our way back to the hotel to eat and rest.
The next adventure lay on our way to Santa Maria for the Central Coast Up’N’Down Freeride!