The Grand Canyon is not what I expect
Trip Start Apr 18, 2008
8Trip End Apr 26, 2008
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Given that image, it's amazing I wanted to see the GC at all. And given the fact that I knew perfectly well that there were hotels at the canyon (since I'd made the reservations to stay in one), you'd think I'd have a clue that maybe I was wrong about what to expect?
Well, as Julie and I drove up I-17 from Carefree to Flagstaff, the landscape started to change. We started to climb into mountains. The cacti were replaced by trees. It started to look almost like Northern California. Did I get a clue then? Nope.
It wasn't until we finally got to the Canyon, paid our entrance fee, and drove into a forest, that I woke up to reality. I was shocked. Seriously. I really hadn't expected a forest, even though we'd driven through several on the way up. [Side note: There are a lot of National Forests in Arizona. Many miles of those "forests" have no trees at all. We thought that was funny.]
People had warned me that the South Rim was the big tourist area and that it would be crowded. Heck, it's April, I thought. Not even summer yet. How crowded could it be?
Well, even in April, there were people everywhere. Everywhere. Speaking all kinds of languages. The Grand Canyon is apparently the third most popular vacation destination in the world, pulling in like 500,000 visitors a month in the peak summer season. That's a lot of people. Therefore, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is not a place to go if you want peace and quiet. The North Rim, on the other hand, is much more rustic. It doesn't even open to visitors until May. They call the whole visitor's area on the South Rim the "village." It's about five miles from end to end. They even have a supermarket and a post office.
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT VISITING THE GRAND CANYON SOUTH RIM
1) It's like, in the mountains, and it's COLD at night (not that burning desert I imagined). It was down in the twenties for crying out loud. Heck, I could have stayed in Minnesota if I'd wanted to be cold! That's at the rim, though. The farther down the canyon you go, the warmer it gets. Ten to twenty degrees warmer, so bring layers.
2) There are lots of people (except in the dead of winter, I suspect). Therefore, the restaurants are crowded. Get there early or late, or eat at one of the cafeterias.
3) There is no place to get snob coffee. I had to settle for bottled Starbuck's Frappuccino, purchased at the supermarket. If you need your mocha to survive, you'd better think twice about visiting the GC. Or most of Arizona, for that matter.
4) There usually are no guardrails, so don't goof around with your buddies and accidentally fall off. And guys, don't try to piss into the canyon; apparently this is a leading cause of tourist deaths.
5) The puddles on the Bright Angel Trail are mule piss, so don't step in them. (More on that in the next chapter).
6) It costs $25 to get in. That gives you a pass valid for a week. Price subject to change.
7) The cute little squirrels might carry plague (yes, that kind of plague) or hanta virus. Don't pet them.
8) There are free shuttle busses to get around the village.
9) Expect to spend money. Nothing is cheap there (except the shuttle busses).
Next stop: Checking into the hotel, the Yavapai Lodge. I picked it because it was pretty cheap ($105/night). But based on the pictures and the description on the Xanterra website (Xanterra manages all the lodging and handles many of the tours for the GC), I was expecting--you guessed it--something else. I guess they call it a lodge because the rooms are spread out away from the "main" building. The one we stayed in was in a 1 story, long building that contained about 5 other rooms. It was a cross between camp and a motel. The room itself had cinderblock walls (painted), but was otherwise like any other hotel room. It had a somewhat rustic feel without any loss of amenities. It was not right by the rim and had no view. That wasn't a problem since we didn't intend to do anything more than sleep in the room anyway.
Day two of the Grand Canyon was to be our Mule Ride (next chapter). We had to go to the tour desk at the Bright Angel Lodge to check in for the ride and read a document that explained in detail all the terrible things that could happen to us on the ride, including broken bones from the mules bumping into canyon walls (or each other) or even death. (I asked if anyone had died, and the clerk said never from something caused by a mule, but there had been heart attacks). We signed the form saying we wouldn't hold them responsible if any of these dire events occurred, and they weighed us to make sure we were under the 200 pound weight limit, gave us each a canteen and an XXL yellow raincoat, and told us to show up at the Corral at 7:00 am the next day. By then it was about 7:00 pm, so for dinner we went to the Arizona Room restaurant in the Bright Angel Lodge. We had a 45 minute wait to be seated, but that was okay. We had excellent service, and the food was pretty good (they had smoked the prime rib, and I don't like the taste of smoked meat, so I was a little disappointed in the meal, but Julie was happy with hers).
By then it was dark, so we had no way to further appreciate the beauty of our surroundings. We went back to the room to rest up for the Mule Ride the next day.
Where I stayed