I had visited the Grand Canyon as a small lad with my parents many, many years ago. Linda flew over it as a young adult on a helicopter tour from Las Vegas not quite as many years ago. But this was the first time we had seen it together. Today we checked out a few viewpoints, and looked at the trails we would be using in the next few days to hike to the bottom of the canyon and back out. Seeing the trails way down below was a bit intimidating.
It was early in the season when we arrived at the Grand Canyon National Park. It was only April 1 and still quite chilly. After our arrival and set-up at a campground outside the park, we made the five-mile drive into the park to the visitors center. There was a herd of elk in the woods just off the road.
There were a lot of people there, and we just missed a showing of the park's movie, so we walked out to the canyon rim at Mather Point for our first look - our first look at the Grand Canyon together.
We didn't have that "took my breath away" moment that others have described. That's probably because we've seen it before at different times (a long time ago) from different perspectives and because we've had the opportunity to see other breathtaking canyon views during our travels.
Also, I think Linda was more focused on looking for the trails we would be hiking rather than taking in the overall splendor. You see in a couple of days, we will be hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and then back out the next day. It's an ambitious challenge for a couple of middle-age, slightly overweight hikers. But we have been doing some conditioning at altitude to prepare, and I think we'll do okay.
Now, don't get me wrong. The Grand Canyon is spectacular and I'll probably have a few hundred pictures to go through before we leave.
In this shot, we could see part of the South Kaibab Trail we'll be hiking down on Wednesday. It's on that sloped ridge in the foreground.
I'm not so sure it was a good idea to get a look at the trails ahead of time. We were feeling pretty confident beforehand. Ah, but we're committed and we'll be fine. In fact, earlier this morning, I called the phone number we were given in our reservation confirmation to confirm our intent to be at the Phantom Ranch on Wednesday afternoon.
Another view from Mather Point. It was windy and cold this afternoon.
One more shot before we moved over to a different viewpoint.
The Rim Trail is 13 miles and mostly paved. You can walk all or any part of it as there are various access points and several shuttle stops. You could probably spend days just on the Rim Trail taking photos.
We walked a little bit west for another view.
Amazingly, we saw a California Condor, one of the rarest birds in the world. It was soaring far below, but it was unmistakable. It's the largest land bird in North America with a wingspan that can reach 9 1/2 feet. We were hoping to see one, but had no idea we'd get that opportunity in our first hour.
Then it was about time for the next showing of the orientation movie - Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder - in the visitors center, so we headed that way. We walked in just as it was coming on.
After that, the visitors center closed (at 5:00) so we didn't get a chance to peruse it much. We walked over to the park store and picked up a "hiking kit" which included a book, a DVD, and a detailed trail map.
After that, I wanted to get my bearings. The visitors center is between the South Kaibab trailhead which is to the east and the Bright Angel Trailhead which is to the west. Since we can only get to the South Kaibab trailhead by shuttle, we drove east toward Grand Canyon Village.
The signs are pretty good for getting around, but it can be confusing. And parking can be horrible. It's a good idea to get familiar with the free shuttle system.
There are basically three routes:
There is also a special hikers' shuttle that goes to some of the trailheads early in the morning. There are three of them on the hour beginning at 6:00 a.m. this time of year. We plan to take one of those to the South Kaibab trailhead on Wednesday morning.
So we wanted to see where we would park to pick up the shuttle and make sure it was close enough to get back to the Jeep easily when we come out of the canyon on Thursday (or Friday). If there are any cancellations at Phantom Ranch for Thursday night, we might stay an extra night if we can.
We drove around the "village" and squeezed into a parking space so we could walk to the Bright Angel trailhead.
We looked down at the trail from there.
Then we walked over to the red shuttle stop. I took this early evening photo from there.
We hopped on the red shuttle and were dropped off at the first overlook which happens to be called Trail View. We looked down at all the switchbacks we'll be coming back up on Bright Angel.
While we were there, we met an Asian couple with two little girls and we were telling them about our planned hike. They thought we were either brave or crazy, and they wanted to get their picture taken with us. Too funny.
We got on the next westbound shuttle and then got off to pick up the next eastbound shuttle to go back to the red shuttle beginning.
Well allrighty then. That was a good, quick overview, and we got our bearings. So, we headed home.