Mileage Driven: 0
Points of Interest: Bright Angel Trail, Hopi Point, Grand Canyon sunset
Grand Canyon Trivia:
- True or False: A railroad company planned to build a railroad down the entire inside length of the Grand Canyon. Answer: True. In 1889 a Denver railroad company launched the Brown Stanton river expedition to survey the Grand Canyon for a railroad. The expedition was a disaster, drowning three men and the company president. The railroad was never attempted.
- If Niagara Falls plunged into the Grand Canyon, how many times longer would it have to be to reach the bottom of the canyon? Answer: 28 times longer
We are finally here! I was especially looking forward to this visit since this is the only national park I haven’t been to on our trip at one point or another in my lifetime. I heard so many provocative things about the Grand Canyon…from its majestic sunrises, to the deaths that happen yearly caused by those annoying cameras. We were tired after a very long drive yesterday and getting to camp after dark. Getting Hi-Five and Eagle up at 6:30am this morning was a bear as you can see from the pics! They did not want to be removed from the sweetness of sleeping bag comfort. But we had a trail to hike and things to see, so I made them get up.
We gathered our packs, extra water and extra sunscreen and headed to catch the Blue Route towards the Bright Angel Trailhead. Now, here is where we couldn’t agree as a family but I ultimately let the boys decide which mileage route we would take: the 1.5 mile down or the 3 mile hike down before we would turn around. It was decided we would undertake the 1.5 mile down and 1.5 mile back up trail for a total of 3 miles.
I know our limits and have no problem declaring that we were not in any shape to go any further down than one of those options. Plus, if we were going farther, I would have wanted to wake them up at like 4am to get a jump start. People perish on the Bright Angel Trailhead every year because they underestimate not the going down but the coming back up and then get caught in the 105 degree heat and need to be evac’d out because they were too stubborn to listen to all the ranger warnings posted all over the park. So many in fact that there is a book about all the cases. Tales of suicides where people drive their cars off the edge, after switching their personal cars out for rentals of course! What?? Then how about a terrible plane collision over the canyon where debris and bodies were scattered all over the canyon all due to running out of fuel! Yuck!
Mather Campground was a great campground and I would stay there again. The sign at the ranger stations said it was full when we arrived and I did make the reservations forever ago, but there were many empty spots even when we went to bed this night. The campsites are spacious and you don’t feel like you are on top of each other as with other national park campgrounds…Yosemite! Hum Hum! Ha!
From Mather, you can save yourself the headache of driving around the park and take advantage of the free transit system. We left the truck in the campsite, giving me a great day of no driving, and we took the blue route from Mather into the Village. The buses run fairly frequently, like every 10 minutes depending on the time of year and I truly appreciated not having to fight the crowds to get a parking spot.
Here is the bus transit route below and you can see that the orange route on the right takes you to the east side of the South Rim and the blue buses stop at many points in the village in the middle. There are tons of restaurants, grocery store, and coffee shops. (Be advised: Food is EXPENSIVE in the park! Like $80 for the three of us for sandwiches, chips, drink and then an ice cream cone for lunch.)
Once you explore the Village, then you can connect the blue route to the red route at the Village Route Transfer station to head to even more beautiful overlooks you won’t want to miss. (Pics are below)
We arrived at the Bright Angel Trailhead and as we stepped off the bus, we couldn’t quite see the canyon yet. We were anxiously awaits that first view of the canyon!
Then as we walked up the paved pathway…there it was! Wow! Absolutely stunning, intimidating, and I was completely awe-struck. The colors were so vibrant and profound. This was a spirit soaring moment…when finally four walls didn’t define our experience in that moment. Owl was happy happy happy! The boys just stood and stared. It was an awesome moment.
Wow! No other words needed for the pic below.
We began down into the canyon by 8am, but it was already getting hot after only about 15 minutes descending and I wished we had started earlier. There were two cool areas that you could go through the rock on the trail within the first 1.5 mile. This is on of them.
I loved how the sky seemed to go on forever as the trail continued going down. We passed a few people that were going back up that got an earlier start than we did but it was still early and we weren’t concerned. The park’s estimated time to do the 1.5 mile turnaround route was between 2-4 hours and we were going down fast.
We got down to the water refill station and restroom at the 1.5 mile marker in 45 minutes. We stopped and took a billion pictures along the way too so it was a nice walk down for sure. Some folks that were heading to Phantom Ranch at the bottom passed us on their mules on the way down. They were excited to be on their own adventure as the smiles they wore were all I needed to tell that.
The bathroom was just a pit toilet but the structure was very nicely built and scenic and the water was very cold from the refill spigot so we drank as much as we could and then refilled bottles before heading back up.
The hike back up only took us an hour and that again was with a lot of stopping for water breaks and just taking in all the views. So, 1.75 hours to do the 1.5 mile trail beginning at 8am. But it was HOT when we got back to the top and there were families beginning to go down which was concerning. One of the boys overheard one of the moms just beginning to head down saying that it was only 6 miles total if they turned around at the 3 mile point and the temperature was already 87 at the rim so it was almost 100 near the bottom…she had a toddler and a baby in a front carrier…ridiculous. I hope they made it back up ok.
Coming back up was a cool experience because the sunlight was striking the canyon walls differently than when we went down so the pictures looked more dramatic coming back up.
After grabbing a very expensive lunch of sandwiches, chips, drink and an ice cream cone ($80), we stopped at the Hopi House after we finished the trail and that was really special. Inside you can find much of the same nick-nacks they have at all the Grand Canyon gift shops but being inside the building was like stepping back in time. This is a must stop not necessarily to find any unique Grand Canyon items but to see the architecture of the Hopi House itself. The Hopi House was built in 1905 and was designed as living quarters for Hopi artists as a place for them to sell their their artwork. It was built to reflect a traditional Hopi village structure to inspire and encourage local artists.
After enjoying the Hopi House, we jumped on the red line up Hermit’s Road towards Hermit’s Rest and checked out some of the overlooks that the Grand Canyon is best known for. We saw Maricopa, Powell, Hopi, Mojave and Pima Points before finally reaching Hermit’s Rest. The most western terminus is located at Hermits Rest where you can get snacks, ice cream, gatorade and water and also there are clean bathrooms to use. If you decide to take the red route, plan for 80 minutes on the bus and this doesn’t include the time you spend at the overlooks or just enjoying the view.
There were some points that when you looked over, it makes your knees weak and in this picture the boys were telling me to hurry up as their knees were jelly as it was a sheer drop behind them. Ha!
You get your first glimpse of the Colorado River here below! Awesome!
When we saw all of the park we wanted to see for the first day, we took the blue line back to the campground. As we were walking back to the campground, guess what we saw? A large Elk munching some grass by the road in one of the campsites. We kept our distance and walked around it but you could tell it was saying, “Back off sucker! Can’t you see I am trying to eat my dinner?”
Once we got back to camp and dropped off our gear, we headed to the Camper Services building located right outside the campground to take some much needed showers. Keep in mind it is $2.50 for 5 minutes and the showers only take quarters. Don’t drop a quarter either because if you do, they fall into an abyss in the shower where it can never be recovered. Thankfully I had read this detail before we left on our trip and so had tons of quarters ready to go. Also, another piece of advice, bring shower shoes as the floors of the showers are pretty nasty. You can do laundry in the same building, but no washing tents or packs.
We were getting excited for the famous Grand Canyon sunset experience that was going to be beginning soon! Sunset was scheduled to be at 7:49pm. Sam was all ready with his loaner Nikon D60 camera from me to capture all he could once the sun started going down. The ranger told us the best place to catch the sunset was at Hopi Point on the red route so we left early to make the bus switches.
We arrived at Hopi Point by 6:30pm with a 7:49 sunset and there were already done of people claiming their spots but luckily we found a spot in perfect position to see the full range of the canyon. We were so very excited!
So, I am going to be honest with you…we were a tiny bit disappointed as with no clouds in the sky, the sunset was a little uneventful but I did capture this picture below. The picture doesn’t do the actual view we had justice. This was our one night to see the sunset as tomorrow we are heading the Grand Canyon Annual Star Party so we couldn’t come back to try again for more sunset pics on this trip. But overall, this is the best place to be and it was beautiful.
This one below is after the sun laid its weary head below the horizon so we didn’t see all the colors that are in all the pictures for sale posted all over the park but we captured a few good ones. Guess this just means we will have to come back another time and take more!
So…as Day #4 comes to a close, we had a great day in the Grand Canyon!! We finished the day with 10 miles of walking so not too bad.
Goodnight my friends, and thank you for coming along side us on this journey of exploration of our beautiful United States.
Tomorrow we have another fun filled day enjoying the South Rim but exploring the east side of the park on bikes. We can’t wait!
Happy trails and safe traveling…until next time!!
— Owl, Hi-Five and Eagle