Mileage Driven: 0
Points of Interest: Grand Canyon Visitors Center; Bright Angel Bicycles Rental; Yaki Point; Grand Canyon Annual Star Party
Grand Canyon Trivia:
- What is the most common form of death in the Grand Canyon? Answer: In their studies, Over the Edge, Dr. Thomas Myers and river guide Michael Ghiglieri found that aircraft accidents account for 60% of known fatalities. Accidental falls account for 15%, boating and swimming accidents account for 15%, car accidents about 5%, suicides 7% and flash floods are 1%.
- At its widest spot, how wide is the Grand Canyon? Answer: 18 miles
Happy trails friends! As if we didn’t have enough fun yesterday exploring the Grand Canyon, we still have yet another full day today to explore the east side of the South Rim! So begins Day #5 of our West Coast Adventure!
We all slept really well, it felt like an empty campground, with dreams of such vibrant colors that our eyes almost hurt to focus on them and deep chasms that seemed to never reach the bottom that we saw the day before. We weren’t sore at all either from our awesome hike into the canyon so that was a welcoming surprise.
Today, instead of hiking, we were going to explore the park on bikes. We rented 3 bikes with water bottles from Bright Angel Bicycles for 1/2 day. The total was $105 but worth it rather than having to bring bikes with us for the whole 4 weeks in the truck. We arrived at the rental location at the Grand Canyon visitors center at 9am to get our safety briefing and get fitted for our bikes. You can find out their prices, guided bike tours they offer, menu from their cafe and more here: http://bikegrandcanyon.com/coffee-shop/hours-location/
Sam and I were set up perfectly, but Josh was given a bike that had a seat that wouldn’t stay the appropriate height even when locked down. The guy said Josh could just adjust it along the way but I told him to go exchange the bike for another one as he should get a working bike. Once he got a bike that the seat held its adjustment, we set off on the trail east as we were doing a self guided rental so we could go where we wanted when we wanted. The weather was perfect and we were ready!
We thought we would try the Orange Bike Route first and see how that went. It would be about 3.5 miles to Yaki Point and then we would turn around to make the Orange Route 7 miles in total. Elevation gain was only +- 142 feet so not bad at all. This was a beautiful ride. I loved that the guys had to stop and just take a few moments along the way to take it all in. Sam even got his meditation on at one point. 🙂
We finished Yaki point pretty quickly…much faster than the 1.5 hours that the bike route board said it would take and decided to ride into the village as we had plenty of time still on the rental time. Riding through the village was a little crazy as there were people to dodge and cars to avoid, but when we got to the transfer bus station, we decided to keep going. The boys enjoyed riding again and wanted to take the Red Route bus up to Hopi Point, where we watched the sunset last night, and then ride the bikes back down hill to the village and then back to the Grand Canyon Village Center. This is VERY doable on a half day rental (5.5 hours) even if they bike shop tries to deter you. If you have children maybe under the age of 7 or you haven’t exercised in a long while, this might be too much, but the great thing about the bike rental is if you decide to add another route after completing one and it becomes too much, there are soo many bus stops along the route, that you can just hitch the bikes to the front of the bus and then get on to recover so no pressure if it becomes too much from someone in your party. You just rode a bike along the Grand Canyon rim so it is a win no matter how long you do it! Am I right?
We rode a total of 22 miles and we had the bikes back at the shop by 12:45pm and they weren’t due back until 2:30pm. We were hungry by the time we got back and we were in luck as we ate at the Bright Angel Cafe where we returned out bikes. They offer options for vegetarians which made us very happy. They have bagels, sandwiches, coffee and snacks too. Just be prepared as food within the park is extremely expensive. Lunch yesterday for 3 sandwiches, 3 drinks and 3 ice cream cones was $100 from the Bright Angel seasonal cafe.
After our bellies were full and weariness set in, we were ready to check out the visitors center gift shop and then head back to camp to shower and rest until it was time for the star party in the evening. I found the great shirt you can see above with the hippie bus and the canyon sprawling from its insides for the day 5 photo.
Here is what we did for a few hours…the boys rested in their hammocks being rocked to relaxation by the gentle breeze that was passing by us and I meditated and journaled about the amazing experiences we were having together. The temperature was a comfortable 77 degrees so it was awesome to just sit and be still after an incredible day. I am so grateful for each day with our boys, doing this…it will be time I can never get back with them and my heart is full even if they don’t enjoy being away from home so long. I hope they will look back and realize how much I love them and want to give them not things but experiences to grow on.
Our rest time seem to go by too fast, but it was time for another one of those special experiences that only the Grand Canyon could offer. As the park website says, due to the dark skies and such crisp clean air, we were excited for hopefully one of the most intense star nights we have ever seen. The best place I have ever seen the night sky and Milky Way was while camping at Big Bend National Park in the Chisos Basin so I was excited to see if the new Grand Canyon’s night sky designation lived up to all the hype we had been hearing about.
We got soo lucky to be in the park this night as the Grand Canyon holds an annual Star Party for 8 nights only each June where the Tucson and Phoenix Astronomers Club show up and share their amazing instruments and knowledge to the public! No tickets or signup is required, but it is first come first serve if you want to listen to the guest speaker in the theatre before it is time to head behind the visitors center to look through over 70 telescopes set up for the public to look through! Presentations typically start at 8pm but we got there at 7pm to get in line as it quickly filled up.
Our guest speaker was Dean Regas, an Outreach Astronomer from the Cincinnati Observatory & Co-Host of PBS’s Star Gazers. The title of his presentation was Tour of the Universe: You Are Here where we got to rocket through space and sail among billions of stars and galaxies as we contemplated the mind-blowing scale of the universe.
Here is the link where the park will post its most recent star party information, complete with special bus running times, constellation tour times and much more: https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/grand-canyon-star-party.htm
We were able to see Jupiter and Saturn and multiple star clusters and nebulae. It was fantastic. I highly recommend planning your visit to the Grand Canyon when the annual star party is being held each June. Just make sure you make campground reservations about 6 months in advance when they open to ensure you can stay somewhere close by. Dress warmly as temps drop tremendously after sunset.
What a great 3 nights and 2 days exploring the Grand Canyon. I definitely plan to return and do more hiking in the future. I hope you enjoy your experience when you get to see it for yourself! Any other food, transportation, lodging or hiking advice you have, please feel free to post here for others to learn from as well!
Thanks for coming along this journey with us.
Happy trails and safe traveling…until next time!!
— Owl, Hi-Five and Eagle