Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Road Trip, Days 19 and 20 - Grand Canyon

The last two days of our road trip began early in Taos, New Mexico.  We were up and on the road before sunrise.  We stopped in Santa Fe, New Mexico for some coffee and hot water to mix up our instant oatmeal and we were back on the road.  It was one of the longest driving days of our trip but we enjoyed seeing the desert landscape.  The drive got exciting when, in the distance, we spotted the mountains by Flagstaff, Arizona.  That meant we were getting close to our final stop, Grand Canyon!

We arrived in the town of Tusayan, just outside of the main entrance to Grand Canyon National Park, in the early afternoon.  We checked into our hotel, the Red Feather Lodge, dropped our stuff off and headed into the National Park.  This was my third visit to the Grand Canyon but my daughter's first.  I was excited to take her for her first visit and to see her reaction to how big and grand it is.

It turned out to be even more grand than I remembered!  Wow!
And, of course, it's MUCH more amazing in person than in pictures!

Click any of the photos to see them larger...especially this panoramic photo...

There are shuttle buses that run from town into the park and to various lookouts and places within the park.  There are paved hiking trails along the rim for easy access to the view.  And, you can even bring or rent a bike to ride to the various stops.  I like the idea of having a bike there.  No waiting for crowded buses, freedom to come and go to various lookouts, and fun!  They rent everything from mountain bikes to adult three wheelers and even baby trailers.

We made sure to stop in the visitor center.  It's small and doesn't have much but look at this map!
Notice the yellow words that say, "you are here".  It gives an idea of the enormity of the canyon!

This was in the visitor center too....  Such a beautiful Mountain Lion!

The "Hopi House" is a gift shop in the park, located near the famous El Tovar Lodge.  It turns out that it never was a Native American home.  It was built for the park to resemble a home the Hopi would have lived in.  They sell Native American jewelry, rugs, baskets, and other items inside.

I love the painted rug on the wood floor inside.

The wood beams were exposed on the ceiling inside with branches running crosswise.

I'd heard about the train in the nearby town of Williams and how it goes to the Grand Canyon.  However, I didn't realize it actually went into the National Park.  There's a train station in the park that's right next to the El Tovar Lodge.  I didn't get any good pictures of the lodge as there were always shuttle vans in front of it.  But, here's the train station...

I'm not sure if this is one of the working trains or if it's just for display.
It was next to the train station.

After seeing a few sights in the park, we went into a park cafe to get a bite to eat.  We'd expected it to have a limited selection of sandwiches, salad and snacks.  Boy, were we surprised!  They had a lot of different things to choose from...grilled fish, roasted chicken, soup, BBQ, sandwiches, salads, and so much more!  We chose the roasted chicken dinners with veggies and rice or mashed potatoes.  It really hit the spot!  We were tired of restaurants and missing home cooked food.  This was much more like homemade than a restaurant.  We really enjoyed it!  And, look at the view we had while we ate.  So nice!  Our tummies were happy and so were we!

Afterwards, we went into the gift shop in the same building.  My daughter picked up a long sleeved t-shirt for a souvenir and to be warm on that cool evening.  They had all kinds of fun stuff.  I snapped a picture of this adorable toddler sized ranger outfit.  So cute!

Our afternoon went by quickly and sunset was quickly approaching.  We didn't want to miss it!  We quickly hit the paved trail that leads from the village we ate at to the rim to find a good spot to watch.

Gorgeous scenery all around!!!

Magic was happening!  Rain was falling over the canyon
and the setting sun was turning the raindrops into curtains of gold!  Wow!

We found a great spot to sit where there was only one other person.  The rain fell over us for a while...great big wonderful drops that were pushed into our backs by the wind.  The backs of our shirts were almost soaked but dried quickly from the wind.  We leaned over our cameras to keep them dry, snapping photos when we could.  When the rain stopped, it was hard to stop taking photos!  The scenery was changing by the minute and so incredible that we wanted to capture every bit of it that we could!  Pure, amazing, incredible, magic!

What an amazing place!  I think I could sit out and watch the sunset every night there and it would never get old or boring!  Wow!  Wow!  Wow!  And, what a spectacular end to our amazing road trip!

We headed back to our hotel with the windows down and the sunroof open, enjoying the incredibly perfect weather.  After a good night of sleep, we were up early to hit the road for home.  We rolled our luggage out the door and were greeted with the most amazing smell ever!  We were both breathing in big, slow breaths over and over and savoring that magical smell!  We quickly had to start breathing normal again as we were getting a bit light headed.  If only we could capture some of that smell in a jar to keep forever!  I think it had rained overnight.  So, the smell of fresh rain mixed with pine, sage, and whatever else was beyond words...amazing!

We went to eat breakfast at the neighboring restaurant but they weren't all the way open yet and it didn't smell good.  So, we decided to go across the road to McDonalds.  We normally don't eat at McDonalds but there weren't a lot of choices that early.  That happened on another day of the trip and it worked out ok.  My daughter was able to get an Egg McMuffin meal, minus the muffin and hash brown to eat gluten free.  Our two meals with large OJ's instead of coffee came to about $11 at the previous stop.  This McDonalds is known for being expensive.  We paid almost $20 for the same food but with smaller OJ's!  That seems wrong to me to take advantage of people like that.  I bet the supplies/ingredients don't cost any more for that McDonalds to get than the one an hour down the road.  We stopped at that one later to use the restroom and the same meals were a lot cheaper.

We decided to go back into the park to see the canyon one more time before heading home.  As we pulled out of the parking lot, we noticed elk in a neighboring lot and pulled in for some pictures...

A few other people had spotted them and were getting photos too.  I wouldn't have been so brave/crazy to get that close!  We stayed in our car as my daughter stood up through the sunroof for some pictures.  Wow!  The antlers were amazing!

We enjoyed seeing some other animals too.
A deer munching at the side of the road...

An adorable baby squirrel running on the rocks at the edge of the canyon...

Even some Blue Jays...

This big bush was buzzing with bees.  The flowers are so pretty.

It was fun to walk around by the visitor center and rim paths with hardly anyone there.
It was so peaceful and beautiful along with that magical feeling of early morning.

I like the signs in the parking lot to help remember where you park.
Each area had a number and an animal.

There was a bit of rain as we headed home.
We hoped it would follow us all the way to bring much needed rain to California.

However, as we neared the border, there was a line in the sky where the clouds ended.
We joked that it was right over the border.  Luckily, the clouds and rain did follow us.  Flash flooding just started as we left our lunch stop in Barstow, California.  We had to use the windshield wipers for just a few minutes before we were out of it.  But, we later heard on the news that there was some flooding out there in the desert.  The deserts and mountains got a bit of rain here and there for a few more days.  We'll take whatever we can get here!

We got home late in the afternoon.  My dear hubby was so happy to see us!  He had food prepared and ready to cook for a welcome home dinner.  He even made us some delicious margaritas to celebrate.  I think he missed us!  We missed him too!  It was weird to travel without him but he just couldn't get that much time off right now.

My daughter and I had an incredible trip!  A trip of a lifetime that we'll never forget.  I cherish all the time I had with her, all the memories we made, and all the amazing things we saw.  I feel so lucky and blessed that we got to do this!


Cindie said...

What a wonderful trip - thank you for taking us all along!

mamasmercantile said...

Wow, some amazing photos. It is a dream of mine to do a road trip like that and visit the Grand Canyon so it was wonderful to share your trip. Memories that will last a lifetime I'm sure. Thank you for sharing.

Shirley said...

Good Morning, I am so glad that you made it home and your trip was awesome. It was so enjoyable to travel along with you all. It is funny how things are priced at McDonald's. Your pictures are awesome. Mother Nature creates some beautiful scenery. I imagine you were glad to be home and sleep in your own bed. Have a wonderful day. Hugs and Prayers from Your Missouri Friend.

Quinn said...

So glad this trip was everything you hoped for :)
You've brought back many memories for me, with you pictures. I often think of moving back to the SW.

FredaB said...

Your photos are excellent. So clear.

The photo with the large log looked like an alligator to me. I almost missed the little blue bird also in the pic. Had to look close.

Enjoy being home.


Mereknits said...

Your photos are amazing, I have never been to the Grand Canyon but I hope to some day. Your trip sounds perfect, so much to see and experience with that beautiful daughter of yours.

Delighted Hands said...

I was here on my honeymoon 38 yrs ago...I sat like the pic with your daughter and enjoyed looking at the beauty and just being. It would have been hard to drive away from this place. Wow is right!

judith said...

I LOVE The Canyon. It truly takes your breath when you walk up to it.

benita said...

I was at the Grand Canyon when I was 16 and I loved it. Scott has never been there and I want to take him one day.

What a lovely trip you have had.

Wainwright and Wright.Co said...

Wow, amazing photos. What a trip!
Caz xx