Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 12 and 13.5 - The Grand Canyon.

We went to the Grand Canyon. It was big. Grand, really. It was deep. Canyon-like, even.

The Grand Canyon railway was actually what jolted us out of bed after three too many margaritas the at Pancho Macs. At that time of morning, the drive to the Grand Canyon features deer, bison (cow?), wolves (coyotes?) and a condor. It's absolutely worth doing early on. We also heard a rumour that if you drive in late, it's free.

The Grand Canyon was one of the sights I was actually most excited about, but it took all of 5 minutes with the most unhelpful people ever at the Bright Angel Lodge to start me off on the wrong foot. I'd run in to try to get the Hubs and I checked in and booked onto a mule ride, since these allegedly couldn't be booked in advance, only to be turned away rudely*. Bah, humbug and screw you, I say, we'll hike instead. Uh. Sure. Only we were wearing stupid shoes and the only "hike" we could do was the South Rim Walk, which was something like eleven miles long based on where we were. Still, we were stubborn, and just about made it, though we did sleep for twelve hours after.

The most striking thing about the Canyon was how little health and safety precautions there were. We were able to walk right up to the edge, and the route actually put us much closer than we would have liked. Given the conditions (foot and a half deep snow that melted into very slippery mud), I thought this was verging on insane. The walk was much, much tougher than we'd anticipated as well. Bad shoes, lack of preparation and general unfitness aside, the path got fairly narrow and difficult to navigate at places. Proud as I am that we managed it, I don't think I will ever do it again. The Bright Angel trail was open (insanity!) and we kept seeing and hearing people falling over on their route down, some fairly nastily. I appreciate that there are huge caveats around people making the choice to do these walks for themselves, but I genuinely think there isn't enough to steer expectations.

One tip though, if you want to watch the sunset over the rim while stuffing your face in a well priced T-bone, the restaurant at the Bright Angel is a great spot. They are more than generous, and if you get there early and chuck the maitre'd a tenner, he'll sit you where you like. We stayed at the Bright Angel in a $90 room (shared shower/bath) and that was more than comfortable. Since we'd killed ourselves relatively early with the walk, the facilities were in pristine condition, and we took our bottle with us for a late night drink before settling down to cards in the saloon.

This is a short post, but there isn't really much to say - the Canyon was the Canyon. It was big and breathtaking, and the Canyon. Everywhere you looked, it was the Canyon. It didn't change or look very different, even at sunrise and sunset. The initial wonder and pleasure quickly waned and we were out early the next morning and onto VEGAS, baby.

* We were later told there were slots at the Kachina Lodge. Turns out we wouldn't have been able to go on the mule ride anyway. Despite their ability to carry heavier burdens, the mules weren't allowed to carry more than approximately 225 pounds, and the Hubs weighed in at 227!

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