I left Flagstaff and headed north to Grand Canyon National Park. I stopped in Tusayan to see if I could get a room. After hopping around the hotels I found one that had a room for $100.00 which was more expensive then most of the rooms I had stayed on this vacation so far but my options were limited and I took the room.
I drove into the park and stopped at the visitor’s center to see if I could pick up a trail map. This is where I found out that the rim shuttle bus service had been shut down for the season two days earlier. D'OH! I had been interested in doing a eight mile rim hike but, without the shuttle, it would turn into an sixteen mile hike and I was not up to that. I would eventually do about 7/8th of the hike with the wife in 1998 which has since become known as the Grand Canyon Death March.
I like the Grand Canyon. I've been there three times. The problem with the Grand Canyon is that it's too grand. There is beauty and awe inspiring vistas everywhere you go. It's impossible to take it all in. This attracts people - lots of people. The traffic along the south rim was terrible. Just as bad as Yellowstone. Traffic leads me straight to frustration.
I decided to try to get away from the crowds a little and do a short hike down into the canyon. I went down the South Kaibab trail a short ways down to Cedar Ridge. This is about a 3 mile round trip hike. The trail switchbacks down the side of the canyon. The way down was easy but the way back up to the car was pretty tough. The views from even this limited foray into the canyon were amazing. There were people on the trail of course but it wasn't too bad. The only traffic that I ran into were some mules I met on the way up.
I returned to the hotel and had some dinner but I was a little restless so I got back in the car and drove back into the park. It was very dark and there were very few lights. I pulled over at one of the observation points and looked into the pitch black canyon. You could make out the lights from campfires on the canyon floor. I found a bench and laid down looking up at the clear skies. The Milky Way was clearly visible. I saw my first shooting star and satellite that night. I thought about the vacation so far. I thought that I still had not had the epiphany that I was hoping to have when I planned this vacation. I had about four more days to go on this vacation and it wasn’t looking good for my life changing inspiration. I went back to the hotel and went to sleep.
The next day I checked out and headed back into the park. My plan was to drive around the east end of the canyon to visit the north rim. Most of the drive was nice. I stopped at several points along the way to take pictures and to ogle the sights. When I turned onto the road that led to the North Rim visitors center I ran smack dab into road work. They were redoing the road and traffic slowed to a crawl. The was only one lane of traffic and each way had to wait their turn. I ended up wasting hours making my way to the north rim. Once I got there I had just enough time to walk out to Bright Angel point to take in the sights (The north side looks just like the south side). I didn’t even go to the lodge which is supposed to have spectacular views. Oh well.
I left the Grand Canyon and headed north towards Bryce Canyon. Bryce Canyon (and Zion) was not on my original itinerary but I had an extra day. I arrived early evening. I checked out the hotels on the Journey Through Time Byway (also known as highway 12) that goes to Bryce Canyon. All the hotels were full. Looking at the map I made my way to the closest town – Panguitch, UT. I checked out the first hotel – full. I noticed a pair of German tourists come in after me. I drove across the street and checked another – full. The Germans were right behind me. This time the Germans and I split up and checked out different hotels – full. I came out, spotted the Germans across the street and shook my head no. They did the same. We went to two more hotels. This time I checked out a little mom & pop hole in the wall – they had rooms. I stepped out the door and waved at the Germans and we both had rooms for the night.
Pictures are here. Next stop: Bryce Canyon and Zion.